Marvel has sparked fury in the Arab world by announcing an Israeli Mossad superhero feature in its forthcoming Captain America film.
Sabra, who appeared in the original Marvel comics in the 1980s, will be played by Shira Haas, an Israeli actress whose grandparents are Holocaust survivors, in 2024’s Captain America: New World Order.
While the news has delighted Israelis, the move has provoked outrage among Palestinians and their supporters who are angered by the hero who has superpowers and flies around in a Star of David suit.
Many have accused Disney, which owns Marvel, of ‘Zionist propaganda’, adding that her name is associated with the Sabra and Chatila massacre in Beirut in 1982 where thousands of refugees were killed during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon.
The superhero’s name is a nickname for a Jewish person born in Israel or the occupied territories and stems from the Hebrew term for the fruit of a prickly pear. It has been in widespread use since the 1930s before Israel was established.
But the word is spelled the same way in English as one of two Palestinian communities in Lebanon where a massacre of more than 1,000 Palestinian and Lebanese Shiite civilians was carried out by Lebanese Christian militiamen allied to Israel during the 1982 Lebanon-Israel war known as the Sabra and Shatila Massacre, named after the places in which it occurred.
In 1983 the Israeli government released The Kahan Commission of Inquiry into the events that occurred at the refugee camps and found the Israeli army indirectly responsible. It concluded that the army approved the militiamen’s entry into the area and didn’t take appropriate measures to prevent the killings. Ariel Sharon, then defense minister, was forced to resign as a result of the inquiry’s findings.
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Marvel’s Sabra character was created before the Sabra and Shatila massacre and has no relation to it, but the announcement to bring her to cinemas just a week before the massacre’s 40th anniversary has touched a raw nerve with Arabs, who accuse the film studio of being insensitive to one of the most tragic events in the history of the Palestinian people.