UPDATED with Portman statement, 4:24 PM: Oscar winner Natalie Portman has issued a statement explaining her reasons for not attending an awards ceremony in Israel:
My 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. By the same token, I am not part of the BDS 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. 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. Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power.
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.
PREVIOUSLY, 7:21 AM: Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev has denounced Natalie Portman’s decision not to come to Israel to receive an award by the Genesis Prize Foundation.
Regev said Portman had “fallen into the hands” of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign that aims to isolate the Jewish state. “Portman, a Jewish actress born in Israel, joins those who tell the successful, wondrous founding of the State of Israel as ‘a tale of darkness and darkness’,” she said. Regev’s reference was to the Oscar-winner’s 2015 directorial feature debut A Tale of Love and Darkness, an adaptation of the autobiographical novel by Israeli author Amos Oz, shot in Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem-born Portman said she would not take part in light of “recent events” in Israel that she found distressing. She was not specific, but the United Nations and the European Union recently called for investigations into the use of live ammunition by Israel’s military in clashes along the border with Gaza that have left dozens of Palestinians dead and hundreds wounded.
The move also drew swift condemnation from Israel’s governing Likud party. Knesset member Oren Hazan demanded authorities revoke Portman’s Israeli citizenship.
Portman had initially agreed to accept the $2 million award, known as the Jewish Nobel, at a ceremony scheduled for June.
The Genesis Prize foundation has canceled the prize ceremony saying in a statement that it fears “Portman’s decision will cause our philanthropic initiative to be politicized, something we have worked hard for the past five years to avoid.”
Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.