Hebron claims attacked UK envoys were on an ‘antisemitic’ mission

By Marcus Dysch, August 15, 2008

A fact-finding visit last week by British diplomats to Hebron, during which their car was attacked by settlers, was "antisemitic", according to a representative of the city's Jewish community.

The settlers blocked the route of the armoured vehicle before kicking and shaking it during the incident in the West Bank last Thursday.

The three middle-ranking diplomats were on a tour organised by human-rights group Breaking the Silence. Their guide, Mikhael Manekin, said the incident had proved "a bit nerve-wracking" for the unnamed officials.

No one was injured in the attack.

But Noam Arnon, spokesman for Hebron's Jewish community, said: "Every diplomat from anywhere in the world is welcome in Hebron, but the British chose to come escorted by a provocative, anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish organisation.

"This organisation is acting against Israel as a Jewish state, so some people demonstrated their opinion. I can understand why they demonstrated against this antisemitic event."

Breaking the Silence is led by former Israeli soldiers who have served in Hebron, and has run tours in the city for three years. Guides offer foreign visitors their view on life for Palestinians and settlers.

Mr Manekin said: "When we arrived in Hebron, one of the settlers noticed me and got out of his car after blocking our vehicle. He began filming us and kicked the car. We tried to drive out of the way but he followed us and blocked us again.

"By this point he had called some friends and they also gathered around us. The settler claimed we had tried to run over his foot, but this was not the case."

The diplomats attempted to leave the city and return to Jerusalem, but were delayed by police and guards for around an hour.

"It's hard to say how dangerous it was because settler violence towards anyone they do not want in the region has grown significantly recently," said Mr Manekin.

"There is always a danger of it escalating, and we were fortunate nothing major happened. The diplomats were a bit shaken up. They got a taste of what is happening in Hebron at the moment."

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "The Israeli police intervened and we are assisting them with their investigation."

In April, diplomats from Germany and Norway were attacked by stone-throwing settlers.

Last updated: 2:37pm, August 14 2008