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Natalie Portman’s Bombshell

By TTN Blog

Pro-Israel progressive Jews, including many participants in The Third Narrative, are divided between “Say it ain’t so, Natalie” and “You go girl” over this Israeli-born, Hebrew-speaking movie star and director’s action in refusing to attend the Genesis Prize ceremony to receive this award in the presence of Prime Minister Netanyahu. 

Some blame her for not taking the opportunity to lambast Netanyahu to his face for the policies of his government; others say she’s succumbed to the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement.  A Likud legislator has even suggested taking away her Israeli citizenship; she is a citizen of both Israel and the US (where she has spent most of her life).   

The headline for this JTA news article that broke the story, “Genesis Prize cancels ceremony after 2018 winner Natalie Portman said she won’t visit Israel,” got an important detail wrong.  Portman doesn’t say she won’t visit Israel (where she often spends time), but that she’s uncomfortable appearing in a public event there.  

The NY Times story, “Natalie Portman Backs Out of Israeli Award Ceremony,” quotes her as follows:

“I am not part of the B.D.S. 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.”

“Israel,” she said, “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.”

The Hollywood Reporter quotes her almost identically, with these additions:

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.  . . . 

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

This article in The Forward, “Natalie Portman’s Complete History With Israel, Annotated,” provides a concise but thoroughgoing analysis of how deeply important Israel has been in her life, with Hebrew as her first language when she moved to the US with her family at the age of three. Since making her film version of “A Tale of Love and Darkness” by Amos Oz, she’s made it clear that she admires him as a “leader of the peace movement,” as well as a great Israeli literary figure. So she’s announced this as a protest by a lover of Israel, not as a vitriolic critic or anti-Zionist.  Israel has only “lost” her insofar as it pushes her away.  


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