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Natalie Portman: Rising antisemitism ‘makes my heart drop’

Amid record-high antisemitism in the US, Jerusalem-born Hollywood star says recent remarks about Jews are ‘frightening to listen to’

Natalie Portman arrives at the global premiere of 'Pachinko,' March 16, 2022, at The Academy Museum in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Natalie Portman arrives at the global premiere of 'Pachinko,' March 16, 2022, at The Academy Museum in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Oscar-winning Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman on Sunday condemned the increase in hate speech against Jews following a series of high-profile antisemitic incidents and remarks in the US.

“Seeing the re-emergence of antisemitism makes my heart drop,” Portman wrote on Instagram. “This hatred must be combatted with boundless love for each other. Today, I send extra love to my fellow Jews. And I send love to all those standing with us against these violent words and actions. It’s been painful and frightening to listen to, and I’m extremely grateful to those who continue to speak up against antisemitism with us, and against all forms of racism.”

Portman’s post came after recent antisemitic statements by rapper Kanye West, including on Thursday when he praised Adolf Hitler and said people should not criticize Nazis. “I see good things about Hitler,” West, who also goes by Ye, said in an interview with far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. “I like Hitler,” he added later, and called himself a Nazi.

Portman also shared a tweet by US President Joe Biden, in which he weighed in on his predecessor Donald Trump’s dinner with West and the white nationalist Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes at his Mar-a-Lago home in November. In the tweet, Biden emphatically condemned antisemitism, saying that silence in the face of Jew-hatred “is complicity.” He also said that leaders should be rejecting antisemitism rather than giving it a platform.

Trump was roundly criticized for hosting West and Fuentes, including by presumed incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the meeting “a mistake.”

In another high-profile case of celebrity antisemitism, NBA superstar Kyrie Irving in October promoted on his Twitter page a film containing antisemitic conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial. After Irving initially refused to apologize or clarify his beliefs, his team, the Brooklyn Nets, suspended him. A few weeks later, Irving apologized, stated he is not antisemitic, and was allowed to rejoin his team.

Kanye West seen during an appearance on InfoWars with Alex Jones on December 1, 2022. (Screen capture: Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Portman, 41, who was born in Israel and moved to the US as a child, has a long history of speaking out on political causes. She has been critical of Israel’s controversial nation-state law, which defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people but does not specify equal rights for all Israeli citizens. Portman has also been a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party in the US, and is an advocate for animal rights.

Portman’s Instagram post received support from tens of thousands of her fans, as well as from actresses Julianne Moore, Kat Dennings and Ayla Fisher.

Separately, the comedian Amy Schumer, who earlier in the month mocked West for his antisemitic outbursts, on Friday expressed concern about antisemitism, saying her community was “scared.”

“I was bullied for being Jewish in the town I grew up in and was made to feel embarrassed for my Judaism,” Schumer wrote on Instagram. “Now I am proud to be descended from survivors of Auschwitz. There are less than 17 million Jews in the entire world. We don’t recruit. We don’t try and change laws to enforce our beliefs on other people [sic] bodies. Hug a Jew today. Antisemitism is harmful to Black people. Let’s look at who we are empowering.”

According to a report released in April by the Anti-Defamation League, 2021 saw the highest levels of reported antisemitic events in the US — the highest figures since the organization started tracking the issue in the 1970s. A report released the same month by Tel Aviv University found a record-high number of reports of antisemitic activity throughout the world in 2021.

FBI Director Christopher Wray has recently said that the American Jewish community is “getting hit from all sides” and “desperately” needs further support from the agency amid a sharp rise in antisemitic attacks. He pointed out that some 63 percent of religious hate crimes were motivated by antisemitism, “and that’s targeting a group that makes up about 2.4% of the American population.”

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