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Furore on social media after Marvel introduces first Israeli superhero

  • September 13, 2022

In a first, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is getting its first Israeli superhero, with Shira Haas set to star as Ruth Bat-Seraph aka “Sabra” in the next Captain America movie. The recent move has caused an uproar on social media and rightly so. 

Haas won worldwide fame with her role in the internationally acclaimed Netflix series Shtisel. For Marvel, she will play a former Mossad spy whose special powers include super strength, speed and the ability to fly at great velocity. Fans were quick to note the controversial nature of the character’s inclusion, with the move seeming to show Marvel taking a step into the touchy arena of the Israel/Palestine conflict.

A user shed light on the character’s disturbing history in the comics, pointing out specific troubling incidents in the way she and others were written in the past. “This is how Arabs are presented in Sabra’s first appearance in Marvel comics. The word Palestinian is never used. An Arab child in the comic who is an illiterate liar and thief is killed by black veiled bombers so Sabra can cry over them. Literally shoot and cry propaganda,” the tweep penned.

One user discussed the origin of the Sabra name, including its ties to a specific historical incident. “Apparently ‘Sabra’ is a term used to refer to Jews born in historic Palestine (correct me if I’m wrong). It is also the name of the neighborhood in Beirut where Israeli forces oversaw the massacre of thousands of Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila Massacre in 1982,” the tweet read. 

One tweep, while taking a jibe, linked the heroine’s potential actions to those of the Israeli government she is, at the very least, written to be a part of.  “The villain is a six-year-old Palestinian child,” he said. 

One more user made a similar comment, imagining the ways a character like this would act in the service of a very specific political agenda. “Israel’s Marvel superhero Sabra has many powers, including demolishing Palestinian homes with her mind and assassinating Palestinian children with her laser beam eyes,” shared the user. 

Other users shared:

In the comics, Sabra grew up on a government-run kibbutz where she was placed after she began to show her powers and later became Mossad’s first superhero agent. She is also portrayed as losing a son to an attack and breaking ranks to bring his killers to justice. 

Sabra is the colloquial term for Israeli-born Jews, which draws from the name for a spiky desert cactus that is prickly on the outside but soft on the inside.

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