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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Just because someone doesn't share your views doesn't necessarily make them your enemy!

Can everyone please tone down their righteous indignation over Natalie Portman?

It seems like everywhere you look these days, people are out for a stroll in public with their sacred cows; just daring anyone to even think about taking a whack!

Last week we had the Holocaust and Memorial Day zealots who saw it as their sacred duty to call out entire segments of the Jewish population for not standing at rigid attention during the requisite minute (or two) of silence.  "Here, look at my Facebook feed... I have a video of two Hassidim walking during the siren, so the entire Haredi world must be spitting on the graves of every holocaust victim and fallen soldier.  They are worse than the Muslims!!!"

And once the siren zealots get themselves worked into a lather... why should they limit themselves to siren-policing when they can ignore the verified enlistment and employment statistics altogether and accuse the entire black-hat-wearing community  - a community that is struggling valiantly to find their place in the modern world without sacrificing the essence of all they hold dear - of being blood-sucking parasites!!!

Give me strength!

And this week we have people tripping over each-other to shout the loudest, most incendiary insults at Natalie Portman for saying 'no thank you' to a third-tier prize that was made up out of whole cloth by a Prime Minister (and his cronies), that she dislikes and distrusts.  "Revoke her citizenship!"... "Bar her from entering the country!"... "She married a non-Jew and hasn’t lived in Israel since she was five, so of course she's a self-hating Jew and a BDS supporter!!!"

People, people, puleeze!  Do you even hear yourselves?  You aren't the thought police, and have no moral authority to be rounding up a posse!

Many of you have likely heard of my friend Allison Kaplan Sommer.  If not, go ahead and Google her.  I'll wait. 

She and I rarely see perfectly eye-to-eye on matters of Israeli politics.  But not because she is wrong-headed or misinformed.  On the contrary, Allison is one of the brightest people I know and brings the facts to back up anything she has to say.  We both love our country deeply, but hold different views about the exact route to where we hope our country should be.  She's one of the people I routinely check myself against... not the raving lunatics at the two extremes of Facebook political shouting matches!

Today she had quite a bit to say about the orgy of Portman-bashing going on, and I have to admit that much of what she had to say was as new to me as it was refreshing to read.

I recommend you follow that link and read her well-written case for why Natalie Portman's reluctance to accept the Genesis Prize is, at best, a tempest in a teacup. 

But if you need the Cliff Notes version, suffice it to say that people are allowed to look at who wants to give them an award and say, "Um, thank you for the offer, but I feel that publicly accepting your prize would seem like publicly accepting your views."

And frankly, that's fair. 

Could she have been a little smarter about heading off the dog and pony show before they actually announced her as the awardee?   Of course she could have!  I'm sure she was approached well in advance to suss her out... if only to check her scheduling availability.  That would have been the smart time to say 'Thanks, but no thanks'.  But there are different kinds of smart... and a Harvard degree doesn't confer upon anyone the full set of smarts (just Google 'Noam Chomsky' if you need any more proof of that).

And while we're at it, let's try to quantify just what kind of a 'big deal' this prize is she turned down, and what refusing it has to say about her views on Israel.  People are acting as if refusing the Genesis Prize is akin to tongue-kissing Roger Waters during a press conference to announce an endorsement of a wall-to-wall boycott of the entire Zionist enterprise. 

Get a grip!  The Genesis is not the Israeli Nobel!!! It's not even in the same league as the The Israel Prize (which actually is considered 'the Israeli Nobel'). 

The Genesis Prize itself is only a couple of years old (they gave out the first one in 2012),, has had only four previous recipients, and by all indications, seems to have the same rigorous eligibility standards as the honorary doctorate degrees we see handed out like Mardi Gras beads at commencement ceremonies everywhere this time of year.

The entire Wikipedia article about the Genesis Prize is exactly one paragraph long, and consists of two short sentences (not counting the list of awardees).  Here it is (don't thank me, I'm a giver):

"The Genesis Prize (פרס בראשית‎) was founded in 2012 as a US$1 million award given annually to Jewish people who have attained recognition and excellence in their fields. The prize was founded with the objective of inspiring and developing a sense of pride and belonging among young unaffiliated Jews throughout the world." [source]

Nothing about Zionism, the State of Israel or Religious Identity.  And as Ms. Portman likely learned long ago in Hollywood; there's no such thing as a free lunch (or award dinner).  Very few organizations give out anything without expecting something in return.

Just as the Genesis Award seems designed to hitch a ride on the coat-tails of Jewish celebrities in an effort to show unaffiliated Jews how cool and important some of their co-religionists are... it has only slightly more gravitas than Adam Sandler's catchy Hannukah Song, and significantly less likelihood of convincing any unaffiliated Jews to change a single thought or feeling they may have about their Jewishness or the State of Israel.

Add to that the fact that the award is the brainchild of a politically conservative Israeli Prime Minister (and various oligarchs whose friendship Netanyahu enjoys), and it isn't hard to understand that accepting the award isn't exactly a great fit for a politically liberal Israeli/Jewish actress.  Let's just say that I'd be just as unlikely to fly to Washington to accept an award from J-Street (not that they are banging down the door to give me anything).  Just sayin'.  

What can I say, call me oldfashioned, but I still feel that everyone is allowed to choose their favorite flavor of ice cream without being told they have no taste.

Posted by David Bogner on April 22, 2018 | Permalink

Comments

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You made me re-think since I was not too happy with her "atrocity" comment....thank you for making me think rather than emote.

Posted by: sarah henya | Apr 22, 2018 8:07:36 PM

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