The Black Panthers of Israel and Ya’akov Shofar’s Musrara Photographs: Taming and Politicisation (1978–83)

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In 1971, men from Musrara, an impoverished Jerusalem neighbourhood, formed the Black Panthers in protest against institutionalised discrimination against Jews from Muslim countries (Mizrahim). This article examines Born in Israel, a photography project by Ya’akov Shofar that appeared as a photography book in 1984 and as an exhibition at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem in 2017, to unpack the differences between these two instances. Shofar’s 1984 project portrayed young Mizrahi Musrara men while being interviewed by a Jerusalem municipality social worker. This collaboration had political potential but only fragments of these interviews are reproduced in the book. Although the men participated in the Black Panthers’ protests, the book underscores their ethnicity and avoids mentioning this movement. My study explores the visual and discursive elements that depoliticised the book due to the Black Panthers’ perceived threat to the hegemonic social order and in relation to local developments in photography as fine art. I show that, unlike the book, the 2017 Israel museum exhibition promotes Born in Israel’s relation to the Black Panthers, but also had limitations and contradictions. Finally, I argue that accounting for the unabridged interviews uncovers hegemonic Israel’s patronising attitude towards the marginalised photographed men, and compensates for lacunas in this project’s presentations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)266-282
Number of pages17
JournalHistory of Photography
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • 2017)
  • Black Panthers of Israel (1971–73)
  • Born in Israel (1978–84
  • Mizrahi masculinity
  • Mizrahi protest
  • Musrara
  • Ya’akov Shofar (1947–)
  • social documentary
  • socially engaged photography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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