In the wake of the right-wing victory in Israel’s most recent elections, a number of famous Israeli artists made news in the Jewish blogosphere for their anti-Netanyahu tirades. Apparently the Hollywood Reporter caught on to the trend and attempted to manifest it on this side of the ocean with Israeli-American star Natalie Portman.
One huge problem surfaces at the beginning of the interview. She’s not as bold as her Israeli counterparts. Despite her Harvard education and worldly upbringing, she manages to sound equal parts informed and ignorant on a variety of topics ranging from Israeli politics to French socialism. The confusion is intentional. This is how Hollywood actors get away with “being political” without saying anything politically relevant that could later come back to bite them. Appearing informed while remaining vulnerable is how best to win your audience, as Portman illustrates throughout:
She sits, ramrod straight, plunking her iPhone in the middle of the table and hitting “record” before she has said a word, as if challenging me to quote her with razor-sharp accuracy — which, I must admit, casts a pall over our conversation.
…On life with her husband, French ballet dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, 37, whom she met on the set of Black Swan in 2010 and married in 2012: “The disappointments are always in myself…”
…she’s been fearless in proclaiming her Jewishness, even though she now lives in a country where anti-Semitism is terrifyingly on the rise. I ask if Portman feels nervous about being Jewish in Paris. “Yes,” she says, “but I’d feel nervous being a black man in this country. I’d feel nervous being a Muslim in many places.”
[On Paris:] “I feel like this country has a lot of religion and a lot of freedom around that; and there, the religion is almost like love. Love and intellectualism is their sort of way.”
And the grand poobah of her collection of double-edged lingo: While she made it clear that she is “very much against Netanyahu,” she quickly clarified that she didn’t want her opinions to be used to “sh*t on Israel.” That was the beginning and the end of it. So much for “sounding off.”
I once celebrated a hardcore Israeli Leftist’s (pardon, the term is “Labor Zionist” which translates best into American English as “Socialist”) 60th birthday party by being growled at repeatedly by the party boy himself that, in no uncertain terms, I needed to “change my politics” as guests looked on in awkward confusion. The guy literally ruined his surprise party for me in the name of Labor Zionism. Portman’s problem? She lost her teeth when she left her homeland. J Street has no problem “sh*tting” on Israel at this point and they’re a bunch of American Jews in suits. The most controversial thing about this interview? A pot-stirring headline employed the same anti-Semitic ethos for which Hollywood has become all too well known.
So, Portman, so much for not being used to “sh*t on Israel.” Did you really think the folks in Tinseltown would give a crap about your little Israeli movie?