Wonder Woman vs. Bibi: Gal Gadot Takes Stand in Row Over Jewish-Arab Equality

Wonder Woman backs up Israeli TV host Rotem Sela, after the latter's post claiming Arabs are equal citizens of Israel came under fire by the prime minister himself

Gal Gadot at the Acadamy Awards, Los Angeles, March 4, 2018.
Mario Anzuoni/ REUTERS

Wonder Woman leading lady Gal Gadot got involved Sunday evening in a social media row with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding comments an Israeli television presenter she is friends with made about accepting Israel's Arab citizens.

Hollywood actress Gadot supported Rotem Sela, who attacked in an Instagram post Culture Minister Miri Regev for warning that the political party Kahol Lavan might cooperate with Arab parties. Regev made the remarks in an interview with Rina Matzliah on Channel 12.

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Sela wrote on Instagram: “Regev sits and explains to Rina Matzliah that the public must be cautious because if [Kahol Lavan chairman] Benny Gantz gets elected he will have to set up a government with the Arabs. Rina Matzliah [television host] remains silent. So I asked myself why Rina didn’t ask her in astonishment, ‘And what’s the problem with Arabs?’ Good Lord, there are also Arab citizens in this country.”

Sela continued, “When the hell will someone in this government convey to the public that Israel is a state for all its citizens. And every person was born equal. Arabs, too, God help us, are human beings.”

>> 'Israel is the nation-state of Jews alone': Netanyahu responds to TV star who said Arabs are equal citizens

After Sela’s post generated a flood of violent and threatening responses, Gadot backed her on Instagram account, which boasts of 28.2 million followers: “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” the actress wrote.

“This isn’t a matter of right or left, Jewish or Arab, secular or religious. It’s a matter of dialog, of discussing peace and equality and our tolerance toward one another. The responsibility for sowing hope and light for a better future for our children is ours. Rotem, sister, you are an inspiration to us all.”

This was a rare comment by the “Wonder Woman” star, who has remained vague about her political opinions since moving to Hollywood. Gadot was joined by actress Maya Dagan, who also posted support for Sela on Instagram. “She’s not brave. She’s normal. She’s sane. She’s a citizen of the state who cares. Who loves our country. Just like me. Just like every person who lives here. This fear of not being able to express your opinion is illogical. I join you. I affirm what you said. Good for you, Rotem. I’m proud of you.”

Model Shlomit Malka also expressed support for Sela. Posting on the Facebook page of the show “Hatzinor,” she wrote, “The responses I’ve seen to Rotem’s post have been frightful and scary. How can it be that in 2019, in a democratic country, people have to be afraid to speak their minds? Where has freedom of expression gone? Are we still a democratic country at all? And if we indeed define ourselves as a Jewish state, what does that mean? What are Jewish values? What symbolizes Jewish education more than, ‘Decency comes before the Torah,’ than ‘Love your neighbor as yourself?’ Who is supposed to understand better than us the deep ramifications of racism and baseless hatred?”

On Sunday morning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Sela’s post on Instagram, posting a picture of himself with the Israeli flag in the background and writing, “Rotem dear, an important correction: Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the Nation-State Law that we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and them alone.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett responded to the controversy by telling a conference of young voters at Tel Aviv University, “At a time when missiles are falling on southern communities, I don’t understand the logic of attacking a television presenter. When I’m defense minister we’ll fight terrorists, not the host of 'The Next Star for the Eurovision.'"

MK Ahmad Tibi (Ta’al) also responded to the controversy, writing on Twitter, “If a leading media personality like Rotem Sela needs courage to say that Arabs are also human beings, it testifies to the dark times we’re living in. What Netanyahu and Regev said is embarrassing. You’d be surprised to hear that Arabs are also people and citizens who want to be equal.”

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh tweeted, “In Israel 2019, to say that the meaning of democracy is a state for all its citizens and that Arabs need to be full citizens – yes, that demands great courage. Rotem Sela, we've never met, but good for you.”