Helen Mirren criticises Israel boycotters
Actor says on a visit to Jerusalem that she is a ‘believer’ in the state, which she calls ‘an extraordinary country’
The Oscar-winning actor Helen Mirren said that she was a “believer” in Israel and that she rejected efforts to boycott the country.
Mirren showered Israeli artists with praise and said she opposed efforts by pro-Palestinian groups to boycott them and the decision of some international artists to shun Israel.
“I think that art is an incredibly important way of communication,” she said at a press event in Jerusalem on Wednesday. “The artists of the country are the people you need to communicate with and make a relationship with and learn from and build upon. So I absolutely don’t believe in the boycott, and here I am.”
Mirren was in Israel to host the Genesis prize, an award known as the “Jewish Nobel”. The $1m award was given to Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman for his accomplishments as a musician, teacher and advocate for the disabled.
Mirren, who is not Jewish, has visited Israel several times and has been a vocal critic of pro-Palestinian activists who have called for a cultural boycott of Israel. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) has enlisted the support of Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters and has persuaded Elvis Costello, Lauryn Hill and other performers to call off concerts in Israel.
Mirren, 70, is one of the few actors to have won the so-called Triple Crown, having collected an Oscar, a Tony and four Emmy awards. She received her Academy award for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in the 2006 film The Queen.
She has played the role of a former Mossad agent in The Debt, a remake of an Israeli film of the same name. And in Woman in Gold she played an elderly Jewish refugee who fought the Austrian government for a decade to reclaim a Gustav Klimt painting stolen from her family by the Nazis.
She said her strong connection to Israel dates back to 1967, when she volunteered on a kibbutz, or collective farm, with her Jewish boyfriend at the time. She fondly recalled picking grapes and doing kitchen duty.
“I am a believer in Israel … I think this is an extraordinary country filled with very, very extraordinary people,” she said. “It’s just a lucky … accident in my life that I have had this privilege.”
Mirren shied away from further political questions, but she said she had already voted by proxy in favour of Britain remaining in the European Union.