The original plan was to begin this piece with an expression of extreme disappointment in Israeli actress Natalie Portman and her public display of disdain for Prime Minister Netanyahu by her refusal to accept Israel’s Genesis Prize in June, the Israeli equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
The media both here and in Israel once again found themselves salivating over the idea of a high-profile Israeli personality denigrating and demeaning the Jewish state in a public display. But when a Jewish personality takes the time to be critical of Israel, it’s especially exciting because Jews seem automatically immune from the suggestion that they are anti-Semitic or relish in particular condemning things Jewish.
Let’s deal with all this a bit further down in this essay. As mentioned in this space in our previous issue, this week about 1,200 people descended on Washington, D.C. in a show of serious American-Jewish political muscle as we rerouted our usual daily schedules, awoke before sunrise, and gathered on a bus where we davened, ate breakfast, and discussed the strategy for the day ahead with NORPAC.
Unlike Ms. Portman though, our objective was a full expression of support for Israel, the U.S.–Israel relationship, and backing for Israel’s freely elected government regardless of what we may personally feel about things Prime Minister Netanyahu may have said or done during his long, successful leadership years in Israel.
Though we are doing this piece as we go to press on Wednesday, let us first dwell on the fashion in which Washington, D.C. came to New York and specifically the Five Towns a few days ago. Last Sunday afternoon in Woodmere, we had the opportunity to hear from one of the great advocates and defenders of Israel in Congress, House Member Jim Jordan of Ohio.
Congressman Jordan helped found the House Freedom Caucus, the most conservative congressional faction that advocates limited government and at the same time has as its members the most pro-Israel members of the House of Representatives.
Congressman Jordan was in Woodmere on Sunday at an event at the home of Miriam and Howard Fruchter to support the work of the Yes! Israel Project, a five-year-old group founded for the purpose of hosting congressional and other official delegations and bringing them to areas beyond the so-called Green Line that so many other similar organizations either refuse or are reluctant to cross, thereby bringing U.S. officials to these other parts of Israel liberated more than 50 years ago in the Six Day War.
The Yes! Israel Project was founded by Ruth Lieberman and Sarah Paley who questioned why it was that political leaders and elected officials were being dissuaded from visiting and even denied access to parts of Israel that are integral to the security of the country in addition to being rightful Israeli territory.
The odd thing that exemplifies this idea best is that when Barack Obama was a candidate for president he visited Israel, crossed over in East Jerusalem, and placed a note inside the crevices of the Western Wall. Once Obama was president, however, neither he nor his ambassador or any American official was permitted or authorized by the U.S. government to visit any territory in Israel that was previously occupied by Jordan prior to 1967.
That meant that when Jews, even those who held American citizenship, were murdered by terrorists, Dan Shapiro, the American ambassador at the time, was not permitted to pay shivah calls to those families. Thankfully, that has all changed with the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House, and now our ambassador, David Friedman, is free to visit Jewish homes throughout the land of Israel without these artificial, politically correct restrictions.
And that’s why a key elected official like Congressman Jordan said to us on Sunday that it was important to him through Yes! Israel “to see all of Israel” on his trips to the Jewish state.
According to Ms. Lieberman and Ms. Paley, more elected officials will be visiting Israel in the months ahead or are requesting to tour the Jewish State with Yes! Israel rather than any other groups.
Jordan told the gathering that “there are good things happening in Congress” and that he is optimistic about the upcoming midterm elections, though others believe that the Republicans are in real jeopardy of losing the majority in the House come November. With House Speaker Paul Ryan not planning on seeking reelection, Congressman Jordan has been mentioned as a possible successor to the speaker, although Mr. Ryan has endorsed Congressman Kevin McCarthy to succeed him. Still, Jordan said whomever it is, he hopes the person chosen will be the speaker and not the minority leader.
How the country feels as a whole and which way they are going to vote remains to be seen. There is a confidence out there that the rank-and-file and the citizens of the United States stand behind Donald Trump and his vision for America. We cannot allow some people who have the ability to sway public opinion — whether it is the editorial board of the New York Times, CNN, or some high-profile Hollywood types — to determine the future of America.
And I suppose the same is true about Natalie Portman. Obviously, those who award the Genesis Prize made a big mistake choosing her as the recipient. Other than the fact that she is known by the movies she appears in, why is her opinion of Prime Minister Netanyahu or anything about Israeli policy important?
Aside from that, she is apparently a hypocrite, as she recently accepted an award in Beijing from the Beijing Film Festival, which is administered by the Chinese government — one of the greatest violators of human rights in the world.
So sure, Natalie Portman is Jewish and an Israeli citizen, but her unfortunate public protestations are still a thing about Jews — and the world does not see it differently.
Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at 5TJT.com. Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.