Israeli ‘black Panthers’ Will Visit U.S. to Arouse Jews on Poverty Issue

A delegation of Israel’s Black Panthers will go on a speaking tour of the United States in mid-September to try to get the American Jewish community to pressure the Israeli Government to better meet the needs of the country’s poor, it was announced at a Panther press conference here last night. The delegation will consist of Panther leaders Reuven Abergil, Charlie Biton and Saadya Marciano. They will be accompanied by Dr. Naomi Kies, of the Hebrew University’s political science faculty, an American settler who has been closely associated with the Panther movement since last March. Marciano said the purpose of the mission was “to go to the American Jewish community and to tell them about how their donations to Israel are being misspent.” He said they had no intention of raising money for the Panthers, only to influence public opinion. The Black Panthers. who took to the streets earlier this year in noisy, sometimes riotous demonstrations protesting poverty and squalid living conditions, are mainly youths and young adults of North African and Asian origin from the Jerusalem slums. They adopted the name and style of the militant Black American group but have no known connection with them. The Panthers have accused the Government of discrimination against Sephardic–Oriental–Jews in housing, employment and education. The trip to the U.S. will cost an estimated $7,000 according to the Panthers’ lawyer, Shlomo Segev. He refused to say who is financing it, Marciano claimed that the Panthers have succeeded in “arousing public consciousness of poverty” here “but we have failed to get the Government to provide the money and the resources to solve the problem.” He said the Panthers feel the only way they can pressure the Government is “to go to the source of the money and to get U.S. Jewry to pressure for Israel’s real needs.”

Marciano said the money for the trip “comes from private individuals in Israel who are not connected with any official organizations.” He would not identify them. Asked if the money might not be better spent to aid poor families, Marciano replied. “That sum would get a flat for one family perhaps and we need to organize millions.” Abergil said he wanted “to make it clear that we are Israeli patriots.” He said “We don’t want to meet leftwing groups or the American Black Panthers who we understand are small and disunited. We want to reach the American Jews and especially the youth.” Asked if they didn’t want to meet American Blacks, Abergil replied, “Why not? We’re ready to meet anybody.” Some of the Panthers at the press conference have criminal records and some have cases pending with the police. Asked if this might prevent them from leaving the country entering the U.S., Biton replied, “We are not going to present any danger to the American people and everybody knows that we are coming back.” The Panthers announced yesterday that they have opened a branch in Haifa’s Wadi Salib quarter which they claim already has 100 members.

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