Javier Bardem has been forced to deny accusations he is anti-Semitic.

The 45-year-old actor was criticised after he, his wife Penelope Cruz, director Pedro Almodovar and a number of professionals from the Spanish film industry signed an open letter calling the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza ''genocide'' but Javier insisted he has ''respect'' for the people of Israel.

He said in a statement: ''My signature was solely meant as a plea for peace. Destruction and hatred only generate more hatred and destruction.''

Replying to accusations he is anti-Semitic, Javier said: ''While I was critical of the Israeli military response, I have great respect for the people of Israel and deep compassion for their losses. I am now being labeled by some as anti-Semitic, as is my wife - which is the antithesis of who we are as human beings. We detest anti-Semitism as much as we detest the horrible and painful consequences of war.''

Javier then issued a plea for peace in Gaza.

He said: ''I was raised to be against any act of violence, and the consequent suffering of humanity for it, regardless of religions, ethnicities and borders. Too many innocent Palestinian mothers have lost their children to this conflict. Too many innocent Israeli mothers share the same grief. There should not be any political reason that can justify such enormous pain on both sides. It's my hope that leaders involved in this complicated struggle will heed the call of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, 'In the name of humanity, the violence must stop.' ''