Omnia Ghassan | 29-12-2017
Batman, Spiderman, the Phantom, the Hulk: These superheroes were part of my childhood. I grew up reading comic books and watching cartoons that revolved around them. I liked them all, but the fact that the main characters were all men annoyed me. I wanted a female superhero to admire.
Then I was introduced to Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman. She is a passionate warrior with a compassionate heart who courageously uses her strength to help those in need.
In 2013, it was announced there would be a superhero movie, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” also featuring Wonder Woman. Then, the director, Zack Snyder, revealed the actress who would play Wonder Woman: Gal Gadot, a former combat trainer for the Israeli occupation forces. Two years later, in 2015, Gal/Wonder Woman was given her own solo movie. Although I was thrilled for Wonder Woman, I also was appalled: Gal Gadot represents everything Wonder Woman fights against.
Snyder said he chose Gadot because her fierce yet kind personality fit the role. But she has demonstrated she doesn’t live up to this description. Gadot served for two years in the Israeli military, training combat fighters. In 2014, those troops went to war against my land and my people. She uploaded a photo onto Instagram of herself praying with her daughter with the caption, “I am sending my love and prayers to my fellow Israeli citizens. Especially to all the boys and girls who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas, which is hiding like cowards behind women and children.”
What Gadot didn’t highlight is that the Israeli army kills Palestinian women and children. According to statistics collected by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, 732 Gazan women and children were killed in Israel’s 2014 offensive, and another 5,404 were injured. A third of this horrific number are permanently disabled. (Note that only 16 percent of Palestinian resistance fighters, those Gadot claimed her army targeted, were killed.) In addition, according to an investigation conducted by Euro-Med, captured Palestinians were used as “shields” for Israeli soldiers for hours at a time.
On the Israeli side, one woman and one child were killed, and none were injured. Of course, all deaths and injuries are tragic, but these numbers reveal the severe disparity in power and violence faced by Palestinians. Yet the character of Wonder Woman believes a war should be fought between equal forces, and that women and children should be the first to be protected.
It’s also important to keep in mind why Palestinians have “resistance fighters” in the first place: In Gaza, the entry and exit of all people and goods are tightly restricted. In fact, most exports are prohibited, making a healthy economy impossible and creating an unemployment rate that is the highest in the world. At the same time, we are not allowed to import most construction materials and many vital medicines. I could go on and on; yet, Gadot glibly ignores those facts.
Almost six months after its release date, I finally watched the Wonder Woman movie. (We don’t have theaters in Gaza; instead, we have to wait until movies are available online.) It was a well-done film, but casting Gadot as Wonder Woman—panicking over the well-being of women and children injured or under attack and using all her might to save them—was hypocritical. I couldn’t watch with enthusiasm.
While Gadot has gotten a pass from Hollywood for her combative actions and rhetoric, other actors who stand up for Palestine have been subjected to intense backlash. In 2014, actress Penelope Cruz and her husband Javier Bardem signed an open letter against “the genocide perpetrated by the Israeli occupation army.” In response, some Hollywood executives pledged never to work with the Spanish couple. They were blacklisted for simply saying that “Gaza is living through horror…while the international community does nothing.”
As a Gazan girl, it is a betrayal for Wonder Woman, a symbol of peace and justice, to be played by a woman who actively defends Israeli forces’ murder of civilians. Little girls everywhere look up to characters like Wonder Woman. What message are we sending to the next generation of women leaders?
Posted: December 28, 2017
Mentor: Mimi Kirk