If someone is famous, does it make their opinion more important? Take the case of Natalie Portman’s recent rejection of the Genesis Prize in protest of Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu. Why does it matter what Portman does or does not do with $2 million dollars? Yet, it’s the rejection that launched 1,000 tweets. Anyone and everyone has an opinion about Portman’s behavior.
To be fair, someone might mistake Portman’s status as Genesis Prize laureate as a sign that she is an expert on the Jewish people and Jewish state. The Genesis Prize calls itself the “Jewish Nobel,” yet celebrity seems to be the common denominator among its recipients. It is not immediately clear what massive impact any of the laureates (Michael Bloomberg, Michael Douglas, Itzhak Perlman) have had specifically on the Jewish nation, notable though they may all be.
Portman’s status as Israeli-born is also invoked. Does carrying a passport and having relatives in a certain country make someone an expert on it if it has been decades since they actually lived there? Another “bona fide” invoked is that she acted in a Hebrew-language film. Mel Gibson spoke Aramaic in the “Passion of Christ” yet no one cites him as a theological expert on early Christianity.
No, what it boils down to is that Portman is Israeli, Jewish and, most importantly, famous, therefore her opinion is given more credence than it really deserves. But that’s part of the celebrity obsessed culture in which we live.
In Tehilla Goldberg’s View from Central Park this week, she contrasts the reactions of Portman, Israeli-born actress, and David Grossman, Israeli-born author. Both are critical of Israel. Yet, Grossman’s views are more valid than Portman. This for the primary reason that Grossman is deeply engaged in Israeli life, through his literature, his renown and, tragically, the death of his son as an IDF soldier.
A person being famous — even if they are connected, somehow, to the situation in question — really shouldn’t be enough for us to value their opinion above the many others who are actually expert in the area. In sum: Should it really matter what Natalie Portman does or does not say about Israel?