Is Israeli Wonder Woman Star Gal Gadot White or a Person of Color?

From Jews to Neo-Nazis, everyone's got an opinion

Gal Gadot in a scene from "Wonder Woman" in theaters on June 2.
'Despite Wonder Woman’s success, the superhero universe, from comics to fandom to movies, is still a man’s world.' Gal Gadot in a scene from "Wonder Woman".Credit: Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Entertainment via AP

When Gal Gadot was cast as Wonder Woman in the new hit film, it was probably expected that there would be repercussions in the Arab world. Indeed, already several countries hostile to Israel, such as Lebanon and Tunisia, have said they would refuse to screen it. It was also predictable that Gadot’s service in the Israeli army and pro-Israel social media postings would be a source of controversy among those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

What was less expected is that Gadot’s casting would spark an intense debate as to whether or not the Israeli model and actress, whose family roots are Eastern European (her parents changed their name from “Greenstein” to “Gadot”) is white, and that white supremacists and neo-Nazis would eagerly join in the conversation.

The controversy began immediately after the premier when some cultural critics noted that while the film broke gender barriers it still represented a native 'Amazonian' from a remote island as being lily-white, and so its representation of people of color fell short

Retorts came quickly - wrote a piece headlined: “Wonder Woman: There IS A Person Of Color In The Lead Role” resting his case on discussions of anti-Semitism during the first month of the Trump presidency that European Jews should count as a non-white minority, no matter how pasty-skinned or fair-haired they may be and saying that her casting should be celebrated as a triumph for diversity.

Just as quickly, that idea was shot down. “Gadot got the role as Wonder Woman precisely because she is seen as an appropriate actor to play a character who has traditionally been white,” said an article in The Forward. “In the movie itself, it’s clear that the other characters perceive Wonder Woman as white. The movie is set in World War I, a time when overt racism was even more acceptable than it is today. But when Wonder Woman crashes a high level military meeting, no one utters racial slurs or questions her whiteness. They are only scandalized because of her gender.”

Another Forward piece called the whole discussion “insidious,” saying that “the ambiguity of Jewish ethnicity serves as a perverse weapon in hands hostile to Jewish identity. It leaves Jews historically vulnerable to anti-Semitism from extreme ideologies on both sides of the political spectrum; Jews are at once the ultimate insiders (white) or ultimate outsiders (other)” and noting that “the authoritarian right, like the Nazis, attack the Jew as the ultimate outsider to the singular cause of ethnic nationality.”

As if to illustrate that point, former KKK leader and white supremacist David Duke happily tweeted a photograph of a “Times of Israel” piece headlined “Yes, Ashkenazi Jews (Including Gal Gadot) Are People of Color” which he enhanced with his own headline, “Zionist say Jews and Wonder Woman Are Not White!”

The neo-Nazi Daily Stormer joined in the celebration, as pleased as Duke:

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