The actress said that recent events in Israel have been “extremely distressing” and that she does “not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel.”
“After decades of egregious human rights violations against Palestinians, Israel’s recent massacre of peaceful protesters in Gaza has made its brand so toxic that even well-known Israeli-American cultural figures, like Natalie Portman, now refuse to blatantly whitewash, or art-wash, Israeli crimes and apartheid policies.”
— Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) statement
In an unexpected rebuke, Israeli-born actress Natalie Portman has declined to attend the June award ceremony for the Genesis Prize, sometimes nicknamed the “Jewish Nobel,” citing recent and “distressing” events in Israel. Portman, in declining to receive the prize, will still receive $2 million in prize money, which she previously announced she would be donating to programs focused on advancing gender equality. Her mention of “distressing” events in Israel is an apparent reference to the brutal crackdown and murder of unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza by Israeli soldiers.
Palestinians in Gaza have been participating in the “March of Great Return” since March 30. The march is aimed at securing the right of exiled Palestinians to return to historical Palestine. The protests have been widely attended — attracting thousands of participants — but have been targeted by the Israeli military, which has opened fire on the protesters numerous times, killing at least 35, including journalists, and wounding nearly 2,000 people.
Israel’s government has come under fire for its repression of the protests, but Israel has defended the actions of its soldiers, claiming that the protesters presented a threat to the border wall. However, many Jews — including Israelis — have been critical of Israel’s response and lack of concern regarding the deaths of protesters.
Portman was named the fifth winner of the Genesis Prize, which honors “professional achievement in service of Jewish values and the Jewish people,” last November, but her recent announcement has led to the ceremony’s cancellation. Portman, who is a dual Israeli-American citizen, has also declined to attend any public events in Israel, essentially boycotting the nation in which she was born as a result of its policies.
The actress’ representative contacted the Genesis Foundation, stating 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.” The foundation stated that it was “saddened” to learn of Portman’s decision.