Natalie Portman and the Use of Innocuous Forums to Attack Israel
Actress Natalie Portman is one of Hollywood’s most recognizable stars. She has featured in some of the biggest hits of the last 25 years, playing roles such as Queen Padme Amidala in the Star Wars movies, Jane Foster in the Avengers superhero franchise, and receiving multiple awards for her roles in “Jackie” and “Black Swan.”
Portman is also Israeli. But the website of the International Movie Database (IMDb), a resource used by literally millions of users each day, instead listed her as being born in “Jerusalem, Palestine.”
Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem, Israel. Her family left internationally-recognized Israel, not “occupied Palestine,” for America when she was young.@IMDb, why is your entry on @OfficialPortman riddled with propaganda? pic.twitter.com/5K42r8Taw4
— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) March 25, 2021
Furthermore, the page described Portman’s family as having left “occupied Palestine” when Natalie was four-years-old, but in reality, the land she left was internationally-recognized as Israel.
The incendiary phrase “occupied Palestine” is as accurate as describing Texas as “occupied Mexico.”
IMDb is a website that runs on a model similar to that of Wikipedia. Both are powered by their readers, who are free to edit articles. While edits on Wikipedia can be instantaneous, however, edits to IMDb are submitted to IMDb’s “data editors” for checking.
As the IMDb site notes:
We often need to check your updates before we complete them. The time it takes us to do this can vary. Please see here for our current waiting times.
If your update doesn’t show up within the normal time-frame, this usually means that we have not been able to verify it or there is a problem with the submission; see this guide for more information.”
Despite an editing system being in place, edits using Portman’s entry as a platform for anti-Israel propaganda were allowed to pass. However, within hours of HonestReporting flagging the blatant misinformation on Twitter and Facebook, the page was updated to more accurately describe Portman as being born in “Jerusalem, Israel,” and as having left “Israel” for Washington, DC, when she was young.
Although this particular lie was caught, the broader problem persists: seemingly unrelated forums, such as movie websites and Wikipedia entries on topics only tangentially related to Israel, are used to spread lies about the Jewish State. In this case, the website sees extremely high traffic, and the problem was caught within a matter of hours. But there are other websites that won’t attract this kind of attention, and users — especially those with no knowledge about Israel — will read these lies and consciously or unconsciously digest and process them. Refuting and rebutting these lies and smears requires constant vigilance.
Israel’s defenders must be on guard all the time against malicious lies and falsehoods spread about the Jewish state, something that’s not true for almost every other country on Earth.
Emanuel Miller is a writer-researcher for HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias, where a version of this article first appeared.