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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Israel's tactic of bullying its critics is unravelling

The brutality of the Israeli government is gaining more allies for the Palestinians’ just cause

Natalie Portman has stated that the “mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities” at the hands of the Israeli government compelled her to cancel her visit to Israel to receive the Genesis Prize / Getty
Natalie Portman has stated that the “mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities” at the hands of the Israeli government compelled her to cancel her visit to Israel to receive the Genesis Prize / Getty

Jerusalem-born Natalie Portman, the Oscar-winning Hollywood actress, is a champion of Israel. In 2009, she put her name to a letter criticising those who called for a boycott of Israeli films. Less than a decade later, she has become the object of vituperation herself among apologists of Israel’s right-wing government for refusing to travel to Israel to accept the Genesis Prize, known as the “Jewish Laureate”, that was due to be handed to her in June at a lavish ceremony. Ms Portman has stated that the “mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities” at the hands of the Israeli government compelled her to cancel her participation. Her decision comes as protests by Palestinians at the Gazan border enter their fourth week. Without reprieve, Israeli troops have been bombarding them with bullets. In an escalating death toll, at least 35 Palestinians, including a journalist, have been killed and thousands more are being treated for injuries. On Friday, four more Palestinians were shot dead, including a 15-year-old boy and a disabled man.

Yet in an oppressive environment cultivated by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, anyone who dares to raise their voice against this injustice opens the door to a campaign of victimisation and bullying. The Jewish comedienne Sarah Silverman, a political activist, experienced a barrage of abuse when she tweeted calling for justice for 17-year-old Ahed Al Tamimi, who was jailed for eight months for slapping a soldier; singer Lorde was labelled a "bigot" for cancelling a concert in Tel Aviv. As The National reported, the Israeli government is shamelessly sifting members of the diaspora into “good” and “bad” Jews. But as Israel celebrates 70 years of its founding by re-enacting the horrors it perpetrated against Palestinians in the year of its birth, the tide is turning. The odious narrative spun by Israel – of a progressive, morally upright democracy – is swiftly unravelling. The US State Department might have dropped the term “occupied territories” from its reports but even supporters of Israel can see that the denial of Palestinians’ human rights and status for what it is. The brutality of the Israeli government is only gaining more allies for the Palestinians’ just cause.

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