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Israel’s minister for culture and sports has denounced Natalie Portman’s decision to decline an award in her homeland of Israel over politics.
“I was saddened to hear that Natalie Portman has fallen as a ripe fruit in the hands of BDS supporters,” stated Miri Regev, associating the actress’ decision with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. “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.'”
Regev’s reference was to the Oscar winner’s 2015 directorial feature debut A Tale of Love and Darkness, an adaptation of the autobiographical novel by Israeli author Amos Oz that was shot in Jerusalem.
Portman was due to collect the Genesis Prize but pulled out Thursday, with a rep telling event organizers 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.”
The Genesis Prize honors notable individuals “who inspire others through their dedication to the Jewish community and Jewish values.” Previous Hollywood honorees include actor Michael Douglas and musician Itzhak Perlman. The Genesis Prize Foundation announced Portman as the honoree in November.
News of Portman’s decision drew strong reaction on social media, with many taking offense not only at Portman’s announcement but its timing, as Israel wrapped up its 70th Independence Day celebration on Thursday.
“She’s spitting in her homeland’s face on our most celebratory day,” read an online comment, while others called Portman’s action nothing short of “treason” and “a shameful elitist choice against her fellow countrymen” and “succumbing to BDS movement’s ploy.”
Some simply suggested the award be given to Gal Gadot, who “represents our country with great honor.”
Meanwhile, PACBI, the academic and cultural arm of the BDS movement and a Nobel Peace Prize-nominated pro-Palestinian activist group that seeks to cut global ties with Israel, praised Portman’s move.
“After decades of egregious human rights violations against Palestinians, Israel’s recent massacre of peaceful protesters in Gaza has made its brand so toxic that even well-known Israeli-American cultural figures, like Natalie Portman, now refuse to blatantly whitewash, or art-wash, Israeli crimes and apartheid policies,” it said in a statement.
While Portman declined further comment, the decision comes as an apparent response to mass protests on the Gaza-Israel border that saw scores of Palestinians shot dead by Israeli Defense Forces and more than 1,000 injured, and her ongoing opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Portman’s criticism of Netanyahu dates back to his 2015 election day video message on Facebook urging supporters to hurry up and vote as, “The right-wing government is in danger, Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves.”
He later apologized, acknowledging, “the things I said a few days ago hurt some Israeli citizens.”
“We, who have such a history with anti-Semitism, should understand the danger of racism and of how we treat minorities, and I felt that his comments were very much not showing a Jewish spirit of equality and dignity and peace,” said Portman during an interview that year with The News Company’s Yonit Levi.
“I think all Israelis know that it’s much easier to criticize in Israel than outside, I don’t know, it’s such a hard combination to be — to obviously have deep love for the place you’re from and also see what’s wrong with it. So it becomes a tricky thing, certainly increasingly tricky.”
Additional reporting by Maya Cohen.
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