Natalie Portman backs out of Israeli award ceremony

Natalie Portman backs out of trip to Israel over regional tensions

Yesterday, Israel's Genesis Prize Foundation announced that their intended honoree, Natalie Portman, informed them via her spokesperson "she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel" due to recent "extremely distressing" events in the country.

Israel has drawn worldwide criticism for its response to Palestinian protests on the Gaza-Israel border during the last three weeks, in which its troops have killed 35 Palestinians have wounded hundreds.

In a fourth straight Friday of mass demonstrations, four Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli forces, bringing the total death toll since March 30 to 38.

The actress noted in her statement, "Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation.

However, we are very saddened that she has decided not to attend the Genesis Prize Ceremony in Jerusalem for political reasons", the statement said. Apparently, the foundation heard of Portman's decision on Thursday, with last year's press release stating she'll attend the ceremony this June still online.

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Ms. Portman is the latest celebrity to wade into a conflict that has long drawn criticism and protest from actors, musicians and artists critical of Israeli's actions against Palestinians.

"I am deeply touched and humbled by this honor", Portman said in a statement in November. "We, who have such a history with antisemitism, should understand the danger of racism and of how we treat minorities, and I felt that his comments were very much not showing a Jewish spirit of equality and dignity and peace", said Portman.

According to the foundation's website, the Genesis Prize is given to those people who are considered to be an inspiration to the future generation of the Jews via the commitment they have towards Jewish values, social justice, tolerance and charity.

But Rachel Azaria, a member of the centrist Kulanu party, which is part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's governing coalition, said Portman's cancellation should constitute a "warning light" to Israel.

Portman clarified that she does not support the BDS movement or other boycotts against Israel. I treasure family and my friendsfood items, books, art, cinema, and dancing.

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When Portman was announced late a year ago as the 2018 recipient, she said in a statement released by organizers at the time that she was "proud of my Israeli roots and Jewish heritage".

Israel's culture minister, Miri Regev, said Portman was supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which aims to isolate Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.

"This experience has inspired me to support a number of charities in Israel", she said.

The prize foundation had the day before announced Portman's decision not to attend the ceremony. Laureates of the Genesis Prize include Michael R. Bloomberg (2014), Michael Douglas (2015), Itzhak Perlman (2016), and Anish Kapoor (2017).

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