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Our Son is an HRO

Statement From Andrew’s Parents:

Thursday 24th November 2005: “A Human Rights Observer from the UK was arrested in Tel Rumeida, Hebron earlier today. He had just finished escorting Palestinian children to school”

This report appeared last week on the web-site of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) the movement dedicated to “non-violently resist the overwhelming military occupation force” in Palestine.

Monday 18th August 2003: “A Scots peace activist is to be deported from Israel after trying to stop soldiers blowing up and bulldozing the house of a Palestinian family at a refugee camp near Nablus.” – Report in The Herald, August 2003.

Our son Andrew Muncie was the ‘peace activist’ of 2003, and also the ‘human rights observer’ (HRO) arrested last week.

Two years ago, he had been arrested on the West Bank in Palestine. He and Swede Andreas Koninek, a fellow member of the ISM, had chained themselves to a pole in the house. “It was less likely they would blow the house up if internationals were present,” Andrew explained later. They were deported after an unsuccessful appeal and told not to return to Palestine (by the Israelis) for ten years.

On 18th August this year, two years exactly to the day of the report from Nablus, Andrew flew out from London Gatwick via Prague, on his way back to Palestine. He had gone out in 2003 to try and support the ordinary Palestinians. The attempt had been cut short. He was still of a mind to help them.

‘Andrew MacDonald’ was the name on his new passport. He had legally changed his name. As ‘Andrew Muncie’, he would have been stopped at Tel Aviv airport. This in spite of the fact that Andrew Muncie had committed no crime or offence when he had last been there. But the plight of the Palestinians, whose dignity and forbearance in the face of the constant erosion of their human rights, had awoken his concern for justice and peace.

Andrew has been in Palestine for almost fifteen weeks now. But he will be home soon. The Israeli authorities have finally identified him. They do not want Human Rights Observers reporting on what is happening. He is being deported again. But at the time of writing he has been in detention for five days with no date set for his deportation.

When he went out in August this year, he had decided that he would concentrate on capturing images of some of the injustices perpetrated on Palestinians while at the same time helping them in less confrontational situations than before. He attended peaceful demonstrations against the great wall which the Israeli Government are continuing to construct through Palestinian farmlands, towns, villages, and business areas, effectively strangling and devastating these communities. In spite of international calls from people of conscience for the wall to be halted, Israel continues unrelentingly destroying the livelihoods of tens of thousands.

The Israeli settlers, recently in the news loudly and bitterly complaining as they were forced to leave the land in Gaza they had occupied for some years, were all compensated by up to $400,000 for each family. The Palestinians, on their land for some centuries, and whose homes are demolished by the inexorable progress of the great wall, whose lands are wrecked by bulldozers, whose access to their land is made impossible by the huge barrier, receive nothing. Israel may be a democracy, but injustice is the face shown to Palestinians.

Andrew went to Tel Rumeida, an area of Hebron, south of Jerusalem, where the Palestinians live in a virtual hell caused by the daily abuse of the 500 or so settlers who live in an enclave established some few years ago in the Palestinian area of the city. Countless instances of brutality to the dwindling Palestinian population were recorded and photographed by Andrew and his colleagues, who lived in an apartment in Tel Rumeida. They daily escorted Palestinian children to and from school to try and protect them from the assaults of settlers. Because of the extremely dangerous and cruel situation here, the Tel Rumeida Project was established to try and protect the Palestinians. (See their website http://www.telrumeidaproject.org) The organisation Christian Peacemaker Teams also worked in an effort to alleviate the plight of the Palestinians in Tel Rumeida. Like the ISM, all are non-violent and peaceful.

The catalogue of violence against Palestinians and these Human Rights Observers is staggering.

Andrew reported a typical incident on 27th October this year from Tel Rumeida:

More Settler Attacks in Hebron, While Soldiers and Police Watch

At around 1.20pm on Thursday the 27th of October I received a phone call from one of the three internationals who had come to the aid of a Palestinian schoolgirl near Qurtuba School, and who were now under attack from a mob of settlers.

I made my way quickly to the end of Shuhada Street, stopping at the soldiers’ post there. On the right, a narrow stone staircase leads up to a hillside path which leads to Qurtuba School. By this time the three internationals and the Palestinian child had been removed from the area by the police and army.

On one occasion during the next hour four settler children followed me back along Shuhada Street, throwing stones at me. I was also spat at and shoved in the chest by two 18 year old settler males. I was told by the soldiers who were standing on the street that the Israeli Army were unable to ensure my safety.

At 2.30pm I walked with three Palestinian women to the bottom of the staircase, waiting until they had reached the top before I left. Seconds after I turned to leave, I heard several loud crashes and screams from the top of the staircase. I turned to see at least two teenage settler girls who had jumped up from behind a wall next to the path the Palestinian women were now on, throwing bottles and stones at them. The women retreated several metres to the top of the staircase, but were now effectively stranded there as four or five settler men (one of whom was brandishing a power drill) had now approached the bottom of the staircase.

I shouted to the soldiers to do something and went to join the women who were still trapped at the top of the stairs, but out of range of the missiles which continued to fly in their direction. The soldiers remained standing on the street with the settler men.

Five Palestinian kids had now arrived at the bottom of the stairs, and were being prevented from passing by the soldiers and settlers there. As I made my way back down the stairs to join the kids, the settler with the power drill began waving it in the air, shouting. He then charged at the kids, chasing them away. The soldiers continued to stand on the street.

Two police officers then arrived who despite requests to assist the stranded women continued to do nothing for 10 minutes until the settler girls who were throwing the rocks and bottles had left. They then went up to the women to escort them along the path. The soldiers continued to stand on the street.

This lack of protection for the Palestinian population means that mob rule dictates the streets of Tel Rumeida.

Just over a week after this incident, Andrew was stopped and harassed by eight soldiers of the Israeli occupation force. He and his colleagues whom he phoned for help and who joined him on the street near their apartment, were arrested and taken to the police station in Hebron. They were falsely accused of assaulting an officer. The next day, Judge Rafi Strauss said as he released them, “I would like to express outrage and contempt for the behaviour of the police.”

Andrew and his colleagues were in contact with several Members of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, who expressed concern over the abusive behaviour of the Israeli police.

However, it is the Palestinians who continue to suffer. And the HROs who try to help.

Andrew was arrested last Thursday as he walked home.

According to the Israeli police, on Saturday 26th November, “Three thousand settlers from around the West Bank and Israel have come to the Palestinian city of Hebron ‘to show solidarity with the pioneers of Hebron’.” Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, estimated the number at “twenty thousand”.

This report appeared on the ISM site:

Settler Mobs Attack Palestinians and Besiege Internationals In Hebron

Between 2pm and 5pm that day, a hostile mob of between 100 and 150 of these Israeli settlers visiting from outside Hebron besieged five Human Rights Observers inside their apartment in Hebron. Palestinian families were besieged in their homes. ISM and Tel Rumeida project volunteers alone recorded six assaults on Palestinians and twelve assaults and five stonings on HROs. The police were called on eight separate occasions and the army four times, but most of the time they did not arrive.

As Andrew’s parents, while sympathetic already to the plight of the Palestinians, as any decent person must be, and fully supportive of Andrew’s actions throughout, we have become more aware, while keeping abreast of his experiences in Palestine, of the depth of misery in which the Palestinians are unjustly forced to live. We are proud of him, and commend him and his colleagues for their moral and physical courage.

Sadly, it is rare to see any mention in the media of the daily torture of the Palestinian people. The only mention of Palestinians in the press seems to be when a suicide bomber blows himself and others up.

The overwhelming majority of Palestinians need to live in peace and be able to work unhindered towards a decent life.

As Unicef state on their website:

At a glance: Occupied Palestinian Territory

The decline in the wellbeing and quality of life of Palestinian children in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) over the past two years has been rapid and profound. This is directly linked to the violence and mobility restrictions children experience daily, including death and injury to family and friends, damage to their property, and the frustration and poverty they sustain through stifling closures, curfews and home confinement. Children are paying a heavy and disproportionate price for this conflict – many with their lives.

With the international media largely ignoring the plight of the Palestinians, the general public is not fully aware of the real and terrible situation in Palestine. And so the terrorisation continues of a people without even any comment.

Websites to check for more information: