‘Extremely distressing’

Natalie Portman says she ‘cannot in good conscience’ attend award ceremony in Israel

Actress Natalie Portman (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for TNT)

Natalie Portman has said that she is honored to have won the Genesis Prize, an award sometimes referred to as the “Jewish Nobel,” but that she “cannot in good conscience” attend the award ceremony in Israel because of “recent events” — an apparent allusion to Israel’s violent response to Palestinian protests. At least 28 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds injured as thousands protested along the Gaza-Israel border. Israel has justified the violence by claiming that the protests are a charade meant to cover up attacks by Hamas.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Genesis Prize Foundation officials said they were “very saddened” that Portman had decided not to attend, explaining that a representative for the Jerusalem-born Oscar winner had told them she “does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel” because “recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her.” The foundation was launched in 2013 to mark Jewish achievements and contributions to humanity.

At least one Israeli politician, a controversial one, thinks Portman should be stripped of her citizenship due to her refusal to accept the award. The New York Post reports that Oren Hazan ranted about the idea to give Portman the award was “craziness” and went on to say the actress is “a Jewish Israeli, who on the one hand cynically uses her birthplace to advance her career and on the other is proud of the fact that she managed to avoid enlisting in the IDF.”

“She’s an actress, but she is unworthy of any honor in the State of Israel,” Hazan, a member of the Likud political party added. “Sweetness can come from strength: I call on Interior Minister Aryeh Deri to rescind Portman’s Israeli citizenship. She left Israel at age four, and has no real connection to the State.” Earlier this year, Hazan was temporarily removed from Knesset (Israel’s national legislature, according to Haaretz, over a series of sexist and chauvinist statements he’d made.)

Israel’s border blockade of Gaza has been in place since 2007, driving its two million residents deeper and deeper into poverty. Unemployment in Gaza is close to 50 percent, and electricity is available for fewer than five hours a day, according to CBS News. Among those injured during protests late last year was the 14-year-old cousin of 17-year-old Palestinian protester and icon Ahed Tamimi, who was later sentenced to eight years in prison by a military court after she was seen on video slapping two Israeli soldiers. Tamimi had accosted the soldiers after her cousin was shot in the head at close range with a rubber bullet which ended up embedded in his brain.

Read the full story at CBS News.

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