Belittled town of Bethlehem

(How an anti-Israel group re-wrote Christmas)

By Leon Symons, November 20, 2008

A Jewish anti-Israel group has been criticised for re-writing traditional Christmas carols to attack Israel's policies towards Palestine. The songs are due to be performed during a concert at a Central London church next week.

Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (JBIG) said it hoped the event would raise awareness of "the Palestinian people of Bethlehem".

But David Gifford, chief executive of the Council of Christians and Jews, called the new carols "puerile".
The opening verse of the revised version of Once in Royal David's City reads: "Once in royal David's city/ Stood a big apartheid wall/ People entering and leaving/ Had to pass a checkpoint hall."

By the end of The Twelve Days of Christmas, Ehud Olmert is said to have sent: "12 assassinations/ 11 homes demolished/ 10 wells obstructed/ Nine sniper towers/ Eight gunships firing/ Seven checkpoints blocking/ Six tanks a-rolling/ Five settlement rings/ Four falling bombs/ Three trench guns/ Two trampled doves and an uprooted olive tree."

O Little Town of Bethlehem becomes: "O little town of Bethlehem/How still we see thee lie!/A wall is laid where tourists stayed/ And people can't go by."

Organiser Deborah Fink, who helped write the new lyrics, said: "It is because I am Jewish that I am doing this. Jews like arguing and they like dissent. I think I am being more Jewish than those who slavishly follow the Israeli government's line."

Reverend Charles Hedley defended his decision to grant the group permission to perform in the church and said: "One can sweep under the carpet what's happening or one can make things known and highlight the ironies and the paradoxes of it."

But Mr Gifford maintained: "I think it is very sad that so much energy has been devoted to this. It legitimises their approach and I don't think that is right.This entire event is one-sided. It is not an opportunity for dialogue, it's not an opportunity to listen."

Lior Ben Dor, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in London, said: "If the Jewish carol singers happen to have relatives in Israel, I am sure they would have received the good news that thanks to the security fence, which serves to protect communities in Israel from terrorist infiltration from the West Bank, they feel a lot safer."

Money raised at the concert will be donated to the British charity Medical Aid for Palestinians, and Open Bethlehem, a group campaigning against the security barrier.

Organisers have said that Baroness Tonge, the Liberal Democrat peer, will be reading at the carol concert.

    Last updated: 12:20pm, November 20 2008