A Note on Cleopatra
It has become abundantly clear to me that my Guardian article on the Cleopatra casting and North African representation has hurt people in the Jewish community. And for the last few days I have read the comments, spoken with Jewish people, especially Israeli Jews, and deliberated how best to respond that does not in any way diminish the pain some have felt.
It was certainly not my intention to be insensitive or perpetuate any antisemitic sentiments towards the Jewish community or Gal Gadot. Before submitting the article I sent it to a Jewish friend and we discussed it for an hour to ensure I was not being antisemitic. When I then sent the draft to the commissioning editor to read I specifically stated: “Please let me know tomorrow if it anyway comes across as antisemitic as that is the last thing I want it [to] do.”
I received no response but it was published with a headline I would not have chosen and the addition of “Ashkenazi Jewish" heritage which was not in the original copy. I did not want to base anything in this conversation about Gadot being Jewish. She has already been subjected to a significant amount of antisemitic abuse which I absolutely did not want to be aligned with.
My sole purpose was to highlight the continued colorism in Hollywood, lack of opportunities for people of the North African diaspora and why film fans of that background might be disappointed. As my article said, not all people of the MENA community fit neatly into whiteness but neither do Jewish people.
I understand that even with the best intentions, the impact has been harmful to people in the Jewish community and I want to acknowledge that. So I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm the position that I have always had: Any form of racism and antisemitism is abhorrent. Any antisemitism against Gal Gadot or her family is unacceptable.
I certainly regret that anything in my article has or could be used as an attack against the Jewish community or perpetuate offensive antisemitic tropes.
I have always been a fan of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and she is an inspiration for unknown minorities who have been able to become leading figures in Hollywood. As a film critic of colour, I will continue to use my platform to discuss issues of diversity and representation but this has been a learning experience for me, and I’m grateful to have been given an opportunity to understand more about Jewish perspectives.