Genesis Prize Says Natalie Portman's No-Show Is "Sign of Disrespect to the People of Israel"
The Oscar-winning actress decided not to accept her prize in person in April, saying she is "critical of Israeli leadership."
The Genesis Prize Foundation is firing back at Natalie Portman's decision not to appear at its 2018 award ceremony to receive its eponymous prize with a blistering statement that expresses its selection committee's "deep regret" that the actress was a no-show given that her presence could have sparked important conversation.
In a lengthy statement titled "On Natalie Portman’s Decision Not to Attend the Genesis Prize Ceremony in Jerusalem," the foundation — which annually recognizes eminent professionals "who inspire others through their dedication to the Jewish community and Jewish values" — addressed the actress's April decision not to attend the ceremony and how her choice will affect the selection process going forward.
Though the foundation said it did not believe it made a mistake in selecting Portman for the 2018 prize, the group slammed the Annihilation star for announcing her decision not to attend the ceremony "nearly six months" after the organization claims she intially accepted, having been informed that the prime minister of Israel would present the honor.
"Ms. Portman’s decision to decline to attend the award ceremony deprived Israelis and Jews all over the world of the chance to join together in honoring her," the statement says, while "the statements made by Ms. Portman and her representatives explaining the reasons behind the cancelation of her visit to Jerusalem inadvertently have given ammunition to a variety of groups that promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel."
The Genesis Prize initially announced that the actress would not be appearing at the June 24 ceremony in April, citing remarks from a representative that recent events in Israel were "distressing" to her. After censure from the Israeli government, Portman broke her silence a day later, stressing that she was not a part of the so-called BDS movement, saying, "Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation."
In its latest statement, the foundation stresses that it supports free speech and debate, and claims it proposed Portman hold a press conference, meet with Israeli leaders and give interviews to air her views, which it says the actress rejected.
"Ms. Portman declined these offers, thus preventing the Israeli public and senior policymakers from hearing the point of view of one of the most visible and admired American Jews, whose positions on a number of issues reflect those of many other Jews living in the Diaspora," the release says.
The foundation ends it statement by reaffirming that Portman's prize should not be rescinded; that her decision not to attend the ceremony will not affect the consideration of future Genesis Prize candidates; and that the $2 million award, traditionally waived so the foundation can fund important organizations, will be given to deserving Israeli women's rights organizations after a pitch process.
The foundation adds, "A formal structure is urgently needed where leaders of the Jewish Diaspora, including representatives of the younger generation, and political elites in Israel can conduct a frank and honest conversation before the Israel-Diaspora relationship suffers irreparable damage."
Portman's representatives had no comment.