Statement from The Israel Innovation Fund, regarding the Natalie Portman/Genesis Prize affair:
Adam Scott Bellos
In recent days we have seen a clash of loud voices surrounding the decision of Natalie Portman to decline the Genesis Prize that was to be awarded her this summer. Some prominent voices went as far as connecting her decision with the BDS movement or anti-Semitism. Others saw it as occasion to attack the merits of the Genesis Prize or Israel’s Prime Minister.
This is a prime example of what happens when culture is reduced to politics. We all know how the political discourse has become polarized and extreme—in part because of a highly developed political-messaging culture ready to turn every trifle into hysteria.
The facts are that Ms. Portman, an Israeli-born artist, has proven her deep connection with the land and people of Israel many times over. The Genesis Prize, too, is not intended as a political institution, but rather as a kind of “Jewish Nobel” recognizing the contributions of successful people in their fields to Jewish peoplehood.
Without getting into the details of what happened and the reasons for the prize’s cancellation, what is clear is that the overwhelming responses, on either side and from prominent people, amount to major smear campaigns directed at both sides.
The whole idea of promoting culture is because of the deeper human messages it contains. Politics aside, Israel has become a crucial cultural engine for the world; Israelis have a great deal to say when people are willing to listen. The Israel Innovation Fund calls on those who care about Israel, its culture, and its relationship to the world to save their fury for situations of true political importance, and to learn how to keep silent and respect disagreement for the sake of preserving our unity as a people and a civilization.