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A brush with Lord Balfour

02 November, 2017 — By John Gulliver

A portrait of Lord Balfour at the Ben Uri Gallery

ONE of the elephants in the small, packed, windowless lecture room at Swiss Cottage library on Monday evening was a historical figure, Lord Balfour, who is known as one of the creators of Israel.

His name came up rather disparagingly during a talk on Israel from a quietly spoken Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh – or the Land of Canaan, as he sees it.

Labour party members in Camden Town and Primrose Hill had pulled off a coup in persuad­ing this eloquent authority – he has received various awards from all over the world for his work on conservation and human rights – on this troubled land to give an hour-long talk to more than a 100 people. He traced rebellions by Palestinians back to the end of the 19th century and referred to a list of 199 ways of non-violent resistance by Palestinians right up to today.

He also seemed to join a growing movement that rejects the idea of a “two-state solution” to the Israel crisis.

The professor, a director of Bethlehem University, is a born ecologist and is passionate about human rights and, quite rightly, said the main enemy of human progress is “apathy” – a feeling that nothing can be done to change the future.

He seemed to rely on social media to spread his message.

Portrait goes on show

UNVEILED today (Thursday) will be a portrait of Lord Balfour at the Ben Uri Gallery in Boundary Road, St John’s Wood.

Recently rediscovered, it is by the eminent painter Reginald Eves and is thought to have been completed around 1910 – it will be displayed alongside a new exhibition showing Chagall’s illustrations for Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

This week celebrations are being held to honour Balfour for his declaration 100 years ago, paving the way for an Israeli state.


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