Last weekend, Marvel announced that it would introduce an Israeli superhero named Sabra in Captain America: New World Order, which is set to be released in 2024.
Shira Haas, an Israeli actress who gained international attention for her role in the 2020 Netflix series Unorthodox,’ has been appointed to play this superhero character.
The character of Sabra herself is not a new superhero at Marvel. This figure first appeared in the 1980 Marvel comic ‘The Incredible Hulk.’ Sabra has various superhuman powers and is the first superhuman agent to work for Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency.
The announcement of a superhero plan in Marvel’s latest film quickly drew controversy and a wave of criticism. Pro-Palestinian supporters criticized Marvel’s move.
Although the term “Sabra” refers to a Jewish person born in Israel, some social media users argue that the character name ‘Sabra’ refers to the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra neighborhood and the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut in 1982, where thousands of Palestinian refugees were killed by Israel’s allies, the Lebanese Christian militia.
Israeli troops besieging the Lebanese capital chose not to do anything to prevent the massacre, and they helped provide bulldozers to bury the bodies of dead Palestinian refugees.
In addition, Marvel’s decision to include Sabra in its superhero film is also seen as an attempt to portray Israeli intelligence services and troops as heroes amid their controversial behavior towards Palestinians to date.
Other critics condemned Marvel’s move to include Sabra in its latest film after highlighting the first appearance of the character Sabra in Marvel comics decades ago, regardless of the character’s name. Social media users stressed how Sabra had to be convinced by another character, a monster character, to mourn the ‘Arab boy’ death and see him as a human being.
Youseff Munayyer, a Palestinian-American writer and analyst based in Washington DC, considers that the appearance of the superhero Israel Sabra in comics several decades ago is also considered not to suggest anything positive, where Arab characters who interact with this superhero in comics are described as misogynistic, antisemitic, and violent.
It undoubtedly raises questions for those concerned about whether the troubling portrayals of Arabs and the dehumanization of Palestinians will play out differently in the film.