Natalie Portman not taking $1.3 million prize because of politics

Hollywood actress Natalie Portman said she was backing out of a Jerusalem ceremony to protest against the policies of Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Hollywood actress Natalie Portman said she was backing out of a Jerusalem ceremony to protest against the policies of Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.PHOTO: REUTERS

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Hollywood actress Natalie Portman said she was backing out of a Jerusalem ceremony where she was to receive a US$1 million (S$1.3 million) Genesis Prize to protest against the policies of Israel's prime minister.

"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," Portman said on Instagram.

She also denied accusations by Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev who had said Portman subscribed to the ideology of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

"I am not part of the BDS movement and do not endorse it," the Oscar-winning US-Israeli actress said. "Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation," she said.

Mr Netanyahu's Likud party blasted Portman for "talking about human rights but participating in festivals in countries that censor films and whose respect for human rights is much worse than that of Israel".

The Israeli army has come under scrutiny over its use of live fire over the past three weeks during protests and clashes along the blockaded Gaza Strip's border with the Jewish state.

Mr Netanyahu also recently reversed a controversial deal with the UN refugee agency aimed at avoiding the forced deportations of thousands of African migrants.

 

He is also the subject of a series of corruption investigations.

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.