The Russian-Jewish oligarchs who founded the Genesis Prize with their plundered wealth, scored an own goal this week. The 2018 recipient of the award, film actress Natalie Portman, essentially turned it down by announcing that she would not travel to Israel at this time due to her “distress” at the IDF murders along the Gaza “border.” In the latest developments there, IDF snipers murdered another four Palestinians protesting at the border fence for the Right to Return. That brings the total number of dead to 32 with several thousand wounded, many seriously.
After media controversy reached a fever pitch, Portman herself released this statement:
“Let me speak for myself. I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony,” she wrote.
Though the slight tinge of scandal has drawn the interest of the international media, they are missing considerable important elements of it.
The Genesis PR apparatus released this quite disingenuous statement in reply:
…Its organizers “fear that Ms. Portman’s decision will cause our philanthropic initiative to be politicized, something we have worked hard for the past five years to avoid.”
The notion that such a Prize, whose clear mission is to promote Brand Israel, would not be a political statement is ludicrous. Perhaps what they meant to say is that they hoped their laureates would be above the taint of political partisanship: that too is also ludicrous. Today, the very notion of Israel and everything associated with it is political. It has been made so by Israel itself.
Note too, that the Prize itself is jointly sponsored by the prime minister’s office and the Jewish Agency. In other words, two institutions responsible for polishing the tarnished reputation of Israel throughout the world.
Israeli firebrand and minister, Miri Regev, always good for a colorful quote, accused Portman of falling into the hands of Israel haters:
“I was sad to hear that Portman fell like a ripe fruit into the hands of BDS supporters,” she said. “A Jewish actress, who was born in Israel, is joining those who see the story of the success and magic of the establishment of Israel as ‘a tale of darkness and darkness,” Regev added, referencing the 2015 film A Tale of Love and Darkness, starring Portman and based on a book by Amos Oz.
In fact, Portman opposes BDS; or so she implied when she signed a letter protesting a cultural boycott of an Israel film festival in Toronto several years ago. Born in Israel, the actress seems a classic liberal Zionist. In other words, she has a conscience. But that only goes so far. If one were cynical and less appreciative of the gesture she’s made in this case, one might accuse of her of being a “shooting and crying” liberal, who bemoans the fact that Israel’s enemies “force” it to kill them in self-defense.
That’s probably an overly cynical response in this case. Portman has made a brave gesture knowing that refusing to accept the award in Israel would generate huge waves of anger from the Israel Lobby and its disciples. One can see from both the ire of the Lobby and the example of women who came forward as part of the #MeToo movement, that speaking out has its price. Some have lost their careers. Some have left the profession in disgust. MK Oren Hazan (who himself formerly ran a Bulgarian casino which provided prostitutes to its high rollers) demanded that Israel deny her Israeli citizenship (she is a dual citizen). So one hopes that she continues to pursue these issues and that her gesture of protest isn’t a one-off phenomenon.
The Genesis Prize is the brainchild of three Russian oligarchs, Mikhail Fridman, Pyotr (Peter) Aven and Stan Polovets. Fridman is closely associated with another ruthless oligarch, German Khan. They both sued Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS because they are mentioned in the Steele dossier as close interlocutors for the Kremlin in dealings with Trump’s various Russia point men.
Khan and Fridman operate their shady financial dealings through a holding company called the Alfa Group. Here’s some of the evidence filed against them in a defamation lawsuit they filed against a media outlet:
…The Alfa Group allegedly has a dark side, some of which emerged here in the United States during a civil suit filed by Fridman, Aven, and Alfa Bank in 2000 against the Center for Public Integrity, which had published a piece about the Alfa Group that they claimed was defamatory. The piece in question discussed allegations of organized crime and drug activities involving the group that had been made public in Russia. In a September 2005 opinion in favor of the defendants, Judge John Bates, citing reams of media articles about Alfa, as well as a Russian state security (FSB) report on the group, observed: “Aven and Fridman have been dogged by allegations of corruption and illegal conduct. Russian newspapers have published repeated claims that Aven and Fridman have rigged the auction of state assets through government connections, threatened the lives of government officials, ordered the assassination of a mobster and engaged in narcotics trafficking and money laundering.”
The Prize is awarded yearly to a Jew (so far the only winners have been Diaspora Jews) who advances the strength and unity of the Jewish people:
The Genesis Prize honors individuals who have attained excellence and international renown in their chosen professional fields, and who inspire others through their dedication to the Jewish community and Jewish values…The Genesis Prize inspires unity throughout the global Jewish community and the State of Israel by recognizing the many faces and forms of Jewish nationhood in the modern world.
Though it’s been branded by its funders “the Jewish Nobel,” it is little more than a self-congratulatory vehicle for those bankrolling it. It’s a form of philanthropic money-laundering by which they take dirty money and cleanse it through so-called good works.
There is no real rhyme or reason for being named as a laureate. Unlike the various Nobel awards, there is no expert committee judging the various achievements of nominees. Members of the awards committee are Israel Lobby hacks like Jack Rosen, settler and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, and Fridman’s “colleague,” Pyotr Aven. Essentially, you get the award if you’re a celebrity in your field. Recipients so far were Michael Bloomberg, Michael Douglas, Itzhak Perlman and Anish Kapoor.