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Natalie Portman’s flawed reasoning

Natalie Portman attends the Toronto International Film Festival in 2009. (Courtney Szto/CC BY 2.0)

Actress Natalie Portman recently reneged on her acceptance of what amounts to the Jewish Nobel Prize from the Genesis Foundation. The award was offered in recognition of her contributions to the Jewish state. Portman’s reasons for doing so appear to be in response to Israel’s handling of the Hamas protests and attacks on the Israeli border.

“The mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values,” Portman said in a statement. Although I am bitterly disappointed in her decision, I think she has earned the right to make it. My problem with what she has done is that her reasoning is flawed.

I am not aware of a Jewish value that requires the Jewish state not to defend itself. In fact, I am told that the value of self-preservation, pikuach nefesh, is perhaps the highest Jewish value. Israel is doing what it has to do on its borders, and it is doing so with the minimum amount of force required.


Hamas, and the Palestinians in general, are masters of international public relations. They have managed to create and sell a false narrative, and to bolster that narrative with initiatives like the March of Return, which force Israel to act in ways that encourage many in the West, including those who continually look for an excuse to attack the Jewish state, to see it in a bad light. Hamas cleverly manipulates many Westerners, particularly those on the left, in ways that undermine Israel’s ability to defend itself.

The March of Return is a case in point. The name says it all. Return to what – and where? The Hamas Charter clearly states that it regards Israel as illegitimate and that its objective is to eliminate the country and its Jewish citizens. That is what the March of Return symbolizes – the hope that the Palestinians will ultimately be able to overrun Israel. This is the same terrorist entity that diverts a significant portion of its limited assets to building tunnels and rockets, in lieu of building a useful society. It’s a group that is now focusing its energy on occupying its border with an adjoining, sovereign country, sending bullets and projectiles over the border and threatening to advance en masse into Israel, led by women and children, and including hundreds of embedded terrorists intent on sneaking into the country, in order to kill or kidnap Israeli citizens.

Effective crowd control requires that individual members of the attacking mob understand what awaits them if they move forward – otherwise, the collective hysteria can propel them to behave in such a way as to require a concentrated and aggressive response from the entity they’re threatening. If the crowd of 10,000 were to advance, Israel would have no choice but to respond, to ensure the attack was pushed back at any cost. This would surely result in massive casualties. We would not be seeing 10 or 100 hurt or killed, but thousands, with many innocent Israelis, who did nothing to precipitate this situation, wounded or killed, as well. And let’s not forget the many young Israeli soldiers who would be forced to put their lives on the line for the Jewish people, as a result of Hamas’ despicable actions.

Israel is doing what it must to ensure that its territory is not comprised.

Israel is responding correctly to a scenario that Hamas designed to lead to the death of its own people, as it has done before, in order to aid its international public relations effort to promote its cause – at Israel’s expense. You may also wish to ask yourself why the demonstrations are only taking place on the Israeli border, when the Egyptians handle their border is treated in the same manner. The answer: the Egyptians would neither be as careful, nor as charitable, in response to such attacks.

What Portman, and others who are uncomfortable with Israel’s response to Hamas, fail to understand, is that Israel is doing what it must to ensure that its territory is not comprised, and to minimize Palestinian casualties along the way. Under these circumstances, Israel should be commended, not criticized, for its response.