Natalie Portman’s snub


Last week was supposed to be focused on celebration of the State of Israel and the recognition that 70 years after David Ben-Gurion declared the country’s independence, the Jewish state is a strong and prosperous first-world nation in the heart of the Middle East. But along with the parades and the parties came the news that Natalie Portman, one of the most visible pro-Israel faces in Hollywood, was declining to participate in what was to be the June conferral on her of the annual Genesis Foundation Prize in Israel.

At the time, by way of a statement attributed to Portman’s representative and released on Yom Ha’atzmaut itself, the explanation was offered that given “recent events in Israel [that] have been extremely distressing to her,” the Jerusalem-born Portman “does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel.” We assumed that by “recent events,” Portman meant the dozens of deaths of Palestinians in Gaza, shot at by Israeli soldiers who officials say were responding to violent terrorists and would-be terrorists attempting to breach the border.

Many on Israel’s right, however — joined by many more on the right flank of the American pro-Israel community — assumed that Portman was just another Hollywood celebrity to fall into the clutches of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. She was, in the analysis of one Likud MK, nothing more than a traitor, and deserved to be stripped of her citizenship.

As it turns out, it appears that Portman reached a crisis of conscience regarding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom she famously derided in 2015. She explained over the weekend on Instagram and on her own website that she “did not want to appear as endorsing” the prime minister, who was scheduled to speak at the Genesis Prize ceremony and in all likelihood would have presented her with the prize. She also clarified that she was not a supporter of BDS. Indeed, she went on to say that “I treasure my Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema, and dance. But the mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values.”

As before, we assume Portman was referring to Gaza — because if she was referring generally to the treatment of Palestinians in Israel, we wonder why she didn’t simply decline the honor months ago when it was announced. But while we acknowledge Portman’s absolute right to disagree vocally with Israel’s latest actions — even if we question her assessment — we simply cannot escape the fact that whatever her intentions, her announcement came at the worst possible time.

While we believe Portman’s claims of love, devotion and respect for the state and people of Israel, pouring cold water on the state’s Independence Day parade was far from a friendly act.

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