LONDON: Welsh singer-songwriter Charlotte Church on Monday denied allegations of antisemitism after she was criticized for leading a choir singing “From the River to the Sea.”
Church led the 100-strong choir during a pro-Palestine fundraising concert at a village hall in Caerphilly, South Wales, on Saturday. The song refers to the land between the River Jordan, bordering the occupied West Bank and Israel in the east, to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism has labeled the song and its central message “antisemitic,” saying it calls for the destruction of the state of Israel.
However, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and other activists say the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” refers to “the right of all Palestinians to freedom, equality and justice.”
Church addressed what she described as the “alarmist” reports about Saturday’s event live on Instagram on Monday, in a message in which she explained she was “fighting for the liberation of all people.”
She said: “Just to clarify my intentions there, I am in no way antisemitic. I am fighting for the liberation of all people. I have a deep heart for all religions and all difference.
“It was a beautiful, beautiful event. But unfortunately the powers that be can’t have that. (They) can’t have such a powerful symbol of resistance as what we worked towards on Saturday.”
Church confirmed the event ended with a chant of the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
She said: “Clearly, if you know the history of it all, (it is) not an antisemitic chant calling for the obliteration of Israel. It is not that in any way, shape or form. It is calling for the peaceful coexistence of Israelis and Palestinians.”
Church added that “lots of other beautiful songs … of liberation and freedom” were performed during the event, including Arabic songs, Welsh songs and South African songs associated with the anti-Apartheid movement, “the lyrics of which were adapted to the situation in Palestine.”
In video footage from the concert, Church is seen standing behind a banner that reads “Let Palestine Live.” She and the members of the choir are wearing keffiyeh scarves, a symbol of solidarity among supporters of Palestine.
In November, Church posted a video message on Instagram in which she expressed support for the Palestinian cause. She urged her followers to watch footage from Gaza and the West Bank, and to amplify Palestinian voices during “this genocide that is happening in front of all of our eyes.”
The 37-year-old singer told her fans, “Do not look away,” and expressed concern about the children “caught in this geopolitical insanity.”
In the same video she said that starting on Nov. 20 she would be offering weekly singing sessions “for the liberation of Palestine and the liberation of the Palestinian people.”