Editorial

Opposed to brutality

Natalie Portman attends the premiere of Paramount Pictures' 'Annihilation' at Regency Village Theatre on February 13, 2018 in Westwood, California. Emma McIntyre/Getty Images/AFP

A letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres has asked the international body to try to stop Israel from shooting protesters along the Gaza border.

Signed by the head of the Israeli rights group B’Tselem, it decries Gazans’ lives as “without any political rights, devoid of any hope for a reasonable future, totally subject to the decisions and policies of the Israeli government.”

The plea comes on the eve of the fifth consecutive Friday of protests at the Gaza border that have already left 41 Palestinians dead, including a 15-year-old boy, and hundreds injured.

It also comes in the wake of actress Natalie Portman’s recent decision not to attend Israel’s Genesis Prize ceremony.

The Jewish celebrity said she did not want to be seen as endorsing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was scheduled to speak at the event.

The award’s organizers have expressed concern that Portman’s decision will cause their “philanthropic initiative to be politicized,” while her position has pushed others to ask whether the Netanyahu “brand” has become toxic.

Portman has been consistent in her stance against the Israeli prime minister, saying in 2015, “I’m very much against Netanyahu. Against. I am very, very upset and disappointed that he was re-elected.”

Her recent decision, which of course attracted international media attention, combined with ongoing activities such as the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions in the United States and other countries, has raised concerns from the Israeli side of a snowball effect.

Yet the brutality of the Israeli government against unarmed Palestinians protesting peacefully at the Gaza border in recent weeks has been so flagrant that even usually sympathetic Israelis inside and outside the country have started to notice and are attempting to dissociate themselves – particularly from the right-wing party at the country’s helm.

Israel’s open-fire regulations and the Palestinian bloodshed they are causing point principally back to Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Israel Defense Forces chief Gadi Eisenkot.

It is significant that while there has been outcry from Israeli individuals and organizations at home and abroad, the rest of the world has largely buried its head in the sand, as if the weekly atrocities at the Gaza Strip-Israel border were happening on another planet.

It is also significant that outcry against Portman’s statements by right-wing politicians has included calls for her citizenship to be revoked – a clear signal that the Israeli government cannot tolerate opposition or dissent from anyone, not even its own citizens.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 27, 2018, on page 1.

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