Protest outside Palestinian carol concert

A protest against the Palestinian carols in St Paul's Church, Covent Garden

A protest against the Palestinian carols in St Paul's Church, Covent Garden

More than 60 protesters demonstrated outside a church which held a carol service with alternative songs condemning Israel.

The service was held at St Paul’s in Covent Garden by Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (JBIG) on Tuesday and included readings from Palestinian writer Ghada Karmi, veteran peace campaigner Bruce Kent, Baroness Jenny Tonge and Lauren Booth.

During the service, participants sung new lyrics to traditional carols, including The Holly and the Ivy which was renamed The Olive and the Army and included the lines: “O the rampaging of settlers; And the rolling of the tanks; The grinding of the bulldozers; As olives fall in ranks.”

Protesters included representatives from the Zionist Federation, Anglican Friends of Israel and a contingent of Christians from South Wales.

JBIG held a similar service last year at St James’s, Piccadilly, which was criticised afterwards by vicar, Charles Hedley, who said he would have to "think hard" if asked to host a similar event again.

AFI spokesman, Simon McIlwaine, said the event was hurtful to both Anglicans and Jews and had urged a senior clergy official to intervene and persuade the vicar of St Paul's to cancel the event.

He said: “I have pointed out that the organisers comprised notorious activists of the far left who are atheists who only claim to be Jewish when attacking Israel and insulting the feelings of mainstream British Jews.

“On the one hand, I and my fellow parishioners have been exhorted not to be Islamophobic while on the other hand the feelings of our Jewish brothers and sisters are to be trampled on every December with a regularity that threatens to match the medieval Easter pogroms.”

A spokesman from the Board of Deputies said: “The event at St Paul’s church represents a cynical manipulation of legitimate concerns about Palestinian rights by those intent on hijacking this goodwill for political purposes.

“There is no better illustration of this than the cannibalisation of traditional Christmas carols by substituting words of hate and demonisation for those of hope and joy.

“Organisations such as Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network no more represent the authentic voice of our community than do these mutilated carols represent the true spirit of Christmas for Christians.”

The service follows another held last week by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) at the Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church with readings from playwright Caryl Churchill, whose play Seven Jewish Children, caused controversy earlier this year.

Last updated: 5:20pm, December 15 2009