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'Racist' Netanyahu remarks draw ire of Israelis, Americans and Wonder Woman

Prime minister's claim that Israel is a nation-state only for Jewish people has caused a storm online, with even Gal Gadot wading in
Actor Gal Gadot, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made quite a few enemies in his 13 years in office. Now, he appears to have added Wonder Woman to that list.

The Israeli premier has kicked up a social media storm after posting incendiary remarks on Sunday saying that his country is a state only for Jews, not all citizens, sparking widespread reactions online.

Voices as diverse as the political commentariat, activists and Hollywood star Gal Gadot have been moved to decry the comments, though many Israelis have also backed the leader.

The row erupted when Netanyahu took umbrage with comments made by popular Israeli actor and model Rotem Sela, who called on the government to acknowledge that Arabs are equal to Jews. 

“Dear god, there are also Arab citizens in this country," she wrote on Instagram. 

"When the hell will someone in this government convey to the public that Israel is a state of all its citizens and that all people were created equal, and that even the Arabs and the Druze and the LGBTs and - shock - the leftists are human."

Netanyahu was then moved to rebuke her, also taking to the social media site.

“First of all, Israel is not a country of all its citizens. According to the nation-state law that we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish nation,” he wrote.

The nation-state law refers to controversial legislation passed last year that states that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and Hebrew is its only official language, and that Israel is the nation of the Jewish people exclusively. 

Doubling down, Netanyahu also repeated his comments on Twitter, this time in Arabic.

The premier followed up his comments with remarks at the start of a cabinet meeting on Sunday.

He called Israel a “Jewish, democratic state” with equal rights, but added that it is “the nation state not of all its citizens but only of the Jewish people”. 

Some 20 percent of Israel's population is made up of Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Some social media users saw Netanyahu’s statements as proof that Israel is an apartheid state.

Outrage was not restricted to Israel alone, with American Jews also expressing concern that Israel's prime minister was being openly racist.

Some have claimed that Netanyahu’s comments are a tactical move ahead of the elections on 9 April. He has past form, famously calling on Jews to vote during the last elections by warning that Arabs were voting in "droves".

Hollywood actor Gal Gadot, who most famously has played Wonder Woman, also weighed in on the issue, posting comments on Instagram Stories.

Gadot spoke up in support of Sela, who had received criticism from some quarters after opposing Netanyahu’s comments.

“This isn’t a matter of right or left, Jew or Arab, secular or religious. It’s a matter of dialogue, of discussing peace and equality and our tolerance toward one another," Gadot wrote. 

"The responsibility for sowing hope and light for a better future for our children is ours. Rotem, sister, you are an inspiration to us all.”

The hot debate around Netanyahu's apparent dismissal of the status of Palestinian citizens of Israel comes as the leftist Balad-United Arab List, representing the community, is banned from running in the elections.

Meanwhile, the Central Election Committee cleared Michael Ben-Ari and Itamar Ben-Gvir of the far-right Jewish Power to run, sparking much controversy.

They are devotees of the notorious Jewish supremacist Meir Kahane.