Palestine protester slashes painting of former PM Arthur Balfour at Cambridge college in 'moronic act of vandalism'

8 March 2024, 18:04 | Updated: 8 March 2024, 18:12

The protester defacing the painting of Lord Balfour
The protester defacing the painting of Lord Balfour. Picture: Twitter

By Kit Heren

A Palestine protester has spray-painted and slashed a portrait of a former British Prime Minister hanging in a Cambridge college.

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The Palestine Action activist targeted the painting of Lord Arthur Balfour at Trinity College, Cambridge, on Friday afternoon, and shared the footage on social media.

Lord Balfour, who was a Conservative PM in the early twentieth century, is often credited with paving the way for the creation of the state of Israel.

He signed the Balfour Declaration in 1917 as Foreign Secretary, which declared that the British government viewed "with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people".

Palestine Action said that the declaration laid the groundwork for the "ethnic cleansing" of the people of Palestine. The group said that the UK's backing of "the continued colonisation of Palestine hasn't wavered since 1917".

Read more: Pro-Palestine protesters gather for day of action across UK after Rishi Sunak warned of extremists taking over marches

Read more: Pro-Palestine protesters attack kebab shop after owner 'refused to boycott Coca-Cola'

The portrait was painted in 1914 by Philip Alexius de Laszlo. Lord Balfour was a student at Cambridge from 1866-1869.

Trinity said that they had let the police know about incident, which the government criticised in strong terms.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said he was "appalled by the moronic act of wanton vandalism".

"Perpetrators should face the full force of the law," he added in a post on Twitter.

Lord Walney, the government's adviser on political violence, said the incident was "outrageous".

Lord Balfour
Lord Balfour. Picture: Alamy

He added: "We must not tolerate protestors thinking they can get away with senseless damage because they think the importance of the cause gives them the moral high ground to cause mayhem."

A spokesperson for Cambridge Police said: "This afternoon we received an online report of criminal damage today to a painting at Trinity College, Cambridge.

"Officers are attending the scene to secure evidence and progress the investigation.

"No arrests have been made at this stage."

Trinity College said in its own statement that it "regrets the damage caused to a portrait of Arthur James Balfour during public opening hours".

The College added: "The police have been informed.

"Support is available for any member of the College community affected."

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