Portman PR Fiasco Gets Cheers From BDS

In case you missed the recent, ground-shaking news: Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman declined to go to Israel to accept the Genesis Award, which recognizes the recipient for his or her professional accomplishments and Jewish values. Ms. Portman was to receive a two million dollar prize, which she previously said she would donate to charitable organizations that advance women’s causes. 

In November 2017, Portman graciously accepted the honor, but at the end of April she abruptly declined. The vague and evolving explanation for her decision has given endless fodder to her critics.

At first, Portman said she changed her mind because of “recent events.” Then she released a second statement, saying that she “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.” 

Ms. Portman continues to express great affection for Israel and pride in her Jewishness. She is adamant that she doesn’t support BDS. 

The problem is that even if her heart doesn’t support BDS, her decision does.

Media coverage of the story has been extensive, and the reaction from the pro-Israel community has been intense. Some call her cowardly, which I think is harsh. Others say we should not disown her — and I agree.

According to author and journalist Ben-Dror Yemini, “By refusing to come to Israel to receive the prize, Portman gave a prize to the anti-Israel propaganda, which isn’t fighting for a more liberal, humane, or democratic Israel, but for Israel’s destruction.”

David Suissa, Executive Director of the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, opines that since she knew from the start that Netanyahu would be part of the ceremony, perhaps she should not have said yes, “but once she said yes … she had no business saying no.” 

Equally intense, but wholly joyous, has been the reaction from those who demonize the Jewish homeland. For example, Executive Director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights Yousef Munayyer wrote a love letter of sorts, titled, “Actually, Natalie, you are supporting BDS.”

The good news is that Ms. Portman has been newly inspired to increase her philanthropic support for Israel. Unfortunately, however, this has been a PR fiasco for both Israel and the actress herself.

Sadly, Ms. Portman will not be able to un-ring this bell.

Lana Melman