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UN experts emphasize the need to allow open discussion on Gaza and Israel without fear of consequences

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News briefing

Translation and editing by: Committee for Justice

Geneva: November 23, 2023


UN experts have expressed concern over a global wave of attacks, retaliatory actions, criminalization, and sanctions against those who publicly express solidarity with the victims of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. The experts, in a statement published by the Human Rights Council’s media center in Geneva, said: “Calls for an end to the violence and attacks in Gaza, or for a humanitarian ceasefire, or criticism of Israeli government’s policies and actions, have in too many contexts been misleadingly equated with support for terrorism or antisemitism. This stifles free expression, including artistic expression, and creates an atmosphere of fear to participate in public life.”

“In other contexts, we also see a rise in antisemitic speech as well as intolerance, for those who support or are perceived to support Israel, or who express mere sympathy for Israeli suffering in the aftermath of the 7 October attack” they said. “This leaves little space for moderate views.”

Many artists worldwide have been targeted for their artistic or political messages, pressured to change their artistic expression themes, and labeled either as troublemakers or indifferent to the suffering of one side or the other. Similarly, journalists and media outlets in Israel and Western countries that publish reports critical of Israeli policies and operations in the occupied territories or express pro-Palestinian views have been targeted with threats, intimidation, discrimination, and retaliation, increasing the risk of self-censorship and undermining the diversity and plurality of news necessary for press freedom and public access to information.

The experts said, “Some athletes, particularly in Europe, have been suspended after expressing their views on social media, while others have been threatened with being dropped from their teams, contract termination, and even expulsion from their countries of residence.”

The experts emphasized that states have a duty to counter hate speech that dehumanizes parties to an armed conflict and civilians, reiterating the High Commissioner’s recent call to end the escalation of hate speech, antisemitism, and Islamophobia, and to ensure a safe and empowering space for solidarity with Israelis or Palestinians.

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