Zionist cinema

Belen Fernandez
Tuesday, Sep 27, 2022

Over a period of two days just outside Beirut in September 1982, Israeli-backed Lebanese militiamen slaughtered up to 3,500 Palestinian refugees and Lebanese civilians in what became known as the Sabra and Shatila massacre. Pregnant women were stabbed in the stomach; foetuses were ripped out. Children had their throats cut; young men were lined up and shot in the back.

Israel’s military provided logistical support throughout the butchery, which occurred three months into the apocalyptic Israeli invasion of Lebanon that had been green-lit by the United States.

So it was not the most appropriate timing in the world when, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre this month, Disney’s Marvel Studios announced that its film, Captain America: New World Order, slated for release in 2024, would feature an Israeli character called Sabra. This little-known character made her Marvel Comics debut in the 1980s as the “super heroine of the state of Israel,” and will be played by Israeli actress Shira Haas.

And while her name is not a reference to the massacre in Lebanon, the whole thing is still super problematic.

Consider Sabra’s backstory. In issue 256 of The Incredible Hulk, published in 1981, she appears as a kibbutz-raised superhuman mutant holding down a day job as an Israeli police officer but whose real gig is with the country’s spy agency, Mossad. Decked out in an Israeli flag-inspired costume, Sabra is “determined to preserve her homeland from the ravages of the Hulk,” as one of the comic’s captions informs us.

Never mind Israel’s starring role in ravaging other people’s homelands, starting with that state’s very birth in 1948, when some 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed, more than 10,000 Palestinians were killed and at least three-quarters of a million more were made refugees in their own land.

Since Israel’s flair for ethnic cleansing and massacres hasn’t exactly abated over the past 74 years – just look at the ongoing terrorisation of the Gaza Strip – it is all kinds of wrong to bring to the silver screen a character who puts a superheroine’s cape on state savagery.

While the plot details of Captain America: New World Order have not been revealed, many see the film as a public relations coup for Mossad, an outfit known for extrajudicial assassinations and all manner of other misdeeds. To date, the agency has received plenty of favourable screen time, from The Spy on Netflix to Apple TV’s Tehran. Now, Marvel has bumped Mossad up a level to full-blown superhero status.

CNN quotes Avner Avraham – a former Israeli spy who currently self-defines as a “world-renowned expert in Mossad operations” as well as an “exhibition and films producer and curator” – on how Sabra will facilitate the agency’s “branding” with younger audiences: “This is the ‘TikTok’ way, the cartoon way to talk to the new generation.” Avraham also speculates that such marketing may make it easier for Mossad to recruit sources abroad.

Alas, just when you thought pop culture might be heading in a slightly more human direction with the likes of the new Netflix series Mo and Marvel’s own Ms Marvel, leave it to Hollywood to yank us back to the, um, “new world order”.

Excerpted: ‘Why Marvel’s Mossad superheroine Sabra is all kinds of wrong’. Courtesy: