• Press Release

Criticism of Israeli Government’s Policies Are Free Speech, Not Anti-Semitism

August 15, 2019

Yellow and white graphic with the Amnesty international logo on the bottom left and the word
Responding to Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, and minister of Interior Arye Deri, denying entrance to two U.S. members of Congress and U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweets referring to the members of Congress as anti-semitic, Amnesty International Israel and Amnesty International USA issued the following statement:

Molly Malekar, Amnesty International Israel’s director said:

“The Israeli government allows free entry to world leaders accused of gross violations of human rights, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, such as Myanmar’s generals and Duterte of the Philippines, proudly embracing leaders identified with supporting neo-Nazi and anti-semitic groups such as Hungary’s Orbán or Brazil’s Bolsenaro, but automatically calls anti-semitic anyone who dare criticize it.

“Israel bars entry on the basis of political views to those who critique it. Criticizing Israel’s policies isn’t violence.”

Philippe Nassif, the advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA said:

“Donald Trump continues a pattern of divisive rhetoric that inflicts great harm on those standing up for their basic rights. Free speech is a basic human right. Opposition to a government’s policies or abhorrence to grave human rights abuses is neither anti-semitism nor a hatred towards a country or its people. We expect all people who support human rights to stand up and speak out against abuses, wherever they occur.”

Amnesty International Israel and Amnesty International USA have been calling for an end to illegal settlements, an end to unjustly detaining Palestinian activists including children, and for respect for the rights to freedom of movement and expression in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.


The “anti-boycott law” of 2011, formally known as the Law for Prevention of Damage to State of Israel through Boycott, makes it a civil wrong to call for a boycott of any entity because of its affiliation to Israel or to a territory under its control, including entities operating in illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. A 2017 amendment to the Entry to Israel Law prohibits granting an entry visa to Israel (and therefore to the Occupied Palestinian Territories which are under Israeli control) to anyone who knowingly published, or operates within an organization who knowingly published, a call for a boycott as defined under the 2011 law. Both the Law for Prevention of Damage to State of Israel through Boycott of 2011 and the 2017 amendment to the Entry to Israel Law contravene Israel’s obligations under international human rights law.

Amnesty International does not take a view on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign and has never called for or endorsed specific boycotts. It is up to individuals and organizations to determine which peaceful strategies to use in furtherance of human rights. Advocating for boycotts, divestment and sanctions is a form of free expression that must be protected. Advocates of boycotts should be allowed to express their views freely and take forward their campaigns without harassment, threats of prosecution or criminalization, or other measures that violate the right to freedom of expression.

Further information: TripAdvisor staff urged to speak out against firm’s role in sustaining illegal Israeli settlements (Press release, July 9, 2019)