Why doesn’t Natalie Portman boycott the U.S., too?

Natalie Portman

As we saw on Tuesday, Jerusalem-born Oscar-winner Natalie Portman, who is a dual American and Israeli citizen, was supposed to go to Israel this summer to accept the Genesis Prize, which is known as the “Jewish Nobel” and which they presumably decided to give to Portman because they figured that movie stars don’t get enough awards. The other day, she showed her gratitude by kicking the Genesis Prize Foundation in the cojones. She holds an Israeli passport, but doesn’t want to set foot in Israel right now. When accused of buying into the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement, she denied the charge, saying she simply doesn’t like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We suspect that she doesn’t care for Donald Trump either, but that doesn’t cause her to flee the U.S. No, somehow Israel is the only country that it’s cool to boycott. Not that it has anything to do with anti-Semitism, of course.

Benjamin Netanyahu

In a powerful op-ed, Ben-Dror Yemini wrote that her unwillingness to travel to the Jewish state “was seen, rightly, as a move aimed at reinforcing the boycott” and that “Israel’s haters haven’t received such a significant gift in a long time.” Whatever her specific motives, observed Yemini, the fact remains that “[a]nyone who boycotts Israel bolster our haters, the demonization campaign and the boycott movement, which opposes Israel’s actual existence.” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz made the same point: “Natalie Portman has played into the hands of the worst of our haters and of the worst of the anti-Semites in the Middle East,” Steinitz charged. “Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism. Boycotting Israel has elements of anti-Semitism.” Would Portman boycott, say, China or Russia?

Caroline Glick

Columnist Caroline Glick cited a 2015 interview in which Portman, asked if she “was shaken” by the Charlie Hebdo massacre, “said toughly, ‘Listen, I’m from Israel.’” Glickman commented: “In other words, Portman, who moved with her family to the U.S. when she was 3, appropriated the toughness Israelis have been forced to cultivate in the face of their neighbors’ continuous aggression to cultivate a tough-girl image of herself.” Glick wondered: “If Portman cancelled her participation in the ceremony because she hates Netanyahu, why did her representative say she was distressed by ‘recent events’? Netanyahu didn’t assume power ‘recently.’ He’s been in office for nine years.” If her decision was motivated by Bibi-hatred, “the Genesis Prize Foundation should sue her for fraud since it means that she never intended to accept the prize and she deliberately sabotaged the foundation’s work.”

Gal Gadot

Meanwhile Farley Weiss, president of the National Council of Young Israel, didn’t criticize Portman – he criticized the Genesis Prize Foundation for picking her in the first place. “If the Genesis prize wanted to honor an actress,” he suggested, “they should have honored Gal Gadot, who has repeatedly shown her pride in being Israeli, supporting Israel during times of difficulties and is married to a Jewish person raising Jewish kids.” Good point. How did they come to pick Portman? “The selection of the Genesis Prize Laureate,” the Foundation’s website explains, “is a multi-step process.” It involves both a Selection Committee and a Prize Committee, both of which are tasked with ensuring that the winner has “a commitment to Jewish values,” is “proud of their Jewish identity,” and enjoys “a meaningful connection to the Jewish People and/or to the State of Israel.” Oops.

Selective omission: the world according to Ben Norton

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Ben Norton

We’ve been acquainting ourselves with Salon’s enfant terrible Ben Norton, a cherubic-looking enemy of America, Israel, and “neoliberalism” and ardent enthusiast for Islam and socialist economics.

One of Norton’s trademark activities is unfairly besmirching those who tell the truth about the darker aspects of Islamic ideology. In March, he smeared Islam expert Frank Gaffney, calling him an “extremist” and “Islamophobe” and mocking him for his throughly legitimate pushback against efforts to impose sharia-based restrictions in the West.

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Sam Harris

Norton has also gone after Sam Harris, the neuroscientist and bestselling author who has become one of the public faces of secularism (and who is about fifty times smarter than Norton). Accusing Harris of “virulent anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Arab racism” and labeling him a “fascist,” Norton didn’t bother to serve up anything resembling an argument to support these charges; he simply quoted a series of statements that Harris has made about the disturbing demographic trends in Europe, about the disturbing tenets of Islam, and about the disturbing views about women, gays, and individual liberties held by disturbingly large percentages of Western Muslims. Every single one of the statements made by Harris that Norton quoted was 100% factual; but for Harris to have cited these facts was, in Norton’s eyes, simply unacceptable, and proof positive of prejudice.

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Frank Gaffney

Gaffney and Harris aren’t the only people whose writings about Islam have led to their being maligned as bigots by Norton. He actually marked the first anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo massacre by assailing the magazine’s writers (presumably including the ones who had been savagely slaughtered by Muslims a year earlier) as “racist.”

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Emergency workers with one of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre

In an article published shortly before Christmas of last year, Norton explained to Salon readers how “to argue with your racist, Islamophobic uncle at Christmas dinner.” The piece served up the usual dishonest CAIR-style apologetics while neatly avoiding any mention of sharia law – e.g., the death penalty for homosexuality and apostasy – and it concluded with a truly nonsensical statement: “at the end of the day, Americans are much more likely to be killed by cars, suicide, bees, wasps, and even furniture than they are by Muslims.” In another piece that appeared shortly after Christmas, Norton made essentially the same point, writing that “[m]ore Americans were killed in Christmas weekend storms this year than in Islamic extremist attacks since 9/11.” 

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Amitai Etzioni

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has criticized Norton more than once for the anti-Israeli and pro-Islamic terrorism tilt of his “reporting.” In February, citing an article in which Norton offered an “apparently deliberate” misreading of an op-ed by sociologist Amitai Etzioni, CAMERA accused him of displaying “a dazzling skepticism of information from Israeli sources alongside a great acceptance of unfounded anti-Israel conspiracy theories.” (For instance, Norton expressed doubts that Hezbollah stored weapons in private homes, a practice well documented by Human Rights Watch and other groups.) CAMERA also noted that Norton’s work was riddled with errors – among them dating Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights at 1967 instead of 1981.

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Hamas: the victims

In March, CAMERA slammed a Norton article headlined “Israeli airstrikes kill 2 Palestinian children in the besieged Gaza Strip,” complaining that Norton didn’t mention until the fifth paragraph that Israel’s strikes had come “in response to four Palestinian rocket attacks targeting Israel.” The article, CAMERA maintained, was replete with examples of “selective omission” that turned reality upside down, depicting Israel as the aggressor in the Gaza Strip and Hamas as the victims.

We’ll wind up this long march through Norton’s short career tomorrow. 

CNN vs. Israel

This week we’ve been examining various aspects of CNN’s stoogery – among them its appeasement of dictators in order to maintain access to their countries and its reluctance to call Islamic jihad by its own name. Not unrelated to its delicate concern for Islamic sensibilities is another attribute – namely, its systematic anti-Israel bias.

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Ron Dermer

In August 2014, during that year’s Gaza War, protesters outside CNN’s studios in New York condemned the network’s anti-Israeli slant – and that of many other news operations. Jeremy Dery, a former parliamentary assistant in the Knesset, complained that thanks to the media, the world “believes that Israel targets innocent people.” Journalist Stephen Tebid, who held a poster reading CNN = Crap Not News, charged that coverage of the war didn’t include a single “picture of Hamas shooting a rocket.” That July, Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., chastized CNN, which had shown pictures of children killed in an Israeli strike on a U.N. school but had omitted to mention that Hamas was hiding rockets in those schools – as well as in hospitals and mosques.

In the same month, comedian Joan Rivers – in an impromptu airport interview with the celebrity news website TMZ that went viral immediately – censured CNN and the BBC for their hand-wringing over “civilian deaths” when, in fact, many of the “civilians” in question were actively helping terrorists and storing weapons in their homes.  “The BBC should be ashamed of themselves,” she insisted. “And CNN should be ashamed of themselves!” But far from exhibiting any shame, CNN later ran a report on follow-up remarks by Rivers in which it seriously misrepresented her position – the obvious goal being to make her look bad. 

Like many other news media, CNN frequently reports on terrorist attacks in such a way as to suggest that they were ethically neutral military or civilian conflicts. In November 2014, for instance, two Palestinians were killed committing a terrorist assault on a Jerusalem synagogue that claimed the lives of four Israelis. CNN’s headline read: “4 Israelis, 2 Palestinians dead in Jerusalem.” To compound the outrage, CNN described the atrocity as an “attack on Jerusalem mosque” – allowing viewers to assume that perhaps a gaggle of violent Jews had preyed on a congregation full of innocent praying Muslims. (Le Monde‘s headline about the same incident read “Six killed in Jerusalem.”) CNN later apologized for misrepresenting the facts – but somehow it keeps on doing exactly the same kind of thing.

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Don Melvin

CNN has also routinely passed along fairy tales served up as fact by various pro-Palestinian propaganda outfits or by the official – and famously unreliable – Palestinian Authority “news” agency. A particularly absurd example: in June of last year, CNN ran a story by Don Melvin under the headline “Israeli settlers reportedly chop down 800 Palestinian olive trees.” There was no truth whatsoever to the account – but instead of withdrawing and apologizing for it, Melvin followed up by (believe it or not) pretending that he’d written it on the assumption that readers would realize that the report in question was unreliable. 

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Jim Clancy

Some CNN talking heads, when confronted with Islamic terrorism, instantly head in the opposite direction from moral clarity, rushing to speak up for Islam while at the same time making absolutely no sense. After the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris in January of last year, for example, CNN anchor Jim Clancy tweeted as follows about the satirical magazine’s Muhammed cartoons: “The cartoons NEVER mocked the Prophet. They mocked how the COWARDS tried to distort his word. Pay attention.” What?

This was only the first of a series of tweets – described as “bizarre” by Israel National News – in which Clancy managed to change the subject from Islamic terrorism to alleged Israeli perfidy.  The good news is that Clancy left CNN shortly thereafter; the bad news is that Clancy, by that point, had spent 34 years spreading disinformation at the network.

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Ben Shapiro

Every now and then, the truth about CNN gets out…on CNN itself. In August 2014, a reporter for the network asked Ben Shapiro of the Truth Revolt website: “Has Israel somehow lost more in the eyes of the world than Hamas has?” Shapiro said yes, explaining that while “Hamas is a terrorist group…Israel, thanks to outlets like CNN, has been turned into the villain….If Hamas could have come up with any sort of outlet that could have created more will to kill more Jewish babies and Palestinian babies, CNN would have been it.” Shapiro faulted CNN for failing to inform audiences of the “restrictions that Hamas puts on your reporting inside the Gaza Strip,” of Hamas’s use of children as human shields, and of the Hamas charter’s commitment to the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews worldwide.