Britain’s consul-general based in East Jerusalem Sir Vincent Fean was forced to flee a West Bank university Tuesday as an angry mob of students became violent, lunging at the diplomat, swarming him and attacking his vehicle, preventing him from delivering a scheduled address on campus.
Although Fean appeared to escape uninjured, The Associated Press reports that an AP photographer saw one student kicking Fean in the shin, and quotes student leader Taha Afghani, head of the campus Fatah faction, saying students hurled rocks at his vehicle.
Video footage shows students at Birzeit University shouting anti-UK slogans and carrying placards as Fean arrived at the Ramallah-area campus to meet with administrators and deliver a lecture to students. Protesters blamed London for the nearly century-old Balfour Declaration that pledged support for a Jewish “national home” in Palestine, then under British rule.
“I am a refugee because of Balfour,” one placard read.
As Fean held a meeting with university officials ahead of his planned speech, a mob grew increasingly angry, shouting anti-British slogans. Emeging from the building surrounded by security agents, Fean was rushed off the premises and into his car as students chanted “Get out of Birzeit,” and pounded and kicked his vehicle as it attempted to carry him away.
“We asked the university to cancel his visit because Britain is the cause of the Palestinian tragedy,” said Afghani, the student Fatah leader. Fatah is movement headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and one of several factions that organized the protest.
Birzeit is one of the West Bank’s most prestigious, yet most radical Palestinian universities – among its graduates are Marwan Barghouti, the imprisoned founder of Fatah’s terror wing Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and the now dead, and infamous, Yahya Ayyash, the Hamas bombmaker and one-time leaders of its terrorist Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
Hamas won Birzeit’s student elections in 2007, and retains a significant presence on campus. In 2000, students pelted rocks at a car carrying France’s then-prime minister Lionel Jospin in protest against his condemnation of his description of Hezbollah’s “terrorist acts” against Israeli soldiers in Lebanon.
Britain’s consulate general in Jerusalem is located in Sheikh Jarrah, a predominantly Arab area that is home to several other EU consulates serving Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
“Our task here is to support efforts to create a Palestinian state, based on the 1967 borders, living in peace and security with Israel, with Jerusalem as the capital of two states, and with a just resolution of the issue of refugees,” the consulate says on its website, noting that London “is one of the largest donors to Palestine.”
A spokesman for the consulate told Reuters: “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.
“Sadly, such a dialogue was not possible on this occasion.”