Israeli-born Natalie Portman has set off a controversy in her native country with a decision to skip a prestigious award ceremony there for political reasons. Portman had been scheduled to travel to Israel in June to receive the Genesis Prize, which NBC News notes is known as the "Jewish Nobel." However, the actress informed prize organizers that she won't be making the trip because she would "not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel." Her rep cited "recent events" without providing specifics, but Portman is believed to be referring to Israel's use of deadly force against unarmed protesters on the border between Israel and Gaza. It's unclear whether Portman will still receive the $1 million in prize money from the Genesis Prize Foundation, which she planned to donate to women's groups, reports the New York Times.
Portman has been publicly critical of Benjamin Netanyahu and his polices in the past, and her decision to skip the award ceremony drew condemnation from Israel's minister of culture and sports, notes the Hollywood Reporter. "I was saddened to hear that Natalie Portman has fallen as a ripe fruit in the hands of BDS supporters," said Miri Regev, using the acronym for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel. However, Israeli lawmaker Rachel Azaria said Portman's move signaled that Israel is losing the support of young Jewish people in America. "The price of losing them could be too high," she says. Portman was being recognized for her work in films, including 2015's Tale of Love and Darkness, an adaptation of an autobiographical novel by Israeli author Amos Oz that was set in Israel. Portman starred in the film and directed it. (Read more Natalie Portman stories.)