Wonder Woman is not only a great film, but an important milestone in the movement for gender equality both in superhero films and in cinema in general. Not only is it the most successful female-directed film of all time, but it’s also the first action movie I’ve seen where the female protagonist is celebrated for something other than sex appeal. In fact, when my family and I walked out of the movie, my 11-year-old brother said, “I’m inspired to be Wonder Woman.” Unfortunately however, there have been some calls to boycott the film because the star, Gal Gadot, is Israeli and served in the Israeli Defense Forces. These people (mistakenly) believe that Israel and the IDF oppress Palestinians, and therefore they feel they cannot look up to Gal Gadot. The fact is, she’s an empowering role model who has changed cinema for the better, and her ability to step into this role is largely influenced by her upbringing and culture in Israel.
Those who support boycotting the film fail to understand that Israel is not an oppressive nation, but a safe haven. Founded by Jews fleeing persecution after World War II, the State of Israel is a homeland for people who had nowhere else to turn. Israel and the IDF do not want to oppress the Arabs living in the region; they want to live in peace. Muslim citizens of Israel have the opportunity to gain full citizenship and the right to vote in the Middle East’s only democracy. It is only when terrorist organizations like Hamas choose to pay Palestinians to kill Israelis and to use Palestinian civilians as human shields under which to hide their acts of terror that the IDF must defend its home from the neighbors who wish to obliterate them.
Israel is not only a place for freedom from religious persecution, but also a champion of gender equality like no other in the Middle East, and perhaps the entire world. The state’s declaration of Independence states that Israel “will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.” Additionally, all Israeli citizens, including women, serve their country in the IDF. In fact, 51% of IDF officers are women, compared to just 16.6% in the United States military. Meanwhile, Hamas, the terrorist organization that holds significant power in Palestinian territories, prohibits women from even showing skin. While American culture objectifies women as sex symbols and Palestinians repress women’s right to express themselves, Israeli culture teaches that women are as important to society as men, that they can fight to defend their country.Israeli culture, which promotes women’s strength and independence, has created a Wonder Woman like we’ve never seen before. Gal Gadot cites her military experience as an inspiration for her display of strength on the big screen. Only in Israel does every woman have the opportunity to serve her country, to develop a sense of strength that is reserved for men in most of the world. It’s no coincidence that arguably the most empowering female performance in Hollywood came from an Israeli actress. So here’s my question for those who support a boycott of Wonder Woman in the name of social justice: how can you demand an empowering female character in cinema while outright rejecting the one culture that has made it possible?