Thursday 15/11/2018 - 12:10 am


Natalie Portman pulls out of Israeli awards ceremony; government responds


2018.04.21 03:53

 The foundation behind the prestigious Genesis Prize says this years winner, Natalie Portman, has pulled out of the June awards ceremony in Israel, quoting a representative for the U.S. actress as saying recent events in Israel were "extremely distressing to her."

The Genesis Prize Foundation says it was informed Portman "does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel."

The statement late Thursday did not refer to specific events.

Israel has faced international criticism over its response to recent mass protests on the Gaza-Israel border, in which 37 Palestinians were killed by Israeli army fire, most of them protesters. Hundreds more Palestinians were wounded by Israeli troops since the weekly protests began March 30.

Israel says it is defending its border and accuses Gaza’s rulers, the Islamic militant Hamas group, of trying to carry out attacks under the guise of protests. Rights groups have branded open-fire rules as unlawful, saying they effectively permit soldiers to use potentially lethal force against unarmed protesters.

In comments reported by Israeli media, Culture Minister Miri Regev said Friday that she was sorry Portman had “fallen like a ripe fruit into the hands of BDS supporters,” a reference to a Palestinian-led campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions 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 was quoted as saying.

Oren Hazan, a legislator in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, called on the government to revoke Portman’s Israeli citizenship.

In a statement posted to its website, the Genesis Foundation said, "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.”

They added, "The mission of the Genesis Prize is to create a space where we can cast politics aside and come together to appreciate Jewish accomplishments that continue to contribute so much to human civilization; to contemplate Jewish identity and values and what they mean in the 21st century; to strengthen the bond between the State of Israel and the Jewish Diaspora; and to celebrate pride in being Jewish, and – especially in this 70th anniversary year - in the State of Israel. We are disappointed that this year we will not be able to fulfill this mission in full.”

The Genesis Prize recognizes " honors extraordinary individuals who serve as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews through their outstanding professional achievement and commitment to the Jewish people and Jewish values, such as social justice, tolerance and charity."

Previous recipients former New York mayor and gun-control advocate Michael R. Bloomberg (2014), actor Michael Douglas (2015), Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman (2016), and British sculptor Anish Kapoor, who is Indian-Jewish (2017).

In November 2017, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Genesis Lifetime Achievement Award.

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