Stand With Us creates Zionist superhero

It’s still unclear if he is faster than a speeding TA cab driver, more powerful than a Merkava tank, or able to leap the Azrieli towers in a single bound.

'Captain Israel' comic book (photo credit: Stand With Us)
'Captain Israel' comic book
(photo credit: Stand With Us)
Boycotters beware: A blueand- white spandex-clad kosher superhero is on the scene, ready to defend Israel from the villains of delegitimization worldwide.
While it’s still unclear if he will be faster than a speeding Tel Aviv cab driver, more powerful than a Merkava tank, or able to leap the Azrieli towers in a single bound, “Captain Israel,” created by international Israel advocacy group Stand With Us, is a new, unabashedly Zionist addition to the Jewish superhero pantheon.
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The creation of artist Arlen Schumer bears a strong resemblance to Captain America, except the famous adamantium bullseye shield is replaced by a gleaming Magen David, and the boychik wields what appears to be a flaming menora-topped staff into battle. He also sports a rather goyische nose, and it’s unclear whether his spandex head covering conceals a “Jewfro.”
Roz Rothstein, the CEO of Stand With Us, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the comic book was being developed at this point in time because “as Israel’s Jewish connection to Israel and the land is always being challenged, we wanted to reestablish our Jewish roots and make sure that everyone understood the history, stuff we know and take for granted and that others try to chip away at.”
She said the comic was devoted to “establishing a hero, establishing roots, [and] countering the venomous BDS movement.
We’re in the business of branding the movement so that it’s clear that the players that promote boycotting Israel are not well-intentioned.”
Indeed, in the unreleased second issue, Captain Israel will face his first arch-nemesis as he “exposes the extremists behind the Venomous Snake Charmer BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions),” a sharp-fanged serpent meant to represent the world’s supporters of the BDS movement against Israel.
Rothstein said that while the other arch-enemies have not been developed, “right now the BDS enemy is a venomous snake. We’re beginning with that, and will get to different attacks against Jews and the legitimacy of Israel.”
She said the depiction of such opponents as arch-villains was meant “to point out that these guys are not well-meaning, they don’t care about peace and coexistence, they only care about ripping apart an existing nation among the family of nations.”
The comic book’s first issue was released in a limited run to attendees of Stand With Us’s annual Festival of Lights event on December 12. This week they’ve decided to begin promoting the first issue, which focuses on an interpretation of Jewish history and the events that led to Israel’s founding, as well as the subsequent wars with the neighboring Arab states.
The history lesson is narrated by Captain Israel, who “was there when Jewish civilization and national identity were founded 3,000 years ago in the land of Israel.”
While he does appear to be immortal, it is still unclear what Captain Israel’s super powers are.
“He’s evolving, he has super wisdom and super powers and he is an inspiration and a witness to every time people stand up to do things that are unjust or unfair, and inspires people to stand up for the State of Israel,” Rothstein said.
According to Rothstein, the comic’s text comes directly from Stand With Us educational material, including their “Israel 101” package and other material posted by the group online.
When asked if the comic book could be seen as propaganda directed at children, she said, “There’s room for a hero that can make it right and make it okay to stand up for the State of Israel, a superhero to bring out the hero in all of us.”
The character also bears a certain resemblance to Israel Man, a character created by Jewish comic book artist Eli Valley as a sort of parody of the image of the “new Israeli Jew” vs the sickly, state-less Diaspora Jew.
Like Captain Israel, the strong-jawed Israel Man has an athletic physique “sun-bronzed from fields of farming and battle,” a sharp contrast to his sidekick, “Diaspora Boy,” who carries a “spine crushed from centuries of servility and self-hatred.”
Valley, whose work is published in the Forward, told the Post on Sunday that he had heard about the Captain Israel comic from friends, and received a copy by mail late last week.
“If this is meant for kids, it’s a bit disturbing, but I understand that all peoples need a hero narrative to teach,” he said, adding that “all cultures have a very monochromatic narrative they teach their young to inculcate pride or patriotism and leave out nuance.”
Valley said that “my comic lampoons the internal Zionist narrative of the realized Israeli Jew replacing the Diaspora Jew, a narrative the Jewish community teaches itself to this day. In that respect, it’s different than Captain Israel, which doesn’t focus on internal Jewish self-conception.
“Still, Israel Man embodies a hubris Captain Israel only implicitly alludes to – the dangers that an arrogant, all-knowing, confidence-awash warrior can bring to the Jewish people. Both of our comics touch on the idea of a golem – but whereas Captain Israel confines itself to the golem’s miraculous strength, Israel Man focuses on the dangers the golem can bring to Jewish existence.”
Valley said he had no problem with comics being used for politics, calling them “an amazing medium” and citing the long history of comic books in political and ideological campaigns against communism, Nazis, drugs, crime and a vast array of other issues.
Where Captain Israel fits in the long history of Jewish comic book heroes, both political and non-political, remains to be seen.