The Gaza killings have hurt Israel’s image in the world, and tonight the damage got even bigger. In an astonishing move, the Israeli-American film star Natalie Portman, 36, informed an Israeli foundation she would not show up at the awards ceremony for Israel’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, because, as the JTA reports:
The [Genesis] foundation said that Portman’s representative notified it that “[r]ecent 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 statement is surely a reference to Israel’s killing of nearly 40 unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, which have shocked Jews around the world.
Genesis has cancelled the awards ceremony, out of “fear that Ms. Portman’s decision will cause our philanthropic initiative to be politicized.”
The $1 million prize was announced last November (and subsequently doubled to $2 million). Tonight Hasbara Central is burning midnight oil to try and counter this stunning blow from a woman who was born in Israel, and has in the past spoken out in support of the Jewish state. In the highly-competitive world of media and film, we can only guess what kind of courage this move has taken, not to mention the potential tensions with Israeli relatives.
Portman has long resisted calls to boycott the state. She has been highly critical of Benjamin Netanyahu, decrying his racism, but insisted:
“I feel like there’s some people who become prominent, and then it’s out in the foreign press. You know, shit on Israel. I do not. I don’t want to do that.”
She directed a film based on liberal Zionist hero Amos Oz’s Jerusalem memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness.
And recently Portman has been outspoken about sexual harassment in Hollywood.
This is a shock for all Israel supporters. Oren Hazan, the unhinged Likud member of Knesset, called for the government to strip Portman of her citizenship.
“From the outset, the idea of granting the Genesis Prize to Natalie Portman was complete craziness,” Hazan said. “[She is] a Jewish Israeli, who on the one hand cynically uses her birthplace to advance her career and on the other is proud of the fact that she managed to avoid enlisting in the IDF. She’s an actress, but she is unworthy of any honor in the State of Israel.”
Miri Regev, culture minister, has said that Portman “succumbed to BDS.” JPost quotes Regev: “Natalie, a Jewish actress who was born in Israel, joins those who see the story of the wondrous success of the rebirth of Israel as a ‘story of darkness and darkness.'” Lara Friedman of Foundation for Middle East Peace comments:
Israel’s message to Natalie Portman & the world: In today’s political climate, no public act of meaningful opposition to Israeli policy will be tolerated. If you’re surprised it comes to this then you haven’t been paying attention.
Daniella Greenbaum, columnist at Business Insider, declares Portman has embarrassed Jews to the outside world (a shanda):
The Genesis Prize ceremony has just been cancelled because Natalie Portman, who was awarded the prize, has decided that recent events in Israel make her “uncomfortable participating in any public events in Israel.”
One person with such a following is Shmuley Boteach, who rises to the challenge:
Why would Natalie Portman suddenly attack Israel & say she won’t visit? Speak out against the gassing of innocent Arab children in Syria. Not democratic Israel. What is it about Hollywood and their scapegoating of Israel. Natalie, Israel are the good guys!
Portman won an Oscar in 2011 for her role as a ballerina in Black Swan, and she was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Jackie, a 2016 biopic about Jacqueline Kennedy. Her acting talent is unquestionable. We can only hope that she continues to get excellent roles, following this courageous act.
Lately one of us wrote that Israel had lost American Jews with the killings of unarmed protesters. This is a sign that assertion is true.