Opinion: An open letter to Natalie Portman

Like Portman, Henry Roth, a Jew living in Montreal, Canada, was born in Israel. In this letter, he tells the famous, multiple award-winning actress that her decision to refuse the prestigious Genesis Prize was “very wrong.”

Dear Ms. Portman,

The two of us have a lot in common; I too was born in Israel, and like you, my family left Israel when I was young.  However, hearing that you have refused the Genesis Prize because of the “ … mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities …”, it is clear to me that we differ greatly on how we, as Diaspora Jews, perceive modern-day Israel and how we can best serve the interests of the Jewish people.

Ms. Portman, you are wrong on the facts because Israel is not mistreating anyone nor is it committing atrocities.  Israel is dealing with a violent, intractable, nihilistic enemy who sees nothing wrong in placing their children in harm’s way, and Israel is to be commended for their restraint and humanity.

You are also wrong about refusing to appear alongside Benjamin Netanyahu because he is the diplomatically-elected leader of Israel and he has a life-long record of service to the Jewish state.  You may disagree with his policies or tactics, but you cannot question his devotion to Israel and his enormous accomplishments on its behalf.  To refuse to appear with him is an insult to the Israeli democratic process and a totally unwarranted politicization of what should have been a heart-warming event for you and for the charity you would have been able to help with the million dollar Genesis Prize.

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Finally, you are also very wrong to give support and credence to the many enemies of Israel who will pounce on your comments as proof that even prominent Jews do not agree with Israel’s policies.  Whatever you think of Israel’s actions in defending their country, are there not enough non-Israeli and non-Jewish voices continually condemning Israel without Jews parroting their distortions and half-truths ?  You need to remember that as a Jew enjoying a relatively risk-free existence in the United States, you have neither the right nor the moral authority to judge the steps Israel takes to protect itself against those who seek its destruction.  You do have skin in the game as Jew but until and unless you decide to make Aliyah and put your life at risk alongside your fellow Jews, you have no right to be telling Israelis how to conduct their politics or how to deal with violent uprisings.

Ms. Portman, as long as Israel must deal with people who believe in blowing up pizzerias, placing munitions in schools and hospitals and encouraging and rewarding terrorists, it may be somewhat difficult for them to live up to your lofty moral standards.  I thank G-d every day that they do what is necessary to protect their land, and I honour their sacrifice and courage rather than nitpick at their occasional mis-steps.

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