Natalie Portman explains decision to skip Israeli awards ceremony
Natalie Portman wants to make it clear why she canceled a planned trip to receive a prestigious Israeli award after a government official in the country slammed her.
The Oscar-winning actress, 36, was announced as the honoree of the Genesis Prize Laureate, the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in Israel in November.
In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, the actress says her 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,” she explained. “By the same token, I am not part of the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] 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,” Portman continued. “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,” she wrote. “Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power.”
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She added, “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.”
The actress also shared the statement on her Instagram account on Friday.
The move to not attend the ceremony in June, now canceled by The Genesis Prize Foundation, is believed to have been in part due to Israel’s recent deadly shooting of Palestinian protesters along the Gaza border, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Miri Regev, Israel’s minister for culture and sports, slammed the actress for her decision, the outlet reported.
“I was saddened to hear that Natalie Portman has fallen as a ripe fruit in the hands of BDS supporters,” Regev said, referencing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the country. “Natalie, a Jewish actress who was born in Israel, now joins those who refer to the success and wonder of the rebirth of Israel as a ‘tale of darkness.’”
The Genesis Prize Foundation also released a statement on Thursday, saying “recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel,” adding, “she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony.”
It continued, “We are very saddened that she has decided not to attend the Genesis Prize Ceremony in Jerusalem for political reasons. 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.”
Portman told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015 that she disagreed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies, saying, “I’m very much against Netanyahu. Against. I am very, very upset and disappointed that he was re-elected.”
She isn’t the only star in recent months to cancel a trip to Israel due to politics. In December 2017, Lorde canceled her shows in Israel after activists told her to reconsider her appearances in an open letter, according to The New York Times.
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