Britain’s Consul-General to the Palestinian Territories was forced to abandon plans to deliver a speech at a university in Ramallah earlier today, after his car was attacked by a number of students.
Sir Vincent Fean, a well-respected diplomat in the region, and several members of his staff made their getaway from Birzeit University in the Palestinian Authority’s administrative capital after a group of students with a range of complaints prevented Sir Vincent from getting to a lecture hall where he was due to speak on Britain’s position on the stalled peace process and the prospects for a Palestinian state.
“The students were protesting about a range of issues, from the plight of Palestinian prisoners and the Balfour Declaration,” said someone at the scene. “Several people surrounded the car and stuck pictures of prisoners on it; one person got on the car’s bonnet and at some point a wing mirror was broken.”
In a statement, the consulate, said: “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. Sir Vincent remains absolutely committed to building his relationship with the Palestinian student community, and hopes to have the opportunity to pursue this dialogue in future.”
Neither Sir Vincent, nor any other member of the consulate staff were injured in the incident, and the head of the UK mission was apparently frustrated by the fact that the speech, which was due to be followed by a question and answer session with students, was stopped. However, “the consulate takes the security of its staff very seriously,” said an official at the mission yesterday.
Members of a group calling itself the ‘Islamic Bloc At Birzeit University’ posted pictures of the protest on Facebook: “The Birzeit University students today expelled the British consul, who came to the university to give a lecture about the European Union at the invitation of the Department of Sociology,” they said.
“The sitters demanded lecture be cancelled, to protest the policies of Britain in support of the Zionist entity, which caused the plight of the Palestinian people and their continued suffering, and because of the infamous Balfour Declaration. The students carried pictures of prisoners and banners condemning the policies of Britain. This is a message to the world.”
While it appears that the safety of Sir Vincent and his staff was not serious imperilled, western diplomatic still have the death of the US’s ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, who was killed in an attack of Washington’s embassy in Tripoli in September last year, at the forefront of the minds when considering safety and security matters.