Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman has refused to travel for Israel to accept a $2 million award known as the “Jewish Nobel” because she is “uncomfortable with recent events” there, apparently referring to the deadly violence directed against Palestinian protesters in Gaza.
“She cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony,” a statement from the Hollywood superstar said.
The Genesis Prize quickly announced it was canceling its June prize ceremony for Portman saying it was “saddened” at her decision, which it said could “politicize” the award, which has previously gone to Michael Bloomberg, Itzhak Perlman and Michael Douglas.
The Israeli government wasted no time in lashing out at Portman, accusing the Jerusalem-born actress of betraying the Jewish state.
Culture minister Miri Regev slammed the “Black Swan” star for falling “like ripe fruit into the hands of BDS supporters.”
“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 said.
A leading lawmaker from the ruling Likud Party called for her citizenship to be revoked.
Oren Hazan labeled her “an Israeli Jewess who … makes cynical use of her origins in order to advance her career.”
But others urged Israel to take note that it is pushing away supporters with its outspoken rejection of criticism — and by its increasingly hardline stance towards the Palestinians.
Rachel Azaria of the centrist Kulanu Party called Portman a Jewy canary in the coal mine who reflects the increasing antipathy of younger Jews in the Diaspora.
“Natalie Portman’s cancellation should be a warning sign,” she tweeted. “She’s totally one of us, identifies with her Jewishness and Israeliness. She’s expressing the voices of many in US Jewry, and particularly those of the younger generation.”
The move caps a shocking week for friends and foes of Israel alike. Just Wednesday, students at heavily Jewish Barnard College voted overwhelmingly for a measure calling for divestment from Israel.
The actress, who was born in Jerusalem and moved to the United States as a toddler, still expects to receive the $2 million prize, which she has said will be donated to Israeli and international women’s charities.