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Hollywood's Natalie Portman: Israel nation-state law is 'racist'

Natalie Portman attends premiere of Neon's 'Vox Lux' at ArcLight Hollywood on 5 December 2018 in Hollywood, California. [Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]
Natalie Portman attends premiere of Neon's 'Vox Lux' at ArcLight Hollywood on 5 December 2018 in Hollywood, California. [Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]

Hollywood actress Natalie Portman has called Israel's nation state law "racist" in an interview with London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

"The Nation-State law is racist," the Israeli-American actress said in the interview published in Arabic yesterday. "It is a mistake and I don't agree with it."

In July, Israel adopted the so-called Nation State Law, declaring that "Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it." The controversial law also stripped Arabic of its designation as an official language alongside Hebrew, downgrading it to "special status" despite its use by almost two million Palestinian citizens of Israel who live in the country, one-fifth of the population.

The law was lambasted by many inside Israel, with Israel's minority Druze community calling the law a "betrayal" and several Palestinian MKs resigning. Prominent Israeli figures also condemned the law, with best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari refusing an honour by the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles in protest. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was also critical of the law, reportedly saying he would sign the document in Arabic.

"It's difficult to come from a place where you lack choices. The situation has been politicised … [people's] lives will be affected on a personal level by every decision politicians take," Portman said of her stance on the law. "I only hope that we will be able to truly love our neighbours and that we can work together."

READ: Israel's parliament rejects equal rights bill

This is the second time this year that Portman has criticised Israel's policies as "not in line with my Jewish values".  Earlier this year, the Oscar-winning actress declined an invitation to an award's ceremony in Jerusalem, at which she would have received the prestigious Genesis Prize, dubbed the "Jewish Nobel". 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."

The Genesis foundation said in a statement that Portman had decided not to travel to Israel for the 28 June ceremony organised in her honour because "recent events in Israel [have] been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any event in Israel." The actress went on to say that "she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony".

While Portman did not specify which "recent event" had been "distressing" and made her feel uncomfortable in visiting Israel, it was believed that she was referring to the violent Israeli crackdown on unarmed Gazans participating in the Great March of Return.

As of October, over 200 Palestinians had been killed and more than 20,000 injured by Israeli snipers on the border of the Gaza Strip.

READ: Israeli forces injure 33 Palestinian protesters

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