Text size

Sa'adia Marciano, the former Black Panther leader and member of Knesset who died Friday at the age of 58, used to say, according to his sister, "The government is corrupt and will continue to create social gaps in the country." Marciano's sister, Ayala Sabag, a social activist, said her brother was working to re-establish the movement of which he was a founder in the early 1970s.

Among the mourners at Marciano's funeral Friday in Jerusalem were those he would call the "oppressed and the wretched of Israeli society," according to his friend, former MK and fellow Black Panther leader Charlie Biton: the homeless, the elderly and drug addicts that Marciano tried to help, sometimes putting them up in his own home, in addition to social activists and former Black Panthers.

The Knesset Guard placed a wreath on the grave, and among the eulogizers were former minister Shimon Sheetrit, and MK Yoram Marciano, a relative.

"We must raise the banner that Sa'adia Marciano raised, we must continue the struggle," Biton said. Poet Erez Biton said that as young university students in the early 1970s, "We were ashamed to live normal lives when you, at age 20, together with people with a spirit of greatness, put yourself in the eye of the storm."

Marciano, born in Morocco, was the sixth of 11 children raised in a small apartment in the low-income Musrara neighborhood of Jerusalem. In 1971, he joined forces with Charlie Biton, Reuven Abargil, Eli Avichzer and others to establish the Israeli Black Panther movement. He was arrested often during protest rallies. Attorney Avi Bardugo, a member of the Panthers, said in a phone interview that Marciano "was the face of the Black Panthers, he was the face of protest. The day the police took him and beat his face swollen it shocked the public. That was when everybody started asking why they went up against us so harshly."

Years later, when Marciano was sworn in as an MK, he told Haaretz his activities had taught people "not to be ashamed of being Moroccan."

Marciano began his career as a lawmaker in the Sheli faction, later becoming a one-man faction and finally moving to Labor, but eventually losing his Knesset seat. He remained active on the social front, establishing a drug rehabilitation center and, most recently, distributing blankets and heaters to the elderly in cooperation with the Pensioners Party.