Natalie Portman has pulled out of travelling to Israel to accept a prize worth $1 million, with a representative for the Hollywood actress saying “recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel.”
The Jerusalem-born actress, whose credits include Star Wars and Black Swan, was announced last November as the winner of the 2018 Genesis prize, which recognises “extraordinary individuals who serve as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews.” At the time, Ms Portman, who holds dual US and Israeli citizenship, described herself as “proud of my Israeli roots and Jewish heritage.”
However, after the star informed the Genesis Prize Foundation yesterday that she would not be attending the event, the organisation cancelled the awards ceremony.
The prize comes with $1 million which the recipients can donate to the charity of their choice. After the announcement that she was to receive the award, the prize money was doubled due to a gift by Morris Kahn, an Israeli philanthropist. Ms Portman had said she would donate the money to charities advancing women’s equality. It is unclear whether the actress will still receive the award, or the prize money.
The Academy Award winning actress did not elaborate regarding the recent events which had distressed her. However, in the last few months Israel has been criticised for using live ammunition against Palestinian protestors at the border fence with Gaza, leaving dozens dead and hundreds wounded. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also pulled out of a deal which would have seen a significant number of sub-Saharan African migrants remain in Israel.
In a statement from the Genesis Prize Foundation, the organisation praised Ms Portman as “a highly accomplished actress, a committed social activist and a wonderful human being.
“The staff of the Foundation enjoyed getting to know her over the past six months, admires her humanity, and respects her right to publicly disagree with the policies of the government of Israel.”
However, the foundation said it was “very saddened that she has decided not to attend the Genesis Prize Ceremony in Jerusalem for political reasons.
“We fear that Ms. Portman’s decision will cause our philanthropic initiative to be politicized, something we have worked hard for the past five years to avoid.”