Everyone roots for the Marvel superhero.
Be it Captain America, Iron Man, Spider Man or Hulk, viewers of the films, shows or comics take the side of the hero as they end the villain without ending the world.
They are the warriors of the universe, the upholders of justice, the saviours.
But how can a company that supports a real-life genocide promote world peace through superheroes? What messages are they sending to their viewers when one of their superheroes is from the apartheid state residing on occupied territory?
The answers may not be so simple when Marvel Entertainment turns a blind eye to the crimes against humanity by Israel and introduces an Israeli mutant superhero. The 2024 Captain America: New World Order movie is set to have a new Israeli superhero named ‘Sabra,’ who will be played by Israeli actor Shira Haas.
In the past couple of years, Israel’s domination of Palestinians increased, with a rise in unlawful killings, movement restrictions, denial of nationality and citizenships, holding Palestinians without a trial and seizures of property and land. Protests broke out in Toronto, New York, UK, Spain, Somalia, Italy, South Africa, and Sarajevo around March 2021 in support of the Palestinian cause.
More than a year later, Marvel announces its introduction of a superhero who works for the Israeli intelligence.
Sabra’s comic character was first introduced in The Incredible Hulk #256 (1962) and is not new. She is the Israeli and Jewish version of Captain America, as she works for Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency and fights with Hulk when she believes he is helping “Arab assassins.”
The issue here is not that Marvel is introducing a Jewish superhero. It is the depiction of Palestinians as terrorists and the oversimplification of a war that has been ongoing for decades.
The problematic history of Sabra’s character also stems from the real location and past of a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. Sabra and Shatila was the site of a massacre that took place in 1982. Israeli-allied Lebanese militia killed 3,500 Palestinians and Lebanese civilians during a three-day attack.
While the Hebrew word ‘sabra’ refers to an Israeli born Jew, the word holds traumatic connotations for Palestinians. For them, Sabra is not a hero that they will root for, but the name of a refugee camp that still exists. A place that should have been a safe space and granted Palestinian people their human rights.
Studies from the Human Rights Watch, Harvard Law and Amnesty International report the Israeli government and police force have continuously violated Palestinian human rights through a systematic regime of oppression since they annexed the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1948. To ensure the system of apartheid stays in effect, the Israeli military shoot children, bomb buildings, arrest journalists reporting on the occupation, and restrict practices of faith.
Israel and its system of oppression are the villains today but when Marvel viewers and fans see a superhero from Israel, the lines between restoring humanity and destroying it get blurred.
If the world’s largest blockbuster franchise now has a superhero who works for this government, if Marvel deems it necessary to sweep audiences into a universe with a problematic and racist emblem, then the New World Order that is being built in this movie is not of justice or peace. Marvel is telling the world that apartheid is permissible. Moreover, Marvel is telling the Palestinians that their oppressors are heroes.