The Marvel Cinematic Universe is getting its first Israeli superhero, and Palestinian activists are not pleased.
Last week, it was announced that the Israeli superhero Sabra would be featured in the upcoming film “Captain America: New World Order.” The announcement set off a flurry of angry responses from Palestinian supporters online, claiming that the studio is engaging in Zionist propaganda.
“By glorifying the Israeli army & police, Marvel is promoting Israel’s violence against Palestinians & enabling the continued oppression of millions of Palestinians living under Israel’s authoritarian military rule,” the Institute for Middle East Understanding tweeted.
The name of the character also sparked a backlash as it reminds many of the Sabra and Shatila Massacre in 1982, where hundreds of Palestinian civilians were murdered in a Lebanese refugee camp by Christian militias that were supported by Israel.
The name does have other meanings that long predate the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
Sabra was introduced in a 1980 issue of The Incredible Hulk where it is revealed that she is a mutant, whose alter ego is a police officer in Israel. Her mutant powers were discovered at a young age and she was soon inducted into the IDF to serve as Israel’s first superhero in the Marvel world.
Despite the backlash, some were positive that the first Israeli superhero will be played by a Jewish Israeli actress, Shira Haas.
Critics also pointed out that Sabra is a common Middle Eastern name and Marvel’s choice was not related to the massacre, as it had not happened when the character was first created. The word also refers to the sabra plant, a type of prickly pear endemic in the Middle East.