Natalie Portman, the Israeli-born American-Oscar winning actress, hit Israel below the belt last Thursday. The 36-year-old actress’s aggression was shocking to many since she has made a big deal of her Israeli roots over the years.
For instance, in 2015 she gave an interview to the Hollywood Reporter. As a new resident of Paris, Portman was asked whether she “was shaken” by the massacre of journalists at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper. Looking her interviewer straight in the eye, she said roughly, “Listen, I’m from Israel.”
In other words, Portman, who moved with her family to the U.S. when she was 3, appropriated the toughness Israelis have been forced to cultivate in the face of their neighbors’ continuous aggression to cultivate a tough-girl image of herself.
Given the use Portman routinely makes of her Israeli pedigree, many were astounded that Portman chose the occasion of Israel’s 70th Independence Day last Thursday to pounce on Israel.
Last November, Portman agreed to receive the Genesis Prize. The prize, which Time magazine dubbed the “Jewish Nobel,” was established five years ago by Russian-Israeli philanthropists with a $100 million endowment. The declared purpose of the prize, which gives the winner a million dollars to spend on the charities of his or her choice, is “to celebrate Jewish achievement and contribution to society.”
The unstated but well-understood goal of the prize foundation, which is dominated by American Jews, is to convince Jewish celebrities identified with the left to support Israel publicly. Previous winners include former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg; actor Michael Douglas, violinist Itzhak Perlman; and British sculptor and refugee rights advocate Anish Kapoor. This year, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is receiving a lifetime achievement award.
Winners of the Genesis Prize come to Jerusalem for a glamorous ceremony, jointly sponsored by the Prime Minister’s office and the Jewish Agency for Israel. The Prime Minister of Israel hands the winner the prize.
When she agreed to receive the prize last November, Portman sounded enthusiastic. She said, “I am deeply touched and humbled by this honor.
“I am proud of my Israeli roots and Jewish heritage; they are crucial parts of who I am. It is such a privilege to be counted among the outstanding Laureates whom I admire so much. I express my heartfelt gratitude to the Genesis Prize Foundation, and look forward to using the global platform it provides to make a difference in the lives of women in Israel and beyond.”
The following month, Israeli billionaire philanthropist Morris Kahn announced that he would donate an additional million dollars to Portman’s prize money.
In the six months that passed since her selection was announced, Portman gave no indication that she was reconsidering her willingness to accept the award.
But then, last Thursday, on Israel’s Independence Day, Portman’s representative told the Genesis Prize Foundation, “Recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel.” Portman’s representative added that “she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony.”
Since Portman did not bother mentioning which “recent events” caused her such “extreme distress,” Israeli politicians drew their own conclusions. Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan and Minister of Cultural Affairs Miri Regev both assumed that Portman was condemning Israel for defending its border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Regev reacted to Portman’s move by saying she “fell like a ripe fruit into the hands of BDS supporters.” BDS, which stands for “boycott, divestment, and sanctions,” is a movement spearheaded by the PLO and advanced by Muslim and leftist groups throughout the West. It is a multifaceted campaign against Israel and its supporters. It involves ostracizing Israel’s supporters and delegitimizing Israel’s right to exist while harming its economy.
Erdan wrote Portman an open letter in which he invited her to visit Israel’s border with Gaza to see what Israel is up against. Erdan noted that her statement was being used by the “anti-Semitic BDS campaign … to advance its ends.”
Portman may have been concerned that her announcement, and the Israeli and BDS reactions, could harm her image. How can she continue to claim pride in her Israeli “toughness” if she thinks that Israel is evil?
Taking to her Instagram account, Portman wrote, “I chose not to attend [the Genesis Prize Ceremony] because I did not want to appear as endorsing [Israeli Prime Minister] 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.”
Portman continued, “I treasure my Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema, and dance.
“Israel has 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.”
There are a number of problems with this statement. First, it contradicts Portman’s representative’s statement issued 24 hours earlier.
If Portman canceled her participation in the ceremony because she hates Netanyahu, why did her representative say she was distressed by “recent events”?
Netanyahu didn’t assume power “recently.” He’s been in office for nine years.
Indeed, if her hatred for Netanyahu drove her to boycott the prize, the Genesis Prize Foundation should sue her for fraud since it means that she never intended to accept the prize and she deliberately sabotaged the foundation’s work.
Portman’s statement also bespeaks an amazing contempt for Israel itself – in two deeply distressing ways.
First, her claim that Israel was created “as a haven for refugees from the Holocaust” is a dangerous lie. It is a lie Israel’s most murderous enemies propagate as a means of denying Israel’s right to exist. The Iranians and the Palestinians say the Jews have no ties to their ancestral homeland and that Israel is no more than a sop to Europe’s guilty conscience over the Holocaust.
The truth — which Portman is supposed to know as a proud “Israeli” — is that Zionism, the millennial movement of the Jewish return to the land of Israel, and Zionist Jews created Israel. By the time the Holocaust began in 1938, the Jewish pioneers in the land of Israel had already built the foundations of that state. The Holocaust’s practical impact on Israel’s establishment was that it annihilated millions of Jews who wanted to immigrate to Israel.
As if that weren’t enough, Portman went on to reject Israeli democracy. Netanyahu is not a dictator. He and his government were elected by Israel’s voters. When Portman said she thinks Netanyahu is illegitimate, she effectively said the Israeli public which elected him is illegitimate.
Portman’s behavior isn’t surprising. She has been railing against Israel for the past three years in precisely the manner that she assaulted it last week.
On the one hand, she viciously attacks the country on political grounds. On the other hand, she says she doesn’t want her political attacks to be politicized.
Which brings us to the real problem with the entire episode. Given her savage criticism of Israel, spanning years, Portman should never have received the Genesis Prize in the first place. The fact that she did, and the fact that neither the Genesis Prize foundation nor the American Jewish leadership has yet condemned her since she betrayed her word so viciously, is a testament to the political stupidity of American Jewish leadership.
And this is the real problem. The American Jewish community’s insistent embrace of people who reject its values and interests in favor of its liberal political identity is rapidly undoing it. Multi-year survey data make clear that Jewish Americans are among the most liberal groups in the U.S. Naturally, as liberals, they want to be embraced by the group with which they identify most strongly – the Left. Unfortunately for them, the Left is becoming less and less hospitable to Jews.
Recognizing the shift in her camp, for at least three years, Portman has played a transparently phony double game. To maintain her relevance on the increasingly anti-Jewish left, Portman has signaled her hatred of Israel by slandering Netanyahu, the most popular leader in Israeli history as a racist.
On the other hand, to avoid losing her pride of place in the American Jewish community, every time Portman demonizes Netanyahu – and through him, Israelis society as a whole — she adds a disclaimer that she doesn’t support BDS.
If American Jewish leaders were interested in defending their values and interests, they would have called her on this stunt when she first tried it in 2015. Instead, they gave her the “Jewish Nobel Prize.”
Trump hails ‘big week’ for historic move; ‘Congratulations to all,’ he tweets ahead of May 14 opening
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman gives a first glimpse of the new US embassy in Jerusalem on May 11, 2018, ahead of its opening on May 14 (Screenshot)
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Friday gave a first glimpse of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, showing off workers erecting the official seal on the building and preparing for the opening ceremony.
“We are so excited,” Friedman said in a video posted on the embassy’s Facebook page. “We have the official seal of the United States embassy. We have the dedication plaque. They are covered right now, but on Monday they are going to be unveiled.”
‘Next time in Jerusalem,’ jubilant Barzilai yells after victory; ‘Toy’ marks Israel’s 4th win; hundreds jump in Rabin Square fountain to celebrate; PM calls her ‘best ambassador’
Netta Barzilai after winning the final of the 63rd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, on May 12, 2018. (AFP/ Francisco LEONG)
Israel won the Eurovision song contest for the first time in two decades Saturday as singer Netta Barzilai clucked and bucked her way to the top of the international song contest with women’s empowerment anthem “Toy.”
Backed up by three dancers, her trademark side buns featuring stripes of pink dyed hair to match her pink-and-black outfit, Barzilai busted her way through “Toy” on stage in Lisbon, Portugal, punctuating her singing with her trademark eye rolls and chicken dance moves
Quoted by US president one day, hosted by Russia’s president the next, PM is on a high, including in the polls. But will this encourage his more divisive tendencies?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after the Victory Parade marking the 73th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
JTA — On Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu began his week by meeting his Cypriot and Greek counterparts to finalize the commercial export to Europe of Israeli gas that he has pushed to exploit for about a decade.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from nuclear deal with Iran was widely seen as a coup for Israel’s prime minister, a fierce opponent of the deal.
The same day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that Israel seized Iran’s archive of its military nuclear program in Tehran and spirited it to Israel, a video was posted of IDF soldiers singing Soltane Ghalbha, a traditional Persian love song – in Persian.
Taken together, the two events demonstrate the purpose of Netanyahu’s presentation.
Netanyahu’s detractors in the US and Israel called his presentation as a dog and pony show. “He didn’t tell us anything we haven’t known for years,” they sniffed.
Moreover, they insisted, Netanyahu’s presentation was actually counterproductive because he couldn’t show evidence that Iran is in breach of the nuclear deal it concluded in 2015 and so did nothing to persuade the Europeans to abandon the deal.
While US policy-makers are trying desperately to stabilize Afghanistan, a shift is being orchestrated by China.
The Chinese evidently see their role in Afghanistan as the “good cop” versus the U.S. role as “bad cop.” Like Pakistan, China seems to view the Taliban as the political opposition, not as a terrorist organization, and has offered itself as an intermediary to negotiate the departure of the U.S. and, thereby, be in a position to reap the economic and geopolitical benefits of Afghanistan as a client state of the China-Pakistan alliance.
Reuters/Ipsos set a new standard this week when it condemned its own polling as unreliably favorable to the president.
“This week’s Reuters/Ipsos Core Political release presents something of an outlier of our trend,” stated a paragraph that appeared before the press release on its latest polling even began.
“Every series of polls has the occasional outlier, and in our opinion, this is one. So, while we are reporting the findings in the interest of transparency, we will not be announcing the start of a new trend until we have more data to validate this pattern.”
For the sixth Friday in a row, protestors from Gaza came to Israel’s border with intentions to penetrate it. They come with scissors to cut through the fence, with burning tires, Molotov cocktails, slingshots with rocks, and kites with firebombs attached to them to destroy Israeli farmlands and villages.
This is not some peaceful demonstration akin to Selma in the 1960s when blacks were simply trying to sit together with whites at a lunch counter. The usage of the word “demonstrators” is a misnomer; these are “rioters.”
What would happen if the world took Pope Francis’ advice (via a tweet)? “Do we really want peace? Then let’s ban all weapons so we don’t have to live in fear of war,” said the pontiff.
While on the surface, the disappearance of all weapons might suggest the inability to do violence, in reality, it would mean the certain annihilation of the West as a civilization.
When a Philadelphia Starbucks manager called the police after two black men refused to leave, the chain of events ended with the burnt taste of the overpriced coffee chain colluding with anti-Semitism.
Starbucks reacted to the brief arrest by blaming the police, but Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who is African-American, initially said that his officers, “did absolutely nothing wrong”. But then he was forced to offer a bewildering apology to the arrested men, the officers and the entire city.
“It is me who in large part made most of the situation worse than it was,” he announced.
“Your threshing season will last until your grape harvest, and your grape harvest will last until the time you plant. You will have your fill of food, and you will dwell securely in your land” (Vayikra 26:5).
This blessing is promised to the People of Israel on condition that, as a unified nation, they observe the laws of the Torah and live by its spirit. Its promise is quite surprising. Not only will the Israelites have plenty to eat but, as the verse clearly indicates, the Jews will experience an overflow of food. The first season, when produce is brought to the threshing floor, will last until the days of the grape harvest, which in turn will continue into the planting season.