Actress Natalie Portman has announced that she did not “feel comfortable” accepting an esteemed award in the Jewish state due to “recent events” and will boycott it.
By: United with Israel Staff, JNS and AP
Hollywood actress and director Natalie Portman, who once said that she would not “you know, s**t on Israel,” has announced that she did not “feel comfortable” accepting an esteemed award in the Jewish state due to “recent events.”
The Genesis Prize, akin to a “Jewish Nobel,” is handed out annually in Israel and comes with a $1 million prize to “honor individuals who serve as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews through their outstanding professional achievement, along with their commitment to Jewish values and the Jewish people.”
The award foundation said it was “very saddened” to have received word from Portman’s representatives that “recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her, and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel,” and that “she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony.”
The 36-year-old has previous stood against the BDS movement, protesting efforts to keep the Toronto International Film Festival from staging a Tel Aviv-themed event in 2009.
While she said in a statement issued early Saturday that her reasons for skipping the ceremony had been mischaracterized by others, and she is not part of the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) movement, a Palestinian-led anti-Israel campaign, BDS endorsed her contentious move, viewing it as a victory.
“Decades of egregious human rights violations against Palestinians have made its brand so toxic that even well-known Israeli-American cultural figures refuse to whitewash Israeli crimes,” BDS stated.
Portman, through a representative, said she “chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony,” she wrote.
“Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation. I treasure my Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema, and dance.’”
“Israel was created exactly 70 years ago as a haven for refugees from the Holocaust. But the mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values. Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power,” she stated, without explaining what she was referring to.
She asked people to “not take any words that do not come directly from me as my own.”
Portman came out as “very, very upset and disappointed” when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was elected in 2015, but said she did not “want to use my platform [in the wrong way] and you know, s**t on Israel.”
Culture Minister Miri Regev said she was “sad to hear that Portman fell like a ripe fruit into the hands of BDS supporters.”
“A Jewish actress, who was born in Israel, is joining those who see the story of the success and magic of the establishment of Israel as ‘a tale of darkness and darkness,” Regev added, referencing to Potman’s movie A Tale of Love and Darkness.
Netanyahu’s Likud party slammed Portman’s decision as “hypocritical.”
“Natalie Portman talks about democracy, but she supported the V15 organization, which attempted, via foreign funding, to skew Israel’s democratic elections,” the Likud stated. “Portman talks about human rights, but she participates in festivals in countries which censor videos and whose human rights record is far behind that of Israel.”
“No excuse will help – Portman simply refuses to accept the decision of Israel’s citizens,” regarding the election of its leadership, the Likud party concluded.
Philanthropist Morris Kahn said he would not give Portman the $2 million prize.
“I cannot support the decision of canceling an appearance due to ‘recent events in Israel,’” Kahn said. “Together with the Genesis Prize Foundation, we will make sure that women’s rights organizations, for whom the $2 million matching grants fund has been established and to which I contributed along with Michael Bloomberg’s foundation, will not be affected in any way,” Kahn added. “The prize money will be distributed by the Genesis Prize Foundation, not by Ms. Portman, and I hope that other philanthropists will support the important cause of women’s equality and empowerment.”
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Public Security Minister said he sent a letter to Portman expressing his disappointment. “Sadly, it seems that you have been influenced by the campaign of media misinformation and lies regarding Gaza orchestrated by the Hamas terrorist group,” he wrote.
He invited her to visit and see for herself the situation on the ground.
Portman said in her statement that the backlash has inspired her to make numerous contributions to charities in Israel. She pledged to announce those grants soon.