Black Panthers Steal, Distribute Milk A 1972 Panther protest. Photo: Ynet News

March 14, 1972

Israel’s Black Panthers, a social justice group that seeks equality for Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews, steal crates of milk meant for wealthy Jerusalem neighborhoods and hand them out across poor neighborhoods to protest poverty and Israel’s wealth gap.

“We thank you that you decided today to give the milk to hungry children instead of the dogs and cats in your home,” read flyers posted around the rich areas. “We came this morning to implement our plan — in order to remind all citizens, the government and especially you that we care.”

Operation Milk enrages Prime Minister Golda Meir, who sees the Robin Hood-style effort as a provocation and says Israel has no shortage of milk. Eventually, the Black Panthers pay for the stolen milk.

Second-generation immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East created the Black Panthers in 1971. The group was not affiliated with the African-American Black Panthers in the United States but borrowed much of its original platform and structure, as well as its name, from the U.S. organization. The movement began in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Musara. The Black Panthers organized protests and demonstrated illegally when they were unable to gain permits. One of their most successful events was the Night of the Panthers, which attracted 5,000 to 7,000 demonstrators to Zion Square to protest ethnic discrimination March 18, 1971.

Among other results from the civil rights movement, Mizrahi and Sephardi voters help lift the Likud party to its first electoral triumph in 1977 and make the Shas party a force in the Knesset.