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Charlotte Church: Welsh singer attends pro-Palestine rally in London weeks after ‘River to Sea’ song controversy

‘Many British Jews do feel that the centre of London is unsafe for them during these marches’

Alex Ross
Sunday 10 March 2024 09:15 GMT
Charlotte Church joins pro-Palestine march in central London

Charlotte Church was seen leading a pro-Palestine rally in London this afternoon – two weeks after she drew criticism for singing an apparent antisemitic song.

The Welsh singer was at the front of the crowd of thousands of protesters who marched from Hyde Park to the US embassy in their call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

It took place just hours after US president Joe Biden told supporters in Philadelphia that securing a ceasefire was “looking tough” as the situation worsens in the Middle East.

Ms Church, 38, was seen smiling and posing for pictures beside banners at the march, organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Her appearance comes two weeks after she denied the song “From the River to the Sea” was antisemitic following criticism for singing a rendition at a pro-Palestine fundraising concern in Caerphilly in South Wales.

Charlotte Church said she joined the protest to ‘show solidarity with the people of Palestine for all that they are suffering through’ (Reuters)

The song’s lyrics are a reference to the land between the Jordan River, which borders eastern Israel, and the Mediterranean Sea to the west – and are controversial to many British Jews who see them as a call for Israel’s destruction.

Speaking at today’s event, the singer said she joined the protest to “show solidarity with the people of Palestine for all that they are suffering through”.

She added: “I am here today to call for an immediate ceasefire, to ask our government and governments all over the world to send as strong message as we possibly can. But a strong, a peaceful, a loving message, that’s what every single march that I’ve been on for Palestine has been about.

“There’s been singing there’s been drumming, yes, there’s been emotion, but in the majority that emotion has been love, has been compassion because that’s why we’re all here.

“We’re all here because we cannot bear what we’re witnessing. We cannot bear to see civilians, children, women slaughtered. And so we are here because our hearts are so full of love for the Palestinian people.”

Charlotte Church was among thousands of protesters in central London today (Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire)

A large police presence was in the area with a counterprotest also organised. One man carrying a banner condemning Hamas as a terror group was arrested after holding the sign aloft as pro-Palestine activists filed past him.

The protest, one of many that have taken place in the capital at weekends, comes as some are demanding tougher action, with the cost of policing them already reaching over £32m.

Robin Simcox, the government’s counterextremism tsar, warned that a “permissive environment for radicalisation” was developing.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Simcox said: “We will not have become an authoritarian state if London is no longer permitted to be turned into a no-go zone for Jews every weekend.”

And Daniel Sugarman, the director of public affairs at the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “Many British Jews do feel that the centre of London is unsafe for them during these marches. This includes synagogues in the area.”

Responding to Mr Simcox’s comments, a No 10 spokesperson said: “The prime minister would want to make clear it is very important to take people who feel this way extremely seriously and he is acutely aware of the fear and distress that many people have been feeling and communities across our country.

“That’s why he’s very clear that some of the behaviour that we’ve seen in recent weeks is unacceptable and it doesn’t reflect the values that we have as a society.”

John Rees, an organiser from the Stop the War Coalition, rejected Mr Simcox’s claims, saying it was “irresponsible” of the government to whip up what he described as unnecessary fear in Britain’s Jewish community.

A pro-Palestine protester at Saturday’s march in central London (AFP/Getty)

He said: “Of course, if the government decides to whip up that kind of fear, then people are going to feel that, of course they are.”

A Stop The War Coalition statement read: “The situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate. Half a million people are facing starvation, acute food shortages are affecting the whole population and Israeli forces are carrying out massacres against those in queue for basic foodstuffs.

“Meanwhile, here in Britain, the government has escalated its attacks on the pro-Palestine movement, with Rishi Sunak resorting to the ‘mob rule’ cliche and James Cleverly calling for an end to the recent wave of protests while floating clampdowns on the right to protest.

“The combination of these two crises means there’s never been a more important time to continue our protesting. Make sure you’re on the streets as we march from Hyde Park Corner to the US embassy in Nine Elms.”

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