BIR ZEIT, Palestinian Territories — Scores of Palestinian students forced the British consul general to make a hasty departure from a West Bank university campus on Tuesday, witnesses and an AFP correspondent said.
Consul General 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 Fean 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 long-term hunger strike onto the window, the correspondent said.
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.”
A consulate official said Fean had gone to the university to talk to students about Britain’s policies in the region and the prospects for peace with Israel, but the protest meant he was unable to deliver his prepared address.
“Because of the demonstration, we reluctantly took the decision to leave,” the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He said the consul general was unharmed in the protest but that his car had been lightly damaged.
“We take our security extremely seriously,” a spokesman for the British consulate told AFP.
Student protesters at Bir Zeit pulled off a similar stunt in February 2000 when they booed and threw stones at then visiting French prime minister Lionel Jospin demanding he leave the university in protest over controversial remarks he made about Lebanon.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]