Twitter mobs and left-wing media outlets have pilloried Gal Gadot, an Israeli, Jewish actress, over her casting as Cleopatra in an upcoming film about the famed Egyptian queen. Critics have dubbed the casting as yet another example of "cultural appropriation."
Critics of the move have insisted that the role should instead go to an Arab actress. This is in spite of the fact that Cleopatra was part of the Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt, which was Macedonian Greek.
A journalist at The Guardian defended the criticism by speculating that Cleopatra may have been half-Egyptian, as her maternal lineage has been subject to debate among historians, and stating that it would be "whitewashing" for a woman of "Ashkenazi Jewish heritage" to play the role. Cleopatra's full ancestry has not been definitively determined, however, and it is not known whether she was fully Greek or half Egyptian.
Even as such, ancient Egyptians were not Arabs, as Arabs did not arrive until the Arab conquest in the seventh century. The ancient Israelites, from whom modern Jews descend, shared a border with the ancient Egyptians and were often subjugated by them, which would suggest that ancient Egyptians probably have more in common with modern Jews than Arabs.
Nevertheless, Gadot has faced racist and antisemitic abuse online for her casting, with sympathetic media outlets portraying such tirades as "backlash."
Similar criticisms have been levelled at cisgender actors playing transgender characters and straight people playing gay characters, while critics of the concept of cultural appropriation have stressed that the whole point of acting is playing someone you're not and that such characteristics should not play a role in casting.
This is not the first time Gadot has faced antisemitic abuse over casting. Her starring role as Wonder Woman in a movie of the same name resulted in online controversy as outraged activists lambasted the actress for her support of Israel and having previously served in the Israel Defense Force.
Media organizations often cheered on the antisemitic abuse, with Buzzfeed News criticizing Gadot for condemning Hamas, a terrorist organization which had written into their founding covenant an explicit aim to commit genocide against the Jewish population of Israel.
Nevertheless, the film was a box office success, grossing over $800 million worldwide. The film was subsequently banned in a number of Arab countries which refuse to recognize the Jewish state including Tunisia, Lebanon, and Qatar, receiving praise from some media outlets.
Gadot will be producing the movie in collaboration with director Patty Jenkins, who also directed Wonder Woman. Gadot, who announced the movie on International Day of the Girl, said she wanted to "tell her story for the first time through women's eyes, both behind and in front of the camera." The film has not yet been assigned a release date.