Natalie Portman Explains Why She Declined to Travel to Israel to Receive Genesis Prize

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Natalie Portman. Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Yesterday, Israel’s Genesis Prize Foundation announced that its intended honoree, Natalie Portman, informed it through her spokesperson that “she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel” because of recent “extremely distressing” events in the country. The foundation announced that it had “no choice” but to cancel its forthcoming award ceremony, which had been scheduled for June 28. The actress’s decision to opt out of the event drew both backlash and support, much of which involved speculation about Portman’s motivations. In a new statement released Friday and reported by The Hollywood Reporter, the Annihilation star sought to clarify her actions. “My decision not to attend the Genesis Prize ceremony has been mischaracterized by others,” she said. “Let me speak for myself.”

In her explanation, Portman says she didn’t want to give the impression that she supported the actions of Israel’s current government by attending, though she also notes she is not part of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement currently calling for a boycott of Israel in support of Palestinians. “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,” said the actress. “Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation.”

In lieu of attending, Portman says she will throw her support behind “a number of charities in Israel.” You can read her statement in full below.

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.

Natalie Portman Explains Bowing Out of Israel Award Ceremony