Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi (CNN)The classic 1981 Marvel comic page shows the giant green Hulk, tears streaming down his face as he yells at Sabra, an Israeli superhero and agent of the country’s Mossad spy agency. The corpse of a young Palestinian boy, killed in an explosion by apparently Arab “terrorists” at his feet.
“Boy died because boy’s people and yours both want to own land! Boy died because you wouldn’t share!” the Hulk says.
A few panels later, the woman in the white and blue costume with a Star of David on her chest kneels next to the boy.
“It has taken the Hulk to make her see this dead Arab boy as a human being,” the comic says. “It has taken a monster to awaken her own sense of humanity.”
Sabra, the Israeli superhero, made numerous appearances in Marvel’s comics over the years, starring alongside top icons such as the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and the X-Men.
More than forty years after Sabra was introduced, Disney’s Marvel plans to bring her to film in “Captain America: New World Order,” set to be released in 2024. That has created an uproar among those who fear that reviving Sabra’s character would spread offensive stereotypes about Arabs and the dehumanization of Palestinians in cinema.
Critics say many of the Arab characters she interacted with in the comics are shown as misogynistic, antisemitic and violent, and are questioning whether the troubling portrayals of Arabs will play out differently in the film.
“That comic doesn’t suggest anything positive about how this film will play out,” said Yousef Munayyer, a Palestinian-American writer and analyst based in Washington, D.C. “The whole concept” of turning Israeli spies into heroes “is insensitive and disgraceful.”
“The glorification of violence against Palestinians specifically and Arabs and Muslims more broadly in mass media has a long and ugly history in the West and it has remarkable staying power,” he added.