Marvel’s introduction of an Israeli hero in its upcoming project ‘Captain America: New World Order’ is the hottest talk of the town. The new MCU superhero Sabra has been acknowledged in the comics alongside other famous characters like Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, and the X-Men. However, its live-action incarnation, played by Israeli actress Shira Haas, especially during such a tumultuous era, has raised suspicion and criticism.
Moreover, the name of this superhero is coincidently similar to the Lebanese neighbourhood of Sabra, where hundreds of Muslims were murdered in 1982 with the help of Israeli forces. Even though she was introduced in comics before the massacre, her selection to represent Jewish superheroes in MCU, while there were many other choices available, was disturbing not only to Muslims but to many others, including Jews.
Relationship Between Israeli Superhero Sabra and Mossad
At a time when Israel is facing global backlash for its treatment of Palestinian citizens, the inclusion of this superhero has not gone well with critics. They have raised their voice, fearing that this character’s portrayal would paint Israeli forces as good and Palestinians as evil. Depicted as a former Mossad agent, she first appeared in the 1980 ‘Hulk’ comic book flashing the Israeli flag and, of course, fighting Arab terrorists. It is unclear how she will be portrayed in the movie, but her supporters seem proud of what she represents.
Former Mossad agent Avner Avraham, the founder of Spy Legends Agency, hailed Sabra as an inspiration for young people. His agency provides “consultancy” for Film & TV on how to portray Israeli spies in an entertainment project. While talking to CNN, he stated that the new Israeli superhero would help youngsters learn more about Mossad. The approach of featuring a character like that in a big film would attract a wider audience as it is like a cartoon or TikTok’s way to brand or advertise something. Avraham further opined that this debut would be beneficial for Mossad to recruit sources in other countries.
Critics have a different perspective as they believe that the superhero Sabra is merely pushing the idea that Mossad spies are protagonists.
Experts on the Israel-Palestine affair categorize this new superhero in the Hasbara, a public diplomacy strategy adopted by the Israeli state to control information and narrative around the world. As the state continues its human rights abuses against its Arab citizens, it peddles powerful propaganda through dominant western media to counter widespread criticism and invalidate solidarity with Palestinians.
There are concerns that the new superhero would further glorify Israeli forces and distract from the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. A comic strip is also making rounds on social media where Hulk is lecturing Sabra about a dead Arab child because of the fighting between Palestine and her state.
Obviously, the matter is shrouded in impartiality to implicate Palestinians as people who do not want to share their land. Whereas, in reality, it’s the other way around. Last year, the Human Rights Watch report revealed that Israel was an apartheid state which used bureaucratic power and lethal force to overpower indigenous Palestinians.
Human Rights Abuses by the State of Israel
The announcement for adding superhero Sabra to MCU came days before the 40th anniversary of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre. Israeli-backed Christian militia known as Phalanges carried out one of the most harrowing massacres in the history of the Lebanese civil war that lasted 36 hours, starting from September 16, 1982. Under the supervision of the IDF, they killed at least 3500 Palestinian refugees and Lebanese civilians in the Gaza neighbourhood, Sabra and a nearby refugee camp, Shatila. The refugees were the Nakba (1948) victims who escaped the ethnic cleansing by zionists as the state of Israel was being established.
Ever since, Israeli forces have been eradicating Palestinians by portraying them as the aggressors to the entire world. Most recently, IDF admitted to killing 5 Palestinian children while raiding the Gaza cemetery during a 3-day assault from 6th to 8th August. According to reports, 17 children among the 49 Palestinians were killed in the “preemptive operation” after the arrest of Bassam Al-Saadi, the leader of Islamic Jihad in the occupied West Bank.
The state of Israel is also involved in the mysterious death of journalists investigating Israel’s so-called military operations. As the United Nations (UN) reported in June 2022, Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli gunfire when she was covering yet another military raid in the occupied West Bank. Despite the UN’s request, the Israeli government denied an internal investigation to find out who killed Shireen.
These are only a few examples of why Marvel’s new superhero faces so much backlash.