The outburst forced the British consul general, Sir Vincent Fean, to cancel a speech at a Palestinian university.
Fean was not hurt, although an Associated Press photographer saw one student kicking him in the shins.
Student activists said they were protesting decades of British policy toward Palestinians.
They said their chief grievance was Britain's support for a Jewish homeland in what was then British-ruled Palestine in a letter known as the "Balfour Declaration," issued in 1917. The letter also said "nothing shall be done" that would prejudice the civil rights of non-Jews. Israel gained independence in 1948.
Britain is an ally of Israel but has been highly critical of its policies toward the Palestinians, especially settlement construction in the West Bank.
In recent days tensions have risen in the West Bank, with demonstrations, some of them violent, in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons. Some have predicted that the protests could escalate into a full-scale uprising.
"We asked the university to cancel his visit because Britain is the cause of the Palestinian tragedy," said Taha Afghani, student leader of the Palestinian Fatah group, one of several political factions that organized the protest. Fatah is headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Fean was returning to his vehicle after meeting with Birzeit University officials when the incident erupted.
Birzeit (West Bank): Dozens of Palestinian students swarmed around a senior British diplomat on Tuesday, leaping on his vehicle and trying to attack him in a show of rage over a British policy and a century-old promise to Jews.
First Published: Wednesday, March 06, 2013, 10:23