Portman is facing heavy criticism for refusing to attend an Israeli award ceremony in her honor, because she “did not want to appear as endorsing Netanyahu.”
By: AP and World Israel News Staff
Actress Natalie Portman has snubbed a prestigious prize known as the “Jewish Nobel,” saying she did not want her attendance at the ceremony to be seen as an endorsement of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Portman was to have received the award in Israel in June.
While she said in a statement issued early Saturday that her reasons for skipping the ceremony had been mischaracterized by others, and that 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.
News of Portman’s decision to skip the event triggered an angry backlash Friday from the Jewish world.
Portman, through a representative, had told the Genesis Prize Foundation she was experiencing “extreme distress” over attending its ceremony and would “not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel.”
“Let me speak for myself. I 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.”
‘No excuse will help’
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 love and darkness,'” Regev added, referencing a Portman film by the same name.
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 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.”
The Jerusalem-born Portman is a dual Israeli-American citizen. The Oscar-winning actress moved to the US as a young girl, evolving from a child actress into a widely acclaimed A-list star. In 2015 she directed and starred in “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” a Hebrew-language film set in Israel based on an Amos Oz novel.
Oren Hazan, a legislator in the Likud Party, called on the government to revoke Portman’s Israeli citizenship.
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.
The Genesis foundation said it was “very saddened” by Portman’s decision and would cancel the prize ceremony.
“We fear that Ms. Portman’s decision will cause our philanthropic initiative to be politicized, something we have worked hard for the past five years to avoid,” it said.
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.
The Genesis Prize was launched in 2013 to recognize Jewish achievement and contributions to humanity. When Portman was announced late last year as the 2018 recipient, she said in a statement released by organizers at the time that she was “proud of my Israeli roots and Jewish heritage.”