How the Jewish Identity of ‘Wonder Woman’s’ Star is Causing a Stir

“Wonder Woman” has drawn all kinds of controversy over gender politics since its release last Friday, but it has also put the spotlight on Jewish debates over race and nationality. The star of the film, Gal Gadot, who speaks English with an Israeli accent, has become an Israeli star and generated buzz both here and abroad.

Ahead of the film’s international release, Lebanon banned the film because of Gadot, who, like most Israeli citizens, served a mandatory two-year stint in the Israeli Defense Forces as a combat trainer. (Jordan is also reportedly considering a ban on the film.)

In 2014, Gadot posted on Facebook support of the Israeli army’s actions in Gaza while lighting candles with her daughter and writing “Shabbat Shalom,” the common greeting Jews say to one another on the Sabbath.

Gadot, whose grandfather survived Auschwitz, was born and raised in Rosh Haayin in Israel and was Miss Israel at age 18. In an interview with ABC, Gadot joked that being pregnant as Wonder Woman (she did some shoots when she was five months pregnant) was harder than being in the Israeli army.

Gadot’s role in the film, which grossed $103.3 million domestically and $228.3 million worldwide in its debut, has also resurfaced a debate this week among American Jews over race. In a piece at comicbook.com, Matthew Mueller argued that Gadot was the first woman of color to appear in the superhero genre.

“Gal Gadot is not actually Caucasian, but is in fact Israeli,” Mueller wrote. Looking white doesn’t mean you are white, Mueller writes, pointing to a column this year from the Times of Israel that said, “conceptualizing Jews as either ‘white’ or just a religion,’ as many of our detractors are wont to do, helps to perpetuate a culture of antisemitism on the anti-racist left.”

The debate “Are Jews white?” has seen a resurgence since the presidential election last year and was resurrected surrounding the release of “Wonder Woman.” The Forward, a weekly Jewish newspaper, published a series of articles on the question:

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How the Jewish Identity of ‘Wonder Woman’s’ Star is Causing a Stir

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