Oscar-winning, Israel-born actress Natalie Portman has decided not to attend an award ceremony in Jerusalem with her representatives claiming her distress over “recent events” in Israel as the cause. According to The New York Times, the Genesis Prize Foundation had intended to honor the actress and her achievements, but has since canceled the event. The recent events in question are most certainly the protests on the Israel-Gaza border, which, in the past three weeks, has seen more than 35 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.
“The Genesis Prize Foundation (G.P.F.) was notified by a representative of Ms. Portman 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,’” according to a statement by the G.P.F. Apparently, the foundation heard of Portman’s decision on Thursday, with last year’s press release stating she’ll attend the ceremony this June still online.
As for the $1 million prize money offered to the annual winners—which have included Michael Bloomberg, Michael Douglas, Itzhak Perlman, and Anish Kapoor—it remains unclear whether or not Portman still has a check coming in the mail or not. However, the foundation did say she intended to donate her prize to women’s equality and empowerment groups.
In terms of Israel’s lethal use of force against largely unarmed protesters trying to survive the horrid conditions in Gaza. Portman has been critical of her birth country’s behavior in the past, stating she was “very, very upset and disappointed” over Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election in 2015. “I find his racist comments horrific,” she said.
Israel’s minister of culture and sport, Miri Regev, told Israeli news media, “I was saddened to hear that Natalie Portman has fallen as a ripe fruit in the hands of B.D.S supporters,” and that “Natalie, a Jewish actress who was born in Israel, now joins those who refer to the success and wonder of the rebirth of Israel as ‘a tale of darkness and darkness.’” While Portman has never joined the pro-Palestine Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (B.D.S.) campaign, her change of mind is certainly an active signal that Portman won’t tolerate certain behavior of Israel's government.
Israeli Politician Rachel Azaria publicly supported Portman’s decision on Twitter. Azaria has heralded Portman’s cancellation as “a warning light” to those refusing to compromise.
“She is totally one of us, identifies with her Judaism and her Israeliness,” she wrote, adding that Portman is “now speaking for many Jews in the United States, and is essentially the young generation. This is a community that was always a significant anchor for the state of Israel. We could pay too high a price for losing them.”
Portman wrote in a statement, "[...] 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.”