Oscar-winning actor Natalie Portman has backed out of a major award ceremony in Israel as this year's recipient of the Genesis Prize --, citing the scheduled presence of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the event. Portman issues a statement late Friday saying that she did not wish to appear as endorsing the prime minister.
Portman, who is Jewish and was born in Israel, has starred in such hit movies as “Black Swan” and the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy. She directed a 2015 feature, “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” an adaptation of the autobiographical novel by the Israeli author Amos Oz and shot in Jerusalem.
In her statement Friday, Ms. Portman said: “I am not part of the B.D.S. 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.”
“Israel,” she said, “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.”
Portman has been very critical of Netanyahu in the past, saying she was "very, very upset aned disappointed" over his 2015 re-election. “I find his racist comments horrific,” she said, according to The New York Times.
The Genesis Prize was founded in 2013 to celebrate Jewish achievement and contribution to humanity, in the words of the organizers. Its founding partners are listed on the prize website as the Israeli prime minister’s office, the Genesis Philanthropy Group and the Jewish Agency for Israel, a quasi-governmental organization that deals with Jewish immigration and the wider Jewish diaspora. Previous laureates include Michael R. Bloomberg (2014), Michael Douglas (2015), Itzhak Perlman (2016), and Anish Kapoor (2017).