Under Pressure, Natalie Portman Reverses Her Position on Israel

Natalie Portman. (Photo: via Twitter)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff

Israeli-American Hollywood actress, Natalie Portman defended previous comments on her decision to turn down an invitation to a ceremony in Israel to receive a million-dollar prize by denying support for the BDS movement.

Portman’s representative said in an earlier statement to the awarding body:

“Recent 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”.

Portman’s decision was interpreted by Israeli press as a protest to Israel’s violent handling of the Great March of Return demonstrations along the southern border with Gaza, and support for the boycott of Israel. However, soon after facing a backlash from Israeli officials over her presumed pro-BDS position, she explained in a new Instagram post that her intention was to avoid endorsing the government of Israeli rightwing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation,”

Portman pointed out that her words were “mischaracterized by others”, asserting her pride of Israel’s founding as a “haven for refugees from Holocaust” 70 years ago, and treasured her “Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema, and dance”. She made no mention of Palestinian suffering as a result of the Israeli siege and military occupation.

Portman’s retreat exposed her to criticism from academics and pro-Palestinian activists. Author Shailja Patel‏ tweeted:

35 Palestinians have been shot dead and hundreds wounded over the four Fridays of the Great March of Return movement, which started on the Palestinian Land Day, March 30th, and is planned to continue till May 15th, which marks the 70th anniversary of Nakba (Catastrophe).

An Israeli minister said to Portman she has been “hoodwinked by Hamas propaganda” and invited her to come and see the “truth”.

Gilad Erdan, Strategic Affairs and Public Security Minister, said in his message:

“It is not surprising that you have seen the media reports which have distorted the truth.. Unfortunately it appears that this Hamas-designed narrative has impacted your decision.”

Senior officials in Israel’s governing Likud slammed the Israeli-American actress for cancelling the visit. The culture minister said Portman has “fallen like ripe fruit into the hands of BDS supporters.”

In addition, a Knesset member demanded the authorities revoke her citizenship.

Portman, born in Jerusalem and moved to the United States at age three, has been named as the 2018 recipient of Genesis Prize, which is annually awarded to Jewish people who have “attained recognition and excellence in their fields”.

(PC, Reuters, Social Media)

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