Following Backlash, Natalie Portman Explains Decision To Cancel Israel Award Ceremony Plans

Israeli politicians are angered and saddened by Natalie Portman’s decision to cancel her participation in the upcoming Genesis Prize Ceremony.

According to reports by Israeli media, Culture Minister Miri Regev commented on the situation Friday morning, saying that she was sorry to hear Portman had “fallen like a ripe fruit into the hands of BDS supporters,” referring to the Palestinian-led “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” movement against Israel.

“Natalie, a Jewish actress who was born in Israel, joins those who relate to the story of the success and the wondrous rebirth of Israel as a story of darkness,” Regev added.

Oren Hazan, a legislator in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, has also suggested that the government revokes Portman’s Israeli citizenship.

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The backlash comes after Portman decided to cancel a trip to Israel to accept an award from the Genesis Prize Foundation, presumably due to the tense situation between Palestinian civilians and Israeli soldiers on the Gaza security border.

The 36-year-old actress, who was born in Jerusalem, had been announced as this year’s honouree by the Genesis Prize Foundation back in November, and had planned to return to her home nation to accept the award.

However, on Thursday Portman announced she would not be attending the ceremony after all, with a rep for the foundation telling the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that “recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel,” adding that “she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony.”

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According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Genesis Prize Foundation — which is described as the “Jewish Nobel Prize” recognizing Jewish people who have achieved excellence in their fields — has decided to cancel the 2018 ceremony in light of Portman’s non-attendance.

“Ms. Portman is a highly accomplished actress, a committed social activist and a wonderful human being. The staff of the foundation enjoyed getting to know her over the past six months, admires her humanity, and respects her right to publicly disagree with the policies of the government of Israel,” reads a statement from the Genesis Prize Foundation.

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“However, we are very saddened that she has decided not to attend the Genesis Prize Ceremony in Jerusalem for political reasons,” the statement added. “We fear that Ms. Portman’s decision will cause our philanthropic initiative to be politicized, something we have worked hard for the past five years to avoid.”

Following the backlash, Portman issued a statement about her decision, explaining she “chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony.”

Portman has publicly criticized Netanyahu in the past, insisting that “I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation.”

You can read her statement in its entirety below:

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. By the same token, I am not part of the BDS 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. I treasure my Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema, and dance.  Israel 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.

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

This experience has inspired me to support a number of charities in Israel. I will be announcing them soon, and I hope others will join me in supporting the great work they are doing.

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