Escalating tensions at Gaza Strip - In a major blow to Israel, Portman refuses to receive Jewish Nobel

Natalie Portman, one of the most famous Jewish celebrities on the planet, just announced she was boycotting a major Israeli event.

The reason for Portman’s decision is more nuanced than it appeared at first blush.

The Genesis Prize, in its own statement, said, “Recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her,” adding,“she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel.” This was widely interpreted as a reference to the crisis on the boundary between Israel and the Palestinian-populated Gaza Strip, in which Israeli troops have shot a number of Palestinians during occasionally violent demonstrations near a border fence.

Portman was scheduled to travel to Jerusalem to receive the Genesis Prize, a prominent award sometimes referred to as the ‘Jewish Nobel’. But she abruptly cancelled her visit, writing that she “did not want to appear as endorsing [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu” in an Instagram post explaining her decision. Celebrities deciding to avoid Israel on political grounds is not all that uncommon. But Portman is an altogether different case. She is an Israeli citizen, born in Jerusalem, though she was raised in America and currently lives in France. In the past, Portman has been an outspoken advocate of Israel – as an undergraduate at Harvard, she worked on a prominent book defending the Jewish state against its critics. She speaks fluent Hebrew; in 2015, she wrote, directed, and starred in a Hebrew-language adaptation of Israeli author Amos Oz’s memoir.