It’s not every day an actress wins a coveted award, or declines to go accept it. But in this case, actress Natalie Portman did both, when she recently announced that she wouldn’t be traveling to Israel to accept the Genesis Prize Foundation's Genesis Prize.
The presentation ceremony was scheduled for June 28, but was promptly cancelled, according to the statement, once the foundation learned through Portman’s spokesperson that the actress could “not in good conscience move forward with the ceremony.”
Dubbed “the Jewish Nobel” by Time magazine, the award “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,” according to a press release from the foundation. Former recipients of the million-dollar prize include former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and actor-director Michael Douglas.
Portman’s decision not to travel to the award ceremony drew criticism from some, including Israel's minister for culture and sports, Miri Regev. "I was saddened to hear that Natalie Portman has fallen as a ripe fruit in the hands of BDS supporters," Regev said, associating the actress' act with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that protests Israel over its treatment of Palestinians and the West Bank.
But Portman denies any involvement with the movement and instead decided to release a statement on her Instagram, stating that her words had been “mischaracterized by others.”
“I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing [Israeli Prime Minister] 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," she wrote in the statement. The actress continued by saying that she treasures her “Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema, and dance,” but noted that the mistreatment of those suffering from “today’s atrocities” were not in line with her Jewish values. “Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power," she said.
The Annihilation actress closed out her statement by saying that the entire ordeal has inspired her 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.”
Sounds to me like Portman’s decision to boycott the ceremony definitely falls in line with the mission of the award, and kudos to her for standing by her beliefs.
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