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.”
We all know that the midterm elections are different this time around. They are usually like “all politics,” namely local. But this time around they’re different. They are all presidential, all about Trump, as most everything is. And for the anti-Trump crowd — I’m talking about the political commentators and “analysts” — any and all things bad are held to be Trump’s fault. This is presumably because they believe that their condemnations of Trump will result in a Democrat takeover of the House of Representatives.
A new book explores how graffiti artists in Beirut skirt limitations on expression to share political criticism in the streets.
A photograph of the book “Drawing Lines” by Tamara Zantout, taken at the launch of the book at Beit Beirut cultural center, Beirut, Lebanon, Oct. 25, 2018.
BEIRUT — Beirut’s alleyways and streets are peppered in bright, detailed and provocative graffiti. Street artists use the medium, which exists in a legal grey area, to express their identity and give voice to political frustrations.
On Tuesday, San Francisco will become the largest city in the nation to allow noncitizens to vote, and the city has spent $310,000 on a “new registration system” specifically aimed at illegals. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, the plan is the first in the state and follows Proposition N, a 2016 ballot measure allowing votes by noncitizens over the age of 18, reside in the city, and have children under age 19.
By the count of the Chronicle, only 49 noncitizens have signed up to vote on Tuesday, which works out to $6,326 for every illegal voter, but there’s more to the story. City officials are worried that voting could expose illegals to ICE, who might come looking and possibly deport somebody. So supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, a backer of Proposition N, urged the city to spend $500,000 to warn the illegals.
At first Sabbath service after massacre, shooting survivors are blessed; rabbi says to those who condemned Trump’s visit: ‘No one tells me how to welcome a guest in my own home’
On November 3, 2018, a joint communal Shabbat prayer service at Pittsburgh’s Beth Shalom Conservative synagogue following the massacre a week prior which saw 11 Jewish community members killed. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)
PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania — A week after an anti-Semitic shooter massacred 11 worshipers at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, the community embraced each other in prayer on Saturday.
IS EUROPE RETURNING to the horrors of the 1930s? In an assessment typical of the moment, Max Holleran writes in the New Republic that “in the past ten years, new right-wing political movements have brought together coalitions of Neo-Nazis with mainstream free-market conservatives, normalizing political ideologies that in the past rightly caused alarm.” He sees this trend creating a surge in “xenophobic populism.” Writing in Politico, Katy O’Donnell agrees: “Nationalist parties now have a toehold everywhere from Italy to Finland, raising fears the continent is backpedaling toward the kinds of policies that led to catastrophe in the first half of the 20th century.” Jewish leaders like Menachem Margolin, head of the European Jewish Association, sense “a very real threat from populist movements across Europe.”
IS EUROPE RETURNING to the horrors of the 1930s? In an assessment typical of the moment, Max Holleran writes in the New Republic that “in the past ten years, new right-wing political movements have brought together coalitions of Neo-Nazis with mainstream free-market conservatives, normalizing political ideologies that in the past rightly caused alarm.”
We’ve been told for a long time that the ceasefire is on the way. It had many names in the past, such as tahdiah, hudna, and most recently—”an arrangement.” On Friday, once again, reports started emerging that an agreement has been reached. Several hours later, southern Israel was hit with a barrage of rockets. What happened?
And He said, “You will not be able to see My face, for No Human Being shall see Me and live.” — Shemot 33:20
Faith is deeper than knowledge. While scientific data is absorbed only in the brain, faith permeates all parts of the human personality. Nothing is untouched, all spiritual limbs quiver, and everything is transformed. It is thus more difficult to acquire faith than knowledge, and faith has a more radical effect on the human being.
A Catholic archbishop recently touched on an unspoken but highly subversive phenomenon: How anti-Christian forces exploit Christian teachings to empower those who seek to dismantle Christian civilization, Muslims being chief among them.
In an interview published last summer by the Italian outlet IlGionarle.it, Catholic Archbishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan said:
The King of Jordan, not some lowly clerk, announced that Jordan will not extend the currently existing leases renting two parcels of land to Israel. One is the so-called Island of Peace in the northern Naharayim area and the other located in the southern Arava, near Tzofar, an agricultural cooperative village (moshav). Jordan was entirely within its rights to decide not to renew the leases