Actress Natalie Portman has labelled Israel’s Nation-state law as “racist” in an interview she gave to Arabic newspaper Al Quds Al- Arabi.
“The Nation-State law is racist,” the Israeli-American actress said in an interview published on Wednesday.
“It is a mistake and I don’t agree with it … [people’s] lives are [being] affected on a personal level by decisions made by politicians.”
“I only hope that we will be able to truly love our neighbours and that we can work together,” she added.
Portman referred to a law passed earlier this year that declares Israel as a Jewish state, with “united Jerusalem” as its capital.
Palestinian citizens of Israel number some 1.8 million, about 20 percent of the nine million population.
This is not the first time that Portman has criticised the Israeli government.
In April she pulled out of a prize ceremony in Jerusalem. The actress, who originally accepted the award, later said she was not willing to attend because “she did not want to appear as endorsing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
In an Instagram post she explained that “like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation.”
“I treasure my Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema, and dance … But the mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values,” she added.
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My decision not to attend the Genesis Prize ceremony has been mischaracterized by others. Let me speak for myself. I 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. By the same token, I am not part of the BDS movement and do not endorse it. Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation. I treasure my Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema, and dance. Israel was created exactly 70 years ago as a haven for refugees from the Holocaust. But the mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values. Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power. Please do not take any words that do not come directly from me as my own. This experience has inspired me to support a number of charities in Israel. I will be announcing them soon, and I hope others will join me in supporting the great work they are doing.
Israel’s nation-state law
In July this year, Israel’s parliament adopted a law defining the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
The legislation, adopted by 62 votes to 55, made Hebrew the country’s national language and defined the establishment of Jewish communities as being in the national interest.
It stipulates “Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it”.
Palestinian leaders quickly condemned the move. “No racist law will undermine the rights of our people,” Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said.
“We are proud of being a strong nation deeply rooted in our homeland,” he added.
Early drafts went further in what critics at home and abroad saw as discrimination towards Arabs, who have long said they are treated in Israel as second-class citizens.
Clauses that were dropped after political wrangling would have enshrined in law the establishment of Jewish-only communities.
A more vaguely-worded final version said: “The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment.”
Even after the changes, many critics believe the law will deepen a sense of alienation within the Arab minority.