The foundation behind the prestigious Genesis Prize says this year’s winner, Natalie Portman, has pulled out of the June awards ceremony in Israel, quoting a representative for the U.S. actress as saying recent events in Israel were “extremely distressing to her.”
The Genesis Prize Foundation says it was informed Portman “does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel.”
The statement late Thursday did not refer to specific events. Israel has faced criticism for its response to mass protests on the Gaza-Israel border, in which 28 Palestinians were killed and hundreds wounded by Israeli fire since March 30. Israel says it’s defending its border.
The foundation says it fears Portman’s decision will “cause our philanthropic initiative to be politicized.”
The prize recognizes Jewish achievement and contributions to humanity.
Portman, who was born in Jerusalem, has openly criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the past, telling The Hollywood Reporter in a 2015 interview, “I’m very much against Netanyahu. Against. I am very, very upset and disappointed that he was re-elected.”
Increased pressure for visiting artists or prominent personalities planning to visit Israel has been applied by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions group, which protests the Jewish state over its treatment of of the Palestinians and the West Bank. After 26 Oscar nominees were given Israel tour packages as part of their 2017 Academy Awards swag bags, for instance, BDS issued a statement urging stars not to take the offer and none of the nominees used the offers to travel to Israel.