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Natalie Portman pulls out of Israeli award ceremony over “recent events”

on April 20, 2018, 2:33pm

Natalie Portman was scheduled to receive the 2018 Genesis Prize at a ceremony in Jerusalem in June. However, the entire event has now been canceled as the actress has announced she’s turning down the award.

In a statement relayed by the Genesis Prize Foundation, a representative for Portman said, “[R]ecent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel.” The statement added, “she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony.” (via The Guardian)

Though Portman doesn’t specify which “recent events” have troubled her, she’s more than likely referring to the clashes between Palestinian protesters and IDF forces on the Gaza-Israel border. The military response to the demonstrations have left at least 30 dead and over 750 more wounded, which led to international condemnation (except from the US).

Inaugurated in 2012 and dubbed the “Jewish Nobel Prize,” the Genesis Prize awards a $1 million grant to individuals who “inspire others through their dedication to the Jewish community and Jewish values.” Portman was set to join the ranks of Michael Bloomberg, Michael Douglas and Itzhak Perlman in receiving the award for being a “highly accomplished actress, a committed social activist and a wonderful human being.”

Now that she’s dropped out of the ceremony, however, Portman has drawn the ire of many in the Israeli government. “I was sad to hear that Portman fell like a ripe fruit into the hands of [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] supporters,” said Culture Minister Miri Regev. “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,” she continued, a reference to Portman’s 2015 A Tale of Love and Darkness. Knesset member Orene Hazan called for Portman’s Israeli citizenship to be revoked, adding that he’d be “boycotting any film which includes Portman and I call on the public to do so as well.”

Others, like Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria, praised Portman’s decision, saying it should turn on “warning lights.” “She is totally one of ours, identified with her Jewishness and her Israeliness,” Azaria tweeted (via The Jerusalem Post). “She represents the voice of many American Jews, particularly the younger generation. This is a community that has always been a significant anchor for the State of Israel, and the price of losing them way be too high.”

Update – 7:45 p.m. CT: In a new statement, Portman clarified that 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.”

However, Portman clarified that she’s “not part of the BDS movement and do not endorse it,” adding, “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.”

Read Portman’s full statement below.

“My decision not to attend the Genesis Prize ceremony has been mischaracterized by others. 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. By the same token, I am not part of the BDS movement and do not endorse it. 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.

Please do not take any words that do not come directly from me as my own.

This experience has inspired me to support a number of charities in Israel. I will be announcing them soon, and I hope others will join me in supporting the great work they are doing.”

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