The introduction of the Israeli superheroine Sabra in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has ignited a passionate discussion, particularly in light of the ongoing geopolitical situation surrounding the deadly Israeli occupation of Palestine. Critics express deep concern about the timing and implications of introducing a character associated with a nation involved in apartheid and genocide against Palestinians.
The sentiment is clear in the apprehension expressed about Marvel’s decision, with the belief that the studio’s primary concern is the financial success of its projects rather than addressing the complex political realities. The skepticism extends to the assertion that “Captain Israel”, as the character is colloquially referred to, may not resonate with audiences as Marvel anticipates.
The casting of Shira Haas as Sabra/Bat Seraph has not raised concerns; instead, the focus remains on the character’s political associations. Sabra, a mutant serving the Israeli secret service and considered Israel’s equivalent of Captain America in the Marvel Universe, has become a focal point of controversy due to her Israeli nationality and ties to the Mossad. The question of whether Marvel can introduce Sabra “in a new direction” as claimed is met with skepticism. Those critical of the move argue that for individuals informed about the history and ongoing issues, any attempt to alter the character’s narrative might not be sufficient to overcome the underlying concerns.
A significant worry expressed by critics is the potential for a pro-Israel superhero to contribute to a false narrative, drawing parallels to previous Marvel projects where villains were portrayed as terrorists rebelling against oppressive regimes. The fear is that “Captain Israel”s introduction may inadvertently convey a heroic image of Israel, aligning with a perceived trend in American media to present certain nations, including the U.S. and now potentially Israel, as protagonists in geopolitical narratives.
Against the backdrop of recent events in Gaza, where grassroots campaigns have emerged, advocating for the boycott of companies and organizations associated with or supporting Israel, the introduction of Sabra/Ruth Bat-Seraph in Marvel’s upcoming Captain America film takes on heightened significance. The BDS Movement, in a recent post, criticized the character, framing her as a symbol of apartheid Israel. According to the movement, Sabra’s narrative, which involves working for what is described as the genocidal Israeli government and its occupation forces, perpetuates a racist and oppressive portrayal. Marvel, by incorporating this character, is accused of being complicit in promoting anti-Palestinian racism, furthering Israeli propaganda, and glorifying settler-colonial violence. Reshoots have begun earlier this year and we can only hope Marvel will use this opportunity to walk back this character and find something new for Captain America: Brave New World.