Even though we don’t know much about Sabra narrative in the Captain America films, we are familiar with Sabra’s comic book roots and her typical foes.
The newest superhero to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe was revealed at the Disney D23 Expo, much to the ire of fans. By joining the Captain America franchise, Sabra—an Israeli heroine by day, Mossad operative, and Israeli police detective by night—provoked Palestinians and Arabs all over the world. Shira Haas will portray her.
Marvel has previously faced criticism for eschewing politics, particularly the divisive US political environment. However, it appears that they are moving in a political direction. Marvel undoubtedly understands what an Israeli intelligence operative dressed as a superhero must seem like in the “good against evil” milieu of their action films. It resembles picking a side in the Israel-Palestine issue very strongly.
Israeli security forces and intel organizations represent violence, tyranny, and dread for millions of Palestinians. Israeli bombings on the Gaza Strip only one month ago (again) killed at least 10 Palestinians, including children, and severely damaged the city’s infrastructure.
(In retaliation, Palestinian militants linked to the organization Islamic Jihad launched rockets into Israel, although no one has been hurt or killed in Israel as of yet.) The way Israel handles its Palestinian neighbors—and its own citizens—remains gravely troubling, ranging from forceful displacement to the establishment of an apartheid regime.
Although the current Marvel movie’s narrative specifics remain unknown, previous comics provide a window into Sabra’s universe. Sabra, who first made her appearance in a 1980 Hulk comic while wearing an Israeli flag, battles Arab terrorists across Israel. She defends an Israeli school bus from Palestinian militants in one tale. It has taken The Hulk to get Sabra to view this deceased Arab youngster as a human being, the comic’s text states in one frequently shared example. Sabra believes that Palestinians are treated less humanely than other people.
Not only does Marvel denigrate Palestinians, but this is a common occurrence in movies and television. In his book Reel Bad Arabs, Jack Shaheen observes that just 12 Arab characters appeared in good parts out of the staggering 935 bad depictions in the hundreds of movies analyzed between 1986 and 2000. In more recent times, programs like Tehran on Apple TV and Fauda and the Spy on Netflix portray Israelis as heroes while portraying Palestinians and other Middle Easterners as violent criminals.
Marvel would feature the tale of a Palestinian superhero defending Arab children from Israeli missiles striking a Palestinian school or hospital alongside the brave tales of Sabra if they actually desired to be politically neutral. Of course, the notion appears implausible. Outside of fiction, any Palestinian who tries to defend themselves—even without using force—is frequently accused of being a terrorist. Despite the CIA finding no evidence to support this claim, Israeli soldiers searched and shut down seven Palestinian human rights organizations last month after branding them as financial fronts for terrorists.
The concept of a Jewish superhero is fantastic. I can picture a scenario where Ms. Marvel, the first Muslim heroine in the Marvel universe, teams up with a proud Jewish hero. Coexistence would be that. That’s development. A superhero who fights Arabs while having a direct connection to Israeli soldiers isn’t.