WHEN BORIS CRIED
London mayor Boris Johnson was visibly overcome during a visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem this week
MOST OF Boris Johnson’s tour of the West Bank — the final leg of his visit to the region — was cancelled on Wednesday, owing to concerns that Palestinian anger over his criticism of the boycott movement could evolve into a security risk.
In his Winston Churchill memorial speech on Tuesday night, Mr Johnson had dismissed BDS leaders as “ridiculous, snaggle-toothed corduroywearing lefty academics”. Those who endorsed it were “foolish” and in a “very small minority”, he said.
Shortly after the speech it emerged that the Palestine Business Women’s Forum — which Mr Johnson was due to meet the following day, along with journalists — would not allow JC reporter Noga Tarnopolsky into the meeting because she was an Israeli.
Mr Johnson had said he was “exasperated” by the ban, and later told Ms Tarnopolsky: “It’s very sad that you can’t come in. Obviously if we get in I will be raising it.”
Israeli security services advised Mr Johnson to cancel most of his West Bank appointments after they observed rising anger and threats of protests among Palestinian social media users.
Other journalists on the tour with Mr Johnson expressed outrage over the ban on Ms Tarnopolsky. Tim Shipman, the political editor of the Sunday Times, who was also on the trip, said: “As far as I’m concerned, journalists are citizens of the world and to prevent any reporter from doing their job in an impartial and independent fashion, whatever their nationality, is absurd.”
The only event to survive the cancellations was Mr Johnson’s meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who banned all journalists from attending.
Ms Tarnopolsky said: “It was, among other things, a lost opportunity for several EU and UN-supported initiatives to gain the publicity afforded by the mayor’s media entourage.”
Coming as the EU announced guidelines on labelling products made in
the settlements, Mr Johnson’s strong anti-boycott stance was welcomed by Israelis.
One woman, who moved to Israel from London and attended the inaugural Winston Churchill address delivered by Mr Johnson in Jerusalem, expressed her “huge gratitude” to the mayor for coming to Israel when its citizens feel so beleaguered.
Israeli news outlets pointed out that the Palestine Business Women’s Forum, which boycotted the JC’s reporter, receives funding from the EU and the UN. Will Walden, the mayor’s official spokesman, said that Mr Johnson was “disappointed but pragmatic” about his derailed Ramallah schedule, and late in the day his office had issued a statement saying that “he recognises the extreme diff i c ul ti e s e x perienced by the Palestinians living under occupation”.