April 23, 2019

Before Insulting Israel, Natalie Portman Should Have Done Her Homework

Last November, when Hollywood actress Natalie Portman was awarded the $1 million Genesis prize– given annually to “individuals who serve as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews”– she accepted and said she is “proud of my Israeli roots and Jewish heritage.”

What a difference a few months make.

Yesterday, Portman rescinded her acceptance, with her representative notifying Genesis that “[r]ecent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel” and that “she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony.”

According to JTA, these “recent events” mean the Palestinian “Great March of Return” protests at the Gaza border with Israel, which left dozens of Palestinians dead in the resulting clashes with Israeli forces.

Let’s leave aside the fact that Israel did not instigate these riots, and that the goal of the riots was not to protest the Israeli “occupation” but to breach the border fence and invade Israel. Of course, Israel has an obligation to protect its borders the best way it can; every country does.

Let’s just focus on the violence that occurred. Portman is evidently following the usual anti-Israel party line at the UN, Europe and “human rights” circles, which accused Israel of using disproportionate, indiscriminate force, and shooting “unarmed civilian demonstrators.”

But had Portman done just a little bit of homework, she would have learned that Israel took great pains to target terrorists, not civilians. All she had to do was read the favorite medium of Israeli leftists, Haaretz, as quoted by Evelyn Gordon this week:

“In a column published in Haaretz last week, Gaza native Muhammad Shehada defended the demonstrations as a necessary response to Israel’s partial blockade, on which he blamed all of Gaza’s woes. His younger brother, he said, has participated in them almost daily. He himself is currently studying in Sweden but formerly worked for an anti-Israel ‘human rights’ organization in Gaza. In short, he’s hardly an Israeli shill. Nevertheless, he noted that even Hamas believes Israel’s fire has been far from indiscriminate.”

As Gordon reports:

“Despite the seemingly arbitrary live-fire and tear gas raining down on the protestors … Hamas believes the victims are carefully selected. ‘Israel knows who to wound, maim or kill,’ a Hamas leader told me by phone. At least 10 young men, affiliated with Hamas and its Qassam brigades, have been shot while maintaining order at the protest.

“Hamas believes Israel is deploying facial recognition technologies besides the numerous war-drones that obliterate the sky above. The movement warned its members to keep their faces covered, and leave their phones at home.”

So, these “recent events” that Natalie Portman found “extremely distressing” turn out to be about Israel’s extreme efforts to target terrorists rather then civilians.

Portman’s pride in her “Israeli roots” was not enough for her to do some homework before publicly shaming the country of her roots.

Maybe she will redeem herself over the next year by challenging the anti-Israel bias around the world and defending her beloved Israel against discriminatory and unfair attacks. Then she’d really earn the award.