YULA Girls High School

Op-Ed: Natalie Portman and the Art of Opposition

When Natalie Portman announced that she would be boycotting the Genesis Prize Ceremony, where she would be awarded two million dollars based on her previous accomplishments as a powerful Jewish woman, individuals on all varying sides of the Israeli political spectrum were quick to jump on the bandwagon with their own assumptions.

One opinion piece featured in the Forward stated “Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions are a set of nonviolent tactics which are used in many movements but which Palestinian civil society institutions have asked the international community to adopt as part of a nonviolent movement for Palestinian rights, to send Israel a message that it must stop denying them,” perceiving Natalie Portman’s boycott as an action against Israel for said organization.

Many others took what she said in her statement to be “due to recent events” to pertain to the recent violent protests in Gaza along the border, one which included the controversial death of a journalist who was also alleged by the Israeli government to be a member of the terrorist organization Hamas. Many Zionists were horrified by her initial movement, many of them stating they are no longer a fan of her and the Likud party, a right-wing party in the Knesset, proposing string Portman of her citizenship.

But I think that Natalie Portman, although boycotting an event for her home country in such a time of controversy seems unethical, is still a Zionist.

In a public statement she released on April 21, she stated “I treasure my Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema, and dance,” words which definitely convey a love for Israel.

The reason she gave for her actions is that she “did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony.”

Many Israelis, not just Portman, don’t support Netanyahu’s platform, with about 30 percent of the population preferring a left-wing government according to a survey conducted by Peace Index in April 2017. And with Natalie Portman explicitly stating that she is opposed to BDS, it is clear that she is still very pro-Israel.

Numerous American public figures have also backed out of events dues to politics, and none of them have ever been accused of being “anti-America.”

Some of these boycotts include Tom Hanks refusing to screen his feature film “The Post” at the White House, basketball players Kevin Durant and Steph Curry announcing they would refuse an invitation to the White House, and multiple public figures include Céline Dion and Andrea Bocelli who decided not to attend his inauguration due to their disapproval of him. But when national tragedies happen, all of these celebrities are vocal about their support for the United States.  

In essence, Natalie Portman in doing almost exactly the same. By boycotting the Genesis prize not because of Israel, but because of politics within the country, she can maintain her reputation as an outspoken Zionist and should still be respected as an Israeli role model, similarly to how many American celebrities are still admired even though they have taken their own stand that many may not agree with.