Natalie Portman Criticizes Israel's Nation-State Law as "Racist"

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Natalie Portman

Portman's comments about the controversial law came less than a year after she pulled out of a ceremony in Tel Aviv in protest over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Natalie Portman is speaking out about Israel's controversial nation-state law, which was passed earlier this year to widespread criticism from within Israel and overseas. 

Speaking to BBC reporter Sam Asi, the Oscar winner described the law as "racist, and there's nothing else to say about that."

"It's wrong and I disagree with it," she added. "It's hard to be from a place where you don't have choice, where it's political. It's the people you love, and their lives are personally affected by all the decisions politicians make. I just hope to be a part of changing that and making us truly love our neighbors, and working with our neighbors. It's like your family: You love them the most but you're also the most critical."

Passed by the Knesset in July, the nation-state law says that "Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people" and that only Jews have the right to self-determination in the country, despite Israel's Arab citizens numbering some 1.8 million, around 20 percent of the 9 million population. The law also defined Hebrew as Israel's sole official language, designating Arabic as a language with special status.

Its enactment sparked immediate condemnation from the European Union, Israeli Arab political leaders, Israeli opposition politicians and liberal Jewish groups in the U.S., several of whom said it was discriminatory and amounted to "apartheid."

Portman's comments come less than a year after the Israeli-born actress sparked global headlines by pulling out of a prize ceremony in Tel Aviv, just weeks after Israeli troops had shot and killed a number of Palestinian protestors at the Gaza border (the casualty figures would rise to more than a hundred over the month that followed).

"Recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her, and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel," a spokesperson said at the time, while Portman herself argued that her decision was because she didn't want to "appear as endorsing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu."