The actress Natalie Portman who was born in Israel & retains dual citizenship has long been an ardent Zionist. It was announced last year that she would win the 2018 Genesis Prize, a $1 million award for Zionist notables, raised to $2 million for Portman in the name of women’s empowerment. The prize, given to those renowned in their fields who give exemplary service to the state of Israel, was started in 2012 by Russian-Jewish businessmen in league with Netanyahu & the Jewish Agency for Israel, a group that recruits Zionists to move to Israel. Previous recipients are Michael Bloomberg, the actor Michael Douglas, Ruth Bader Ginzburg, Itzhak Perlman. Actress Helen Mirren, also an ardent Zionist, once served as the master (sic) of ceremonies. The fund has been making quite a to-do over Portman, plastering her image all over their website & social media pages in anticipation of the June ceremony.
The Genesis Prize Foundation just announced that they have cancelled the award ceremony because Portman’s representative notified them that “recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her & she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel” & that “she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony.” Although she did not specify which events have been distressing, we needn’t play stupid about it. Prize officials expressed “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.” But who’s kidding who? The damn thing was part of the continuous campaign to legitimize the state of Israel & add celebrity glamour to apartheid & genocide. It’s quite a blow to the prestige of the Genesis Prize that Portman refuses to accept it.
Portman has been critical of the cultural boycott but she has also been critical of Netanyahu for his shameless racism. She isn’t likely to turn on the state of Israel & become an anti-Zionist but her action highlights the growing discomfort many have with the extreme genocidal violence of Israel against Palestinians. A political fault line is emerging among American Zionists, reflected also among leading Zionist feminists who were horrified by Israel’s bombing campaign over Gaza in 2014 or comedian Sarah Silverman, who supported the 2014 bombing of Gaza but now supports Ahed Tamimi. In the long run, the only workable solution is a democratic, secular state where Jews & Palestinians are equals. So these fissures & ruptures over Israel’s genocide are a political opening that bode well in the long run for that vision.
Photo is cover page the The Genesis Fund website.