Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman’s decision not to accept the Genesis Prize and her statements on the matter border on anti-Semitism. Portman said she would not accept the award in the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was scheduled to speak at the award ceremony to be held in Jerusalem.
“Natalie Portman has played into the hands of the worst of our haters and of the worst of the anti-Semites in the Middle East,” Steinitz said in an interview on Sunday with the Kan public broadcasting corporation. Portman had made a serious mistake and owes Israel an apology, the energy minister said.
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“Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism. Boycotting Israel has elements of anti-Semitism,” Steinitz asserted, adding that Portman would not have boycotted China or India. Boycotting the ceremony because of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s participation practically constitutes a boycott of Israel, Steinitz asserted.
Internal Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan wrote a letter to Portman that made reference to the “Star Wars” movies in which she appeared. “Anakin Skywalker, a character you know well from Star Wars, underwent a similar process. He began to believe that the Jedi Knights were evil, and that the forces of the Dark Side were the protectors of democracy, “Erdan wrote. “I call upon you not to let the Dark Side win.”
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>> That’s the Spirit, Ms. Portman, but It’s Just a Start | Gideon Levy ■ Natalie’s Choice | Editorial <<
Portman announced on Friday that she would not accept the Genesis Prize, which is given annualy to a Jewish recipient who serves “as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews through their outstanding professional achievement along with their commitment to Jewish values and the Jewish people.” It is accompanied by a $1 million cash award that recipients may direct to charities of their choice. This year’s prize was doubled to $2 million by Israeli philanthropist Morris Kahn.
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.
Portman’s representative initially explained that “[r]ecent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel” and that “she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony.” As a result, the ceremony was cancelled. At the time, Portman did not specify which events caused her distress.
– “A Tale of Love and Darkness” official trailer.