The Consul-General’s car (centre) as it hastily left the university.
Earlier this week, the British Consul-General in the Palestinian territories was due to deliver a speech at a West Bank university to discuss, among other issues, relations between Palestine and Great Britain. A group of Palestinian students called this a “provocation” and confronted the diplomat with hostile slogans, forcing him to make a hasty getaway.
According to a consular official, Sir Vincent Fean had been invited by officials from the University of Bir Zeit, a small town 25 kilometres north of Jerusalem, to speak to students on Tuesday about British foreign policy in the region and the possibility of peace with Israel.
Around a hundred students began demonstrating as soon as he arrived on campus. Shortly afterwards, the Consul’s car left amid jeers from protesters waving Palestinian flags. As it drove away, the protesters shouted and attacked the car, breaking a side mirror and holding portraits of Samer Issawi
, a Palestinian prisoner currently on a hunger strike, against the car windows.
After the incident, the Consulate said
Sir Fean wanted “to underline Britain’s deep commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state, and the urgency of progress on the peace process in 2013. Sadly, such a dialogue was not possible on this occasion… [but the Consul-General] hopes to have the opportunity to pursue this dialogue in future.”
When contacted by FRANCE 24, the university’s vice president, Dr. Bassam Al-Khatib, said he understood the students’ position, but regretted that they didn’t express their views during the debate instead.
The protesters chanted: “Leave Bir Zeit!”, and even “I am a refugee because of Balfour”, in reference to the 1917 Balfour Declaration in which Great Britain supported the establishment in Palestine of a “national home” for Jewish people.