Israeli minister: 'Natalie Portman's snub of Netanyahu borders on anti-Semitism'

Natalie Portman said she shunned an award presentation ceremony in Jerusalem because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be there. Mario Anzuoni  Reuters

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.

The Jerusalem-born director and actor, posting Friday night on Instagram, explained her decision not to accept in person the £1.4 million Genesis Prize, which calls itself the "Jewish Nobel", after a day of speculation in the media that she was turning down the prize because she was joining the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel.

Claiming that the star would not boycott China or India if they were to award her a prize, even if she disagreed with their policies, he said, "Criticizing Israel is not always anti-Semitic".

On Friday, Israel's far-right culture minister, Miri Regev, took to Twitter to criticize Portman's decision, writing that the actress had "fallen like ripe fruit into the hands" of anti-Israeli activists and suggesting that her Israeli citizenship should be revoked.

As is the custom among Genesis Prize winners, Portman, who was born in Jerusalem, planned to donate her prize money to charity.

When Portman, who was born in Jerusalem and holds dual Israeli and United States citizenship, was announced as the 2018 recipient late a year ago she said was "proud of my Israeli roots and Jewish heritage".

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Israel has said it is doing what it must to defend its borders.

The actress's representative said that "recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel". I treasure my Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema, and dance.

The Jerusalem-born "Black Swan" actress was scheduled to accept the Genesis Prize, a so-called Jewish Nobel, in June, but the Genesis Prize Foundation said in a news release on Thursday that a rep for Portman explained the Oscar victor would not attend because of "recent events in Israel". "The prize money will be distributed by the Genesis Prize Foundation, not by Ms. Portman, and I hope that other philanthropists will support the important cause of women's equality and empowerment".

The prize was established by Mikhail Fridman and other wealthy Russian-Jewish businessmen and operates in partnership with the Prime Minister's Office and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

The 36-year-old has previous stood against the BDS movement, protesting efforts to keep the Toronto International Film Festival from staging a Tel Aviv-themed event in 2009.

Natalie Portman directed and starred in the 2015 movie "A Tale of Love and Darkness", which is in Hebrew and set in Israel. "However, I don't - what I want to make sure is, I don't want to use my platform [the wrong way]". Anyone who understands what is happening in Israel would know that.

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