POLITICS

Boris Johnson Forced To Cancel West Bank Visit Amid Security Fears Following Israeli Boycott Comments

11/11/2015 12:32 GMT | Updated 11/11/2015 15:59 GMT
Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Mayor of London Boris Johnson looks out over the Old City of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives today during a tour of the historic town where he also prayed at the Western Wall, on the third day of his trade visit to Israel.

Boris Johnson had to cancel planned visits in the West Bank today, amid security fears following his comments criticising boycotts of Israeli goods.

Yesterday the London mayor, who is on a visit to the Middle East, mocked "corduroy-jacketed, snaggletoothed, lefty academics" who back imposing a trade embargo on Israel, saying such a thing would be "completely crazy".

Speaking to reporters, Boris acknowledged some people had taken "offence" at what he said and had been "whipped up on social media".

A spokesman for the mayor said his comments had been "taken out of context".

Boris' remark had led to at least one of his planned events to be cancelled by the hosts. A spokesperson for the Sharek Youth Foundation charity, which was due to host Boris, told The Independent the comments were "inaccurate, misinformed, and disrespectful".

The Mayor's Official Spokesman told The Huffington Post UK: "The Mayor is disappointed that comments he made opposing calls for a boycott of Israel have been taken out of context on social media, and then cited by organisers of events he was due to attend in Ramallah as a reason for cancellation. He was looking forward to hearing first hand from Palestinians and discussing their relationship with London.

"Opposition to a boycott is stated UK government policy. Throughout his visit the Mayor has stressed the importance of furthering trade links between London and Israel and London and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

"He has been clear throughout that he supports a two state solution, and that it is vital Israel and the Palestinians engage in meaningful dialogue in the search for a lasting peace settlement. He recognises the extreme difficulties experienced by the Palestinians living under occupation.

"The Mayor met for an hour with Prime Minister Hamdallah. They enjoyed a positive discussion on improving trade between London and the Palestinian Territories, the importance of a two state solution, and events in Syria."

boris johnson

Boris Johnson speaking on Monday in Israel

Last month, 343 British academics signed a letter, printed as a full-page advert in The Guardian, pledging to boycott Israeli academic institutions over the country's treatment of Palestinian people and its "illegal occupation" of their land.

Johnson told reporters: “I cannot think of anything more foolish than to say you want to have any kind of divestment or sanctions or boycott against a country that, when all is said and done, is the only democracy in the region, is the only place that has, in my view, a pluralist open society.

“Why boycott Israel? And by the way I think there is some misunderstanding over here about it. The supporters of this so-called boycott are really a bunch of, you know, corduroy-jacketed academics.

“They are by and large lefty academics who have no real standing in the matter and I think are highly unlikely to be influential on Britain. This is a very, very small minority in our country who are calling for this.”

Ryvka Barnard, Senior Militarism and Security Campaigner at War on Want, said: "Is it any wonder Palestinians have denied Boris Johnson a platform, when he continues to deny the brutality of Israeli Apartheid and the global movement for Palestinian rights. Instead of whitewashing Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people, Mr Johnson should be urging Israel to abide by international law."