Unorthodox star Shira Haas is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest recruit. The Emmy-nominated Israeli actress will play the comic-book character Sabra in the upcoming Captain America: New World Order, as part of the studio’s Phase Five. Marvel announced the news during a panel at Disney’s D23 Expo, during which it also revealed that Tim Blake Nelson will reprise his role as Incredible Hulk villain the Leader. The superpowered mutant Sabra was first introduced in the Incredible Hulk comics in 1980, and her inclusion in an MCU film has sparked controversy, owing to the character’s being a Mossad agent engaged in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict who, in her first major comic-book appearance, does not see a “dead Arab boy as a human being” until hearing an impassioned speech from the Hulk. Critics on Twitter have noted that the name “Sabra” is particularly insensitive for this character because it calls to mind the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982, in which between 460 and 3,500 Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites in refugee camps were massacred by the right-wing Christian Lebanese Forces, a massacre in which the IDF was complicit (the character was named after an unrelated Israeli slang term and was introduced to comics before the massacre). This week is the 40th anniversary of the massacre.
Some critics online are also calling the film’s subtitle offensive, in light of the film’s villain being played by Jewish actor Nelson and the introduction of the MCU’s first Israeli superhero. They point out that New World Order evokes the language of antisemitic conspiracy theories. The film will feature Anthony Mackie as the titular Captain America, Sam Wilson, and is slated for a 2024 release.