Saadia Marciano, founder of Israel’s Black Panthers, dies

Black Panther logo from the USA

From British daily The Independent:

Saadia Marciano: Founder of Israel’s Black Panthers

Saadia Marciano, social activist and politician: born Oujda, Morocco 1 May 1950; married Vicky Tarabulus (one son); died Jerusalem 21 December 2007

Published: 26 December 2007

Saadia Marciano was one of the founders of the Israeli Black Panthers, a band of young North African immigrants who thrust the grievances of their under-privileged community on to the national agenda in the early 1970s and forced successive governments to treat the Mizrachim (orientals) as subjects not objects.

The Zionist establishment was thrown by the challenge. Golda Meir, the Labour prime minister who briefly put some of them in prison, said after meeting a delegation that they were “not nice people”. …

Although the movement fragmented and petered out after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, it marked the beginning of the end of deference on one side and patronising on the other. To the dismay of some of the Panthers, it paved the way for Menachem Begin‘s right-wing Likud to win the 1977 general election and for the emergence of Shas, a backward-looking religious party, as the voice of Sephardi emancipation.

The young rebels took the American Black Panthers as their model. Marciano said: “Either the cake will be shared by all or there will be no cake.” …

Early one morning in March 1972, they stole bottles of milk from the doorsteps of the middle-class Jerusalem suburb of Rehavia and delivered them to those of the poor with a label reading: “The children in the poverty stricken neighbourhoods do not find the milk they need on their doorstep every morning. In contrast, there are cats and dogs in rich neighborhoods that get plenty of milk, day in, day out.” …

Although the Panthers allied themselves with the radical left, their aim was to shock the Ashkenazi elite rather than overthrow it. Kochavi Shemesh, another Panther leader, said on the 30th anniversary: “Saadia came up with the name Black Panthers. The idea was to frighten Golda. She said that this name wouldn’t let her sleep. That was what we wanted. With this name, we changed the discourse between the social movements and the establishment.”

Saadia Marciano was born in the Moroccan town of Oujda in 1950. His family moved to Jerusalem later that year. He grew up in the impoverished Musrara neighbourhood on the border between the Jewish and Arab parts of the city.

After the collapse of the Black Panthers, he continued to campaign for social equality and ran a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts.

US Black Panther and Green parties: here.

11 thoughts on “Saadia Marciano, founder of Israel’s Black Panthers, dies

  1. Hi,
    I’m sorry to know of his death. I used to be an activist in the Israeli Peace Camp (then “Machaneh Sheli”) back in 1977-80 and some of the split former leaders of the Panthers were there too. It was not easy to work with them. While they where akin for recognition, demanding to be awarded high positions, they where unable to mobilize their people, covering themselves with excuses. OK, they lacked a sophisticated education (I remember an Argentine fellow who lived in a deprived Jerusalem neighborhood organizing people according with Paulo Freire’s teachings), but even so. Pleased to know your place.



    FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 01, 2008
    18:41 MECCA TIME, 15:41 GMT
    Angry Arabs protest in Israel

    About 15,000 people took part in the protest
    in Sakhnin in Northern Israel [AFP]

    Israeli Arabs have staged mass strikes in the north of the country in
    protest against a government decision to end an inquiry into a police
    shooting which killed 13 people.

    On Friday Arab owned shops in the town of Sakhnin completely shut down
    while three quarters of stores in Nazareth also closed in protest.

    The strike comes after Menahem Mazuz, the Israeli attorney general,
    announced on Sunday that there would be no legal action against police
    over the death of 12 Arab Israelis and a Palestinian in October 2000.

    The decision has led to relatives accusing the justice system of discrimination.

    A 2003 state commission found that the police were largely to blame
    for the civilian deaths during protests in Sakhnin in support of the
    Palestinian uprising.

    On Monday, a group of Arab Israeli representatives, the so-called
    “Follow-up Committee”, urged all Arab Israeli businesses and public
    services to join a general strike in protest at the closure of the

    Thousands of protesters took part later in a demonstration in central Sakhnin.

    Police prejudice

    Mazuz said there was insufficient proof for a conviction and that the
    families of the victims would not allow post-mortems to be carried out
    for ballistics purposes.

    Representatives of the Arab minority reacted angrily to the news.

    Shawki Khatib, the head of the Follow-up Committee, accused Israel of
    “giving its backing to the murder of Arab citizens”.

    Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin reporting from Sakhnin said: “The
    organisers of today’s event have put the number of Palestinians
    participants at about 15,000.

    “Today the Palestinians came here, had a loud message….They wanted
    the world to know that they live in a system where they cannot get any

    The Orr Commission’s report of September 2003 found that government
    prejudice and police incompetence lay at the heart of the incidents
    during the pro-intifada demonstration.

    Israel’s Arab minority today accounts for 1.2 million of Israel’s
    seven-million population.


  3. 09/03/2008

    Heads to the right

    By Gideon Levy

    Tags: Israel

    It is still unclear whether the terrorist who entered the Mercaz Harav yeshiva on Thursday night and killed eight of its students knew exactly what place he was entering. But the thousands of people who walked behind the coffins on Friday knew very well. “The flagship of religious Zionism” was the common expression used, the “holy of holies”; there was even a hyperbolic comparison to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in terms of sanctity. Some of the praise of the yeshiva is certainly well deserved, and nothing, of course, can justify the horrible killing of young boys in a library. Still, it would be appropriate to recall, even at this difficult hour, what this yeshiva has brought forth.

    Mercaz Harav is the flagship of the last group in Israeli society still operating in the realm of ideas. Religious Zionists are the only group, aside from the ultra-Orthodox population, whose members are willing to lay down their lives for the collective and its worldview. It is a group that responds faithfully to its leaders – a group that even has leaders – and idolizes them. It is also a fairly homogenous group in terms of its thinking: Some 80 percent of its members define themselves as right-wingers. None of this is true of Israel’s complacent, individualist secular public. And so we end up with a minority, 12 to 15 percent of the population, whose influence in certain areas is crucial and far exceeds its own relative size.

    No one can explain in depth the magical powers of extortion this group has obtained. Nor can anyone ignore the damage it has caused the country. Without the settlement enterprise, peace might have reigned here already; without the Gush Emunim movement, supported by successive Israeli governments, there would be no settlements; and without the Mercaz Harav yeshiva, there would be no Gush Emunim. This institution, then, was the cradle of the settlement enterprise and its driving force. Most of the students killed in the terrorist attack were second-generation settlers. It should be said again, clearly and unequivocally: Their killing was a criminal act. (An unusual personal comment: On Friday I said in a radio interview, among other things, that the Mercaz Harav yeshiva was a fascist institution; right-wing circles spread a rumor on the Internet that I had said the slain students were fascists. This is not true. In any case, if my comment about the yeshiva offended people in their grief, I wish to express my sincere sorrow and apology).
    From Mercaz Harav emerged the rabbis that led the vilest move in Zionist history. Most of the delusional right-wing perpetrators and the mongers of hate for Arabs came from this flagship. Religious leaders such as Rabbis Moshe Levinger, Haim Druckman, Avraham Shapira, Yaakov Ariel, Zefania Drori, Shlomo Aviner and Dov Lior, all idolized by their students, raised generations of nationalist youths within those walls.

    Rabbi Lior, for example, head of the Council of Rabbis of Judea and Samaria, ruled in 2004 that the Israel Defense Forces was allowed to kill innocent people. How do these words sound now, after the attack in Jerusalem? Is the permission ours alone? Back then, Lior ruled that, “There should be no feeling of guilt at the morality of foreigners.” He decreed that the Knesset could not decide to evacuate settlements, and that soldiers were allowed to refuse the order to evacuate settlers. Rabbi Druckman made a similar ruling.

    In 2002, Rabbi Aviner, another graduate of the yeshiva, called for the execution of Israelis who refused to serve in the military. Back then the refusal came from left-wingers, of course. Aviner also ruled that war casualties are no cause for national grief, and he called for the abolition of Yom Hazikaron, the annual day of remembrance for fallen Israeli soldiers. He compared the road map peace plan to the appeasement of Hitler and considers the evacuation of settlements an “illegal crime.”

    The same yeshiva graduated Hanan Porat, one of the founders of Gush Emunim and one of those who returned to Gush Etzion. Another alumnus, Rabbi Levinger, beat him to it with the Jewish settlement at the Park Hotel in the heart of Hebron. These are the prominent figures that have emerged from this radical seminary and that is their legacy. From here they preached the application of different laws of morality and justice than the universal ones; yes, where the chosen people is concerned, there is such a thing.

    With all the changes religious Zionism has undergone – from the time the Mizrahi movement joined the Zionist Congress, through its existence as a moderate stream that deftly managed to combine religion and modernity, to its transformation into the source of Israeli nationalism – the movement has managed to retain an exalted, inexplicable standing in Israel’s largely secular society. There are still very many secular Israelis who view the religious Zionists, the students of the Mercaz Harav yeshiva and the West Bank’s so-called “hilltop youths” as a group of pioneers committed to noble values, as the pillar of fire advancing before the camp. Even those who deeply detest the Haredi public reserve a warm spot in their hearts for religious Zionism, the very group that has inflicted more calamity on us than all the Haredim put together.

    The killing at the yeshiva is heartrending. No one deserved it. The innocents in Gaza and the victims at Mercaz Harav in Jerusalem were all an unnecessary sacrifice. They have already paid the highest possible price. Their families and those around them will probably adopt even more radical positions now, and so we will be led into another round of endless bloodshed.


  4. [Hi Ahuva, thanks for this information. Unfortunately, over zealous anti spam software stopped it. But I am restoring it here. Administrator]

    Email :
    Author : Ahuva
    URL :
    Ayala, his sister, continues to fight on the frontlines of the Mizrahi struggle, recently reviving the Israeli Black Panther movement, placing it once again on Israel’s political radar.

    I recently read a fascinating interview featuring Ayala-


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