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  • Lara Crigger

How Zionism Influenced Generations of The X-Men

In this issue:


How Zionism Influenced Generations Of The X-Men

When I was a girl, one of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons was X-Men: The Animated Series, based off the eponymous comics. (The X-Men, if you’re unfamiliar, are mutant superheroes with special abilities, who are often hated, feared, and persecuted by the rest of humanity.)

By modern standards, the show’s production values weren’t very good. The animation was choppy and the dialogue cheesy. Too much happened in too little time. But the show set my young imagination aflame. Messy and vibrant, the characters leapt off the screen, and I loved the complicated, no-holds-barred storylines that were, in retrospect, way too mature for a grade schooler.

Just how mature were they? Well, in the first few episodes, the X-Men destroy a government-run registry of mutants; they battle the secret police and their Sentinel robots, which are giant machines engineered specifically to murder mutants; and some X-Men are even enslaved in a concentration camp, where they’re forced to build the instruments of their own genocide—Sentinels—only to successfully rise up against their torturers and liberate the camp.

The X-Men cartoon went hard, is what I’m saying.

The TV show followed the storylines of the 1980’s X-Men comics written by Chris Claremont. Claremont, who is Jewish, had spent time in the 70's on a kibbutz and explicitly grounded his narrative for the comics in Zionist philosophy and Israeli politics.

For example, he transformed X-Men’s main villain, Magneto, from a goofball into a reformed antihero by basing the character on former Israeli Prime Minster Menachem Begin, who went from organizing armed uprisings against the British in 1947 to winning the Nobel Peace Prize three decades later. All Magneto wants is for humans to leave mutants alone, and he believes that by amassing sovereignty and military strength, mutants can achieve that dream.

A few weeks ago, Disney+ debuted a sequel to the mid-90’s cartoon that I’d so loved: X-Men ’97, which picks up right where the previous show left off.

It also goes just as hard.

In the second episode, Magneto—now turned good!—is put on trial for war crimes. The trial is a sham, led by a hypocritical, corrupt UN. (Sounding familiar yet?) However, the proceedings end when violent protestors break into the UN building, seeking to murder mutants and their mutant “sympathizers.”

After one of the X-Men is gravely injured, Magneto flies into a fury, saying:

“What must we do to be ‘good enough’? Is this the high road’s destination? If so, I say as I have said too many times before: Never again.”

As I watched this with my daughter—who, like her mother at that age, is obsessed with the X-Men—my mouth fell open.  

What must we do to be good enough? How many Jews have asked that of themselves over the years—especially the past few months? The reality is, nothing we do will ever be good enough. To antisemites, there’s no such thing as a Jew who passes their test; they’ll always find a reason to hate and fear us in the end.

How this episode ever got made in the anti-Zionist climate in which we live right now, I’ll never know. But I’m glad it did. X-Men ‘97 is precisely the story I need right now, when it feels like the whole world is turning against Israel and Jews at large. Some days it’s hard not to feel we stand alone.

But, like the X-Men, we are never alone. We do have friends, and more than that, we have each other. And that has always been enough. We may not have mutant superpowers, but when we work together, we can outwit and outlast any threat we may face.

I guess one thing has changed about the show since I was a little girl: This time around, Magneto is the good guy. And gosh, am I ever glad my daughter gets to see it.


X-Men ’97 is available for streaming on Disney+, with new episodes airing every Wednesday.  


New Research Shows 60% of Americans Believe Israel Has "Valid Reasons" for Fighting Hamas

New data released by Pew Research Center shows clear support for Israel's motivations in its ongoing war against Hamas. However, Americans are more divided on how they feel about the specific response to the Oct. 7th attacks, with about 40% of respondents saying Israel's actions are acceptable, 33% saying they're unacceptable, and about 25% saying they're not sure. You can read the details of the study here.


Gaza Fatality Data Has Become Completely Unreliable

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank dedicated to balanced Middle East research and policy, has published a new analysis of the Hamas-run Ministry of Health's fatality statistics. They conclude that "the numbers themselves have lost any claim to validity," in part because they do not include any information about combatant fatalities. You can read the full article here.

This underscores similar research published a few weeks ago, where a University of Pennsylvania economics professor showed that the fatality data published by the Ministry of Health was "statistically impossible", and likely represented fabricating civilian casualities to fit a pre-determined pattern. You can read coverage of that research here.


Over 1,000 Jewish Creatives Denounce Jonathan Glazer's Oscars Speech

Two weeks ago I wrote about Jonathan Glazer's Oscars speech in which he "refuted his Jewishness being hijacked" as motivation for the Israel-Hamas war. Over 1,000 Hollywood actors, directors, and other creatives have co-signed an open letter denouncing that speech, stating:

"We refute our Jewishness being hijacked for the purpose of drawing a moral equivalence between a Nazi regime that sought to exterminate a race of people, and an Israeli nation that seeks to avert its own extermination."


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