As if to prove you can bet on almost anything, on April 24 an email from the media relations department of an outfit calling itself BetDSI Sportsbook appeared in my inbox. The subject line: “Odds against Eagles visiting White House.”
No doubt occasioned by the previous day’s report in The New York Times that our beloved Philadelphia Eagles have been in correspondence with the Trump administration to coordinate the traditional White House visit of the Super Bowl’s victors, Las Vegas bookies have set a money line (-200) against the Birds making the trip before Sept. 6. (For the record, the over-under on the number of players going stands at 10.5.) If you want to get in on the action, you know where to turn.
Judging by the revelation, also in The Times, that owner Jeffrey Lurie is apparently no fan of the president, and considering that such players as Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Long have had plenty of disagreements with President Trump, favored odds on an Eagles/White House snafu a la the Golden State Warriors doesn’t seem that improbable. But would refusing a visit to the Executive Mansion or Oval Office be tantamount to treason?
The question might appear to be coming out of left field, but that’s exactly what some believe Jerusalem-born actress Natalie Portman committed when she announced her refusal last week to attend the June ceremony in Israel that was to honor her winning the Genesis Prize.
At the time, by way of a statement attributed to Portman’s representative and released on Yom Ha’atzmaut itself, the Genesis Prize Foundation said that given “recent events in Israel [that] have been extremely distressing to her,” the star of Black Swan and director of Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness “does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel.” The foundation promptly canceled the event.
No sooner had the press release arrived in my inbox that Portman, who as a student at Harvard University had actually been a research assistant on Alan Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel, was pilloried for being just another Hollywood celebrity to fall into the clutches of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. She was, in the analysis of one Likud MK, nothing more than a traitor and deserved to be stripped of her citizenship.
Portman later explained that she was not a supporter of the BDS movement and deeply loved Israel, but nevertheless had issues with what could only be inferred as Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, as well as more generally with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom she derided in a video in 2015.
“I treasure my Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema and dance,” she said over the weekend. “But the mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values.” I assume she was referring to those Palestinians killed in Gaza by Israeli soldiers protecting the border from incursions by armed terrorists.
I vehemently disagree with Portman’s characterization of Israeli defensive sniper fire as “atrocities,” but I nevertheless take her at her word that she is a passionate friend of Israel. True, her announcement did provide fodder for the BDS movement, whose affiliated groups trumpeted the about-face on the Genesis Prize as evidence of the righteousness of its mission. But Natalie Portman is no Roger Waters.
I see Portman as more in line with Noa, the Israeli singer also known as Achinoam Nini, who several years ago was boycotted by several Jewish organizations for her left-wing views. (Like Portman, Noa opposes the BDS movement.) These are celebrities who, despite having always been children of the left, had at one point been embraced by the pro-Israel community as famous faces of the Jewish state only to be dropped like hot potatoes when their deeply held political views bubbled to the surface.
Everyone is entitled to their beliefs — and the pro-Israel tent is a necessarily large one — but my worry is that a growing group both inside Israel and outside of it is coming to equate certain political factions with Israel itself. That would be dangerous — not only for the sake of Jewish unity, but also for the sake of being effective champions of the Jewish state.
The fact is, the left wing in Israel is just as much a reality as the Kotel and Dizengoff Square. To deny its existence — or worse, to deny its more visible members, whether represented by Portman, Noa or Tzipi Livni — wouldn’t just be an act of willful ignorance; it would be a supremely un-Jewish act of exacerbating Jewish divisions.
To be clear, Portman’s snub was incredibly hurtful. To castigate her as an enemy, though, would make things worse. It would make about as much sense as denying the Eagles are the best team in football.
Joshua Runyan is the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Exponent. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.