Caryl Churchill to lead Palestinian carols at Bloomsbury church

Caryl Churchill

Caryl Churchill

Protesters will demonstrate outside a Baptist church which is hosting a carol service organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).

The PSC will be holding its annual Christmas concert at the Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church in Covent Garden next month.

The service, which has not been advertised on the church’s website but has been listed on the PSC site, will include seasonal readings from playwright Caryl Churchill, whose play, Seven Jewish Children, caused controversy earlier this year.

Zionist campaigners have spoken out against the service, attacking it as “one-sided” and “politically motivated”.

David Gifford, chief executive of the Council for Christians and Jews, criticised the church for “politicising the Christmas message”.

He added: “A Christmas carol service should be about the message of Christmas and by politicising that, it misses the point.”

A scene from Seven Jewish Children, the 10-minute history of Israel for the stage by Caryl Churchill

A scene from Seven Jewish Children, the 10-minute history of Israel for the stage by Caryl Churchill

Martin Sugarman, chairman of the Hackney Anglo-Israel Friendship Association, said: “I think all people in the Jewish community should be concerned about this. The church is being used and manipulated by the PSC for what they think is a good cause.

“We are outraged by it and will be protesting outside.”

Jonathan Hoffman, vice-chairman of the Zionist Federation, said: “It is completely wrong for a church to host an organisation which disseminates the racist apartheid lie about Israel and which has Caryl Churchill — the author of the viciously antisemitic play Seven Jewish Children — as one of its patrons (indeed she will be appearing at the event).

“Many right-thinking Christians will be horrified at this latest cynical hijacking of what is supposed to be a time of goodwill to all men.”

At an alternative carol service held last year at St James’s, Piccadilly, by Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (JBIG), participants rewrote the Twelve Days of Christmas, in which Ehud Olmert sent “12 assassinations” and “nine sniper towers”, but the Bloomsbury church says there will be no rewriting of carols this year.

Christians for Zion have been appealing to supporters to ask the church to cancel the concert and said that this year’s speakers “have a political motive and are not suitable for a Christmas carol service”.

Proceeds from the concert will be split with a project of the Holy Land Trust which restores homes in the Bethlehem area.

Reverend Dr Simon Perry, of Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, said that they had received numerous complaints, but he supported the event.

He said: “I’d be very surprised if people here would not endorse the PSC. There is nothing I have seen in anything it has done that I find disturbing. I’ve researched every critique but I find none of them convincing. I do support a boycott of Israeli goods.

“I’ve read Caryl Churchill’s play and there is nothing in it I find antisemitic. We’ll face the consequences of standing by who we stand by — and can’t balance everything we do.”

Last updated: 4:42pm, November 26 2009