Israel's culture minister said actor Natalie Portman had fallen “into the hands of the BDS supporters” after the Jerusalem-born actress cancelled her trip to Israel, where she was meant to receive the “Jewish Nobel” prize.
Citing extreme distress at “recent events in Israel”, the Oscar-award winning actress was due to be the recipient of The Genesis Prize, dubbed the “Jewish Nobel”.
“She [Portman] does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel … she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony”, said the actor's representative.
The Genesis Prize Foundation said it was “very saddened” by the decision. It later announced that it would be cancelling the ceremony altogether.
Miri Regev, Israels culture minister, criticised the decision, saying “I was sorry to hear that Natalie Portman fell into the hands of the BDS supporters.”
“Portman, a Jewish actress born in Israel, joins those who describe the successful, wondrous founding of the State of Israel as a tale of darkness and darkness.”
Portman's directorial debut was the film A Tale of Love and Darkness, adapted from a memoir by an Israeli novelist, depicting the five key years of the Zionist project.
However, other figures online have commended the decision citing Israeli use of force against Palestinians in recent events in ongoing Gaza protests.
Natalie Portman, a dual American and Israeli citizen, takes a moral stand against the massacres in Gaza. Thank you. https://t.co/IrZOpvH3H3
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) April 19, 2018
This is good, glad to see Natalie Portman being cognizant that her presence could potentially contribute to the normalization of Israels human rights abuses https://t.co/nluHifbFLs
— Eoin Higgins (@EoinHiggins_) April 19, 2018
Both the United Nations and European Union have recently called for investigations into the Israeli Armys use of live ammunition on Palestinians during the “Great March of Return” protests that have been taking place in Gaza since 30 March.
36 Palestinians have been killed and 4,279 wounded by Israeli forces since the “Great March of Return” protests started four weeks ago.
In a statement, the Genesis Prize Foundation said its organisers “fear that Ms. Portmans decision will cause our philanthropic initiative to be politicised, something we have worked hard for the past five years to avoid.”
The prize was launched in 2013 with the purpose of recognising Jewish achievement and contributions to humanity.
When it was announced that Portman would be the 2018 recipient, the actress stated she was proud of her “Israeli roots and Jewish heritage”.
A source at the Foundation told Haaretz that Portman did not intend to return the additional $1 million cash prize that comes with the award. Nor was she looking to return the additional grant promised by an Israeli philanthropist.
It is reportedly typical for the recipient to announce which charities they are donating the prize money to six months after the ceremony.
The ceremony was meant to take place on 28 June 2018.
The actor had planned to donate the money to international and Israeli organisations dedicated to womens causes and had already notified the foundation of this decision.
In 2009, the actress joined others in protesting calls to boycott the Toronto International Film Festival for its staging of a Tel Aviv-themed event.
Following the re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu in 2015, Portman stated that she was “very, very upset and disappointed.”
Citing caution in her criticism, the actor added “I feel like there are some people who become prominent, and then its out in the foreign press. You know, shit on Israel. I do not. I dont want to do that.”