Black Panthers Prowl Again in Jerusalem

Inspired by Americans, Social Justice Movement Thrives in Israel

Street Art: Inspired by the Israeli Black Panthers, the Muslala collective creates political art in Jerusalem.
Courtesy Muslala
Street Art: Inspired by the Israeli Black Panthers, the Muslala collective creates political art in Jerusalem.

By Margaret Eby

Published November 27, 2012, issue of November 30, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

The Panther awareness sessions produced a rare mix in modern Israel; they were places where ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews and Palestinians met. “We got criticism from both sides, Israeli recalls. “The extreme right said, ‘Hey you’re bringing Arabs to the neighborhood.’ And the left, they said, ‘We aren’t interested in your idea of normalization.

How can we sit with Israelis while they’re still occupying our land?’” Some questioned whether the Panthers, a fringe organization that had a reputation for violence in their heyday, should be celebrated in such a fashion. Several of Muslala’s related works — a billboard that featured a painting of a woman, a huge graffiti sign that read “Help!” — were defaced or painted over by enraged local residents. But the nights were enough of a hit that Musrara is considering making a permanent watermelon stand and event venue there. “It’s the first step,” Israeli said.

What do the actual Panthers think about Jerusalem artists using their story to promote social justice? Koko Deri, for his part, is happy to have young people involved in activism once more. “There are still a lot of problems, and technology has changed the culture completely,” Deri said. “Today people are passive. They prefer to sit at home on the Internet instead of going out to the street and change things. We need people to imitate our methods.”

But to Israeli, that’s not the point. Trying to resurrect the Panthers as an actual movement, he told me, is like “riding a dead donkey.” The hope is that Israelis will remember their own social history, and that change is possible from grassroots organizations like the Panthers. The way that the Panthers worked — using what they could, building with or without the permission of the state — is, to Israeli, what art should do: provoke and question the status quo. In a place like Jerusalem, it’s particularly important to keep the threads of history alive, to encourage artists to speak out about their values. The artistic community’s embrace of the Black Panthers is a way of preserving social history as well as political landmarks, a criticism of Israeli culture that manages to also celebrate it. “There’s amazing memory, here in Musrara,” Israeli said. “But it’s crucial to show that there’s another narrative in Israeli society. It makes people think. It’s the right thing at the right moment.”

Margaret Eby has contributed to The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Slate and Salon, among other publications. She lives in Brooklyn.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.