April 20, 2018 12:16 pm
Updated: April 20, 2018 3:53 pm

Natalie Portman pulls out of Israeli awards ceremony due to ‘distressing’ recent events

Natalie Portman pulls out of Genesis Prize ceremony in Israel over recent events in the country.

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JERUSALEM (AP) — 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.

WATCH: Two Palestinians dead in Israel-Gaza border clashes


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READ MORE: 1 dead, 200 injured as Palestinians protest at Israel border

In a statement posted to its website, the Genesis Foundation said, “We fear that Ms. Portman’s decision will cause our philanthropic initiative to be politicized, something we have worked hard for the past five years to avoid.”

They added, “The mission of the Genesis Prize is to create a space where we can cast politics aside and come together to appreciate Jewish accomplishments that continue to contribute so much to human civilization; to contemplate Jewish identity and values and what they mean in the 21st century; to strengthen the bond between the State of Israel and the Jewish Diaspora; and to celebrate pride in being Jewish, and – especially in this 70th anniversary year – in the State of Israel. We are disappointed that this year we will not be able to fulfill this mission in full.”

The Genesis Prize recognizes and honours extraordinary individuals who serve as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews through their outstanding professional achievement and commitment to the Jewish people and Jewish values, such as social justice, tolerance and charity.”

READ MORE: Villagers on Israeli side of Gaza border unmoved by Palestinian protests

Previous recipients former New York mayor and gun-control advocate Michael R. Bloomberg (2014), actor Michael Douglas (2015), Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman (2016), and British sculptor Anish Kapoor, who is Indian-Jewish (2017).

In November 2017, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Genesis Lifetime Achievement Award.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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