Marvel’s Israeli- Palestinian Controversy

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand, more heroes are being added to their ever-growing roster. More movies are being created, each more exciting than the last. However, the announcement of an upcoming film has created a large amount of controversy. In May 2024, Marvel is releasing the long-awaited “Captain America: New World Order.” Fans have been waiting for this film since the last one came out in 2014, but the addition of a new hero has people both excited and anxious.

In 1981, an Incredible Hulk comic introduced Sabra, an Israeli hero and Mossad Spy. Sabra is a classic representation of an Israeli woman; wild curly hair and a blue Magen David she wears with pride. In her first comic strip, an Arab boy’s corpse lay in front of her and Hulk after an explosion. Sabra showed little remorse and sympathy, and this angered Hulk. “Boy died because boy’s people and yours both want to own land! Boy died because you wouldn’t share!” Hulk cried to Sabra in the original comic. A few panels later, Sabra knelt next to the boy, and the narration above stated that “it has taken a monster to restore her humanity.” It took a monster like Hulk to make her sympathize with a tragic occurrence. 

Marvel made the decision to include Sabra in the upcoming film, which made many anxious that Marvel may reintroduce the chauvinistic, Anti-Semitic, and violent portrayals of Arabs in the comics. Many Palestinians and their supporters hope that that stereotype will be played out differently in the movie. Additionally, many are appalled that Marvel is “buying into Zionist propaganda” by supporting Mossad and representing it with their Israeli character. 

To Jews, the name “Sabra” is just another name for a daughter, as well as an Israeli-born Jew. A sabra is a cactus fruit; prickly on the outside, sweet on the inside, just like an Israeli Jew. However, it has a different meaning for the Palestinians. Sabra was the name of a Lebanese refuge camp, in which thousands of Palestinians were murdered. The anniversary of this event took place this September, just as the new movie was announced. Marvel is being accused of being insensitive towards this event by naming the character Sabra. However, the character dates back to even before the events in Lebanon. The name Sabra is not updated to fit the new Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2022.