In the summer of 2011, we have witnessed the largest social protest in Israel’s History. However, social protest is not a new thing in Israel.
The Black Panthers movement was an Israeli protest movement of second-generation Jewish immigrants from Middle Eastern countries. It was established in the early ’70s by Saadia Marciano & Reuven Abergel.
The Black Panthers were one of the first organizations in Israel with the mission of working for social justice for the Mizrahi Jews.
On May 18, 1972, thousands of people came to the Black Panthers’ rally in the center of Jerusalem. In the next few months, solidarity demonstrations with the Black Panthers took place in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. In most of these demonstrations, there were clashes with the police.
Israel’s authorities absolutely refused to discuss the problems of poverty and discrimination of any sector of the Israeli public. Golda Meir, the prime minister, said that these Jews brought their poverty with them when they left their native countries.
The peak of the confrontation between the Panthers and the authorities came in 1972. About 60 people were arrested at the May Day demonstration when they chanted slogans against the annexation of Arab lands as well as the poverty of their own community.
Unfortunately, although some Panther members were active in trade unions, the connection of the Black Panther movement with the working class was not strong and in December 1972, the first Black Panther Congress failed to win in the election for the Knesset.
The war in 1973 diverted the Israeli masses from the social struggle, and the Labor government wanted to prevent a new social uprising. After the war, the Israeli establishment made important concessions: the most discriminatory practices were abolished, some Sefardi activists obtained jobs in the government, and the social budget was increased.