x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Bir Zeit students chase UK consul off West Bank campus

The consul general escapes unharmed as protesters attack his car and tape photographs of a Palestinian hunger striker to the vehicle's windows.

Palestinian university students surround the British consul general Sir Vincent Feanat Bir Zeit University on Tuesday. Abbas Momani / AFP
Palestinian university students surround the British consul general Sir Vincent Feanat Bir Zeit University on Tuesday. Abbas Momani / AFP

BIR ZEIT, WEST BANK // Scores of Palestinian students forced the British consul general to make a hasty departure from a West Bank university campus today, witnesses said.

Sir Vincent Fean had travelled to Bir Zeit University near Ramallah to deliver a lecture on Britain's policy in the region and the prospects for peace but was turned away by a noisy demonstration.

Video footage showed protesters banging on his car and shouting: "Get out of Bir Zeit!"

Although Sir Vincent was hurriedly escorted back to his car then whisked away unharmed by his security detail, the protesters managed to break the car's wing mirror and taped pictures of a Palestinian prisoner on a hunger strike onto the window.

The protesters held up Palestinian flags and banners in English and Arabic, one of which read: "I am a refugee because of Balfour" in reference to Britain's publication in 1917 of the Balfour Declaration calling for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people".

The consulate confirmed the incident saying Sir Vincent had been scheduled to give a lecture on Britain's policies in the Middle East.

"Sir Vincent had hoped to underline Britain's deep commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state, and the urgency of progress on the peace process in 2013," a statement said.

"Sadly, such a dialogue was not possible on this occasion."

Student protesters at Bir Zeit pulled off a similar stunt in February 2000 when they booed and threw stones at the visiting French prime minister, Lionel Jospin, demanding he leave the university in protest over controversial remarks he made about Lebanon.