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Ignorance is Bliss

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When most Americans buy overpriced tickets to go watch the latest movie, the last thing they want is a history lesson. But as Disney studios release their newest Captain America movie, a history lesson may be exactly what American moviegoers need.  

Joining the long list of Marvel characters in the newest Captain America movie is Sabra, an Israeli police officer turned superhero and secret service agent. Sabra, whose real name is Ruth Bat-Seraph, first appeared in an issue of the Incredible Hulk as a militant Israeli nationalist. Sabra’s mutant superpowers are used by the IDF, the Israeli Defense Force, to fight enemies of the Israeli government. 

This is where the superhero comic stops being just a superhero comic. The depiction of Sabra moves beyond being innocent and family friendly, and becomes problematic and dehumanizing. The enemy of the Israeli government throughout this issue isn’t another nation, or  supervillain; it’s the innocent people of Palestine. Sabra regularly dehumanizes Palestinians throughout the issue, labeling these victims as “terrorists,” a phrase most Arabs today have become very familiar with. 

The most blatant problem with Sabra as a superhero is that her character represents the real conflict between Israel and Palestine as a whole. Israel is a nation that received $3.8 billion from the United States in 2020 alone –a nation with infinitely more resources than Palestine. This almost exactly mirrors the power imbalance between Sabra, a genetically modified superhero, and the defenseless Arabs she vilifies. 

Throughout Marvel comics, Sabra regularly devalues the lives of Arabs, holding her nationalist ideals above the lives of human beings. In a scene involving Sabra and the Hulk, a young Arab boy is caught in the crossfire and killed by militant terrorists. The readers of the issue receive a somewhat shocking line after Sabra discovers the dead boy’s body: “it has taken the Hulk to make Sabra see this dead Arab boy as a human being.” 

The irony behind this line is glaring, considering how many lives have been lost during the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Since 2008 alone, there have been almost 4,000 Palestinian lives lost due to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. 

While there may not be an obvious connection between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Marvel reintroducing Sabra as a superhero, a clear message is being sent. 

What we consume ends up defining us. The media we are exposed to helps shape our world views and opinions, and this places a responsibility on media companies to use this power and influence correctly. But instead, we see one of the most infamous multimedia companies misusing their platform and dehumanizing Palestinians, who are struggling with this conflict today. 

The ability to turn off our brains and mindlessly watch a movie without considering the social implications of it is a privilege. It is a privilege that Palestinians don’t get to enjoy. 

Salma Hassab

October 26, 2022

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