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Wednesday, September 14, 2022 

Israeli cartoonist warns new Captain America film's portrayal of Sabra could be woke

There's been news - superficial as could be expected - that Israeli actress Shira Haas was cast in the role of the Bill Mantlo/Sal Buscema-created Sabra in Captain America: New World Order. Here's what i24 News is saying about it:
Israeli actress Shira Haas joined the Marvel cast in the fourth "Captain America" film, in which she will play an Israeli superheroine, according to an announcement made Saturday evening at Disney's D23 Expo conference in California.

According to Variety, Haas will play a former spy agent named Ruth Bat-Seraph aka "Sabra," a term used for Israeli-born Jews. She first appeared in the Marvel comics in 1980.

Sabra served in the Mossad and has superpowers, which include extraordinary strength, stamina and speed. She also possesses anti-gravity devices, allowing her to fly through the air faster than 300 miles per hour.
Alas, this alone is not reason enough to watch a film coming at a time when Kevin Feige's turning their screenplays into woke garbage, as the recent Thor installment makes clear. And on that note, YnetNews says veteran Israeli cartoonist Uri Fink is not optimistic. It also tells what he thinks was a case of plagiarism, based on a character he created early in his art career in the late 1970s:
Since Disney announced that Israeli actress Shira Haas will play an Israeli superhero named Sabra in the next installment of the Captain America series, veteran Israeli comic book artist and writer Uri Fink's world went abuzz.

The reason? In 1978, at the tender age of 15, Fink created Sabraman — the first Israeli superhero — who shares some striking similarities with Marvel's heroine, first and foremost, their names.

"I'm getting messages from people who know the character, asking what I'm going to do about it, as if they're encouraging me to sue Marvel and make a killing off the whole thing," Fink tells Ynet.

"It's not the first time. It already happened in 1980 when [Marvel] first created the character, two years after Sabraman, but I didn't think it was right to sue them and I still don't think this is appropriate and that I would make anything out of it. It's just a word. You can't copyright a word. Sabra is just a word."

Sabra is a prickly pear cactus that is very common in Israel and has become a colloquial term used to describe native Israelis — rough and tough on the outside but soft and sweet on the inside.

Fink says it is likely the American comic book publisher drew inspiration from his work back in the day.

"I do believe they saw Sabraman back in the day. There were articles written about it the world over and I gave interviews to various papers, so it is likely they saw it," he says.

"Many guys in DC and Marvel were Jewish back then and the book made it to the Jewish communities abroad too. The comic was in English, and Jewish American guys dug it, it likely reached them, but it wasn't the most polished comic book in the world."
Yes, maybe it's possible, based on how similar their costumes look, although Sabraman appears to have a mask on, while Ruth Bat-Seraph doesn't wear one. That aside, here's where Fink provides a realist view in context of the PC mentality now ruining much of showbiz:
However, Fink voiced pessimism about how the Israeli character would be portrayed by contemporary comic artists.

"Sabra went on to feature in some stories that weren't very pro-Israel, it was already weird back then. So I don't think this would augur well for how she'd be depicted by Marvel now that they've gone woke," he said, using a term that is popularly used to describe people highly alert to social injustices but is also used by some as a derogatory term for a flavor of contemporary progressive leftist ideology which, among other things, is highly critical of Israel.
Sadly, her first official appearance in 1981 is nothing to write home about, because of the troubling moral equivalence and downright sloppy writing that permeated the story, and some of that unfortunately questionable scripting that took place in the original Hulk #256 where Sabra officially debuted (she may have made her first appearance 6 issues prior in a cameo) is further elaborated upon here. First:
In a move that is already thrilling some Jewish audiences and stirring controversy among other international fans and activists, Marvel Studios announced that an Israeli comic book hero will appear in the next installment of its Captain America movie franchise.
Seriously, I find it dismaying, no matter how much it does happen, when audiences just go bonkers over the mere announcement, when the finished product can be anything but a celebration. And the original debut is just why it could be thought otherwise:
Sabra (also the word for an Israeli prickly pear, which has a bristly outside and soft and sweet inside, and is used as a nickname for an Israeli person) is a Mossad agent and police officer with superhuman speed and strength. The 1981 comic that first prominently features her involves multiple quotes and plot points that would be seen as taboo in a contemporary Hollywood blockbuster.

In the comic, the Incredible Hulk mistakenly ends up in Tel Aviv, where he befriends an Arab boy who gets killed in an attack by identifiably Arab terrorists. Sabra — real name Ruth Bat-Seraph — witnesses the attack and assumes Hulk is in cahoots with the terrorists. She attacks Hulk with “energy quills,” weakening him, but the Hulk explains that the boy was his friend — and references the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Boy died because boy’s people and yours want to own land!” the Hulk tells Sabra. “Boy died because you wouldn’t share. Boy died because of two old books that say his people and yours must fight and kill for land!”
This is all delivered without any genuine quotations from the Judaist Bible/Torah or the Islamic Koran/Hadith provided. What Mantlo injected was incredibly embarrassing, and it makes little difference that it's a "product of its time". That doesn't make it any less poor. This is another example where people don't realize that a specific storyline where a character debuted is, unfortunately, the result of bad writing rushed into production. That the sea port in Tel Aviv isn't even portrayed very accurately is the least of the tale's problems.

Things are not getting better when seeing a columnist for the far-left Forward exploit the moment for confusing propaganda:
Even as the MCU has made efforts to stare down institutionalized American racism and overreach of government surveillance a la the Patriot Act, many still view these movies and shows as little more than military propaganda. (The studio has, in fact, partnered with the military quite a bit.)
He makes it sound as though the army's anything but influenced by leftism. That aside, it's loathsomely reprehensible how this puff piece builds on anti-American propaganda of the sort that claims the USA is "systemically racist". And it's just like them to cite Civil War as though it were a positive example, when it was most definitely not. Once, superheroes, if they fought each other in the past century, it wasn't over partisan politics, and IIRC, in the Avengers/Defenders War of 1973, it was over misunderstandings, and communications with a paralyzed Black Knight that got warped by Loki and Dormammu along the way. Yet these propagandists on the left never care.
Introducing the Israeli counterpart to Captain America, then, whose comic origins tie her directly to the Jewish State’s intelligence agency, has raised eyebrows. It’s scarcely surprising, given how over at DC the mere casting of Gal Gadot as an Amazon from a fictional island generates perennial outrage.

A critic on Twitter wrote that Sabra’s powers will include “demolishing Palestinian homes with her mind.” Many others noted how Sabra’s debut, in an issue of “The Incredible Hulk,” featured the killing of an Arab child (the word “Palestinian” is never used) so that Sabra can have a teachable moment. As we delve into the controversy a little more, let’s start there.
At least this is making clear that, no matter the content of the upcoming film, antisemites reject Mantlo's creation from the outset. Then:
She first shows up in 1980’s “Incredible Hulk” No. 256 “Power in the Promised Land!” She mistakenly believes that the Hulk is working with terrorists and the two fight. In their final confrontation, the Hulk cradles the body of Sahad, an Arab boy he befriended who was killed in an explosion caused by terrorists. The Hulk then lectures Sabra about the toll of the ongoing conflict.

“Boy died because boy’s people and yours both want to own land!” the Hulk yells. “Boy died because you wouldn’t share!” (Remember, this is the Hulk talking.)


What makes the Hulk even angrier is that the crux of the conflict is because of “two old books” (i.e., the Quran and Hebrew Bible) and “now boy is dead — but boy didn’t even read books!”

Many online have rightly noted how Sahad, who first tells the Hulk about the “two old books,” is a racist depiction of a Palestinian kid. He is illiterate, steals and lies to tourists for money. The only other sort of Palestinians the issue shows are terrorists. If this is indeed the nuance we can expect from Sabra’s corner of the world, there’s reason for concern.
Now, let's hold on here for a moment. The kid tells Hulk about the books...yet he's illiterate and never actually read either?!? If that's not some of the most slapdash writing, I don't know what is. Of course, why does the columnist keep insisting on referring to the Arab boy in focus as a "palestinian", and not as an Arab or even a Moslem? Funny how the columnist doesn't suggest maybe the boy should've been a Jewish child instead, since that way, Mantlo could've proven he wanted to at least try to provide insight on Jewish society from a child's perspective.
But Sabra has had a few decades to develop and she has gone on other adventures — helping to keep the son of an ambassador to Israel from turning into the next Adolf Hitler; becoming an advocate for mutants; even working alongside a Palestinian teammate called (sigh) Arabian Knight.

Overall, she’s a pretty minor character with just 50 appearances and it’s far too early to tell what her role in the new film may be.
Oh, and what's this here? I thought Arabian Knight, introduced an issue later, was of Egyptian background, and this sorry excuse for a columnist is taking this out of context too? I'm sorry, but this only compounds the perception he's telling all this out of contempt for Israel, to undermine its birthright history, and suggests he doesn't respect Golda Meir, who refuted the "palestianian" propaganda decades ago. He does make one fairly accurate observation, though:
While some will always balk at the idea of featuring an Israeli superhero at all, this may, in fact, not be where much of the world is at, even as many rally behind BDS. That said, it’s more than likely the film will face a ban in the Middle Eastern countries that have yet to normalize relations with Israel.

Even after the Abraham Accords, don’t expect Haas to be walking a red carpet in Saudi Arabia for the premiere. That new world order is still out of reach.
That is bound to be the case, sadly. If a number of Muslim dominated countries wouldn't screen Gal Gadot's movies, there's no reason to assume this'll be any different.

Through this, I found a Twitter thread posted by Simcha Gross, an assistant professor on ancient Jewish history at the University of Pennsylvania, who found the 1st full tale guest starring Sabra cringeworthy after researching it. He describes the following, in example: Not quite, in regards to Arabs: the adult marketeers who yell, "stop, thief!" and give chase are not just Arabic, they're clearly identified as Moslems by the keffiyes they wear on their heads. But, the point about the pseudo-citation of the Bible/Koran is well made, mainly because the boy, as indicated, didn't even read books. I did think it was odd, in addition, that it's made to sound like Sabra never actually cared about the child in the first place. There's many stories built around the problems of misunderstandings. But this, from a political perspective, really takes the cake. The way it's set up also has the effect of watering down the serious issue of Islamic terrorism, which was just as relevant a topic in the early 80s as it is today. And here, it is silly and superfluous to use those kind of descriptions for her personality. Now, you could argue it wouldn't be entirely implausible for the Hulk to dish out an ill-informed lecture. There were other times when he was depicted taking questionable positions, and in Hulk form, Bruce Banner could be mentally messed up (let's also note that in later years, around the time Peter David became writer, multiple personality disorder was emphasized circa issue #377). Even so, the script by Mantlo is very slapdash and the product of people who resorted to cheap paths instead of firm challenges. Not many may realize it, but Sabra's early entries, unfortunately, were not very good, as this story suggests.

And considering Hollywood's track record in the past few decades on the subject of Israel's history, that's one more reason why I'm not optimistic this new Capt. America sequel would respect Israel, let alone Sabra herself. Let's remember, Feige is a bad lot, and has already proven so with the most recent Marvel movies containing wokeness.

Update: Federalist editor David Harsanyi has more.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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