Wednesday, 27 February 2019

The Suspension of Chris Williamson MP is Shameful – This May Be the End of the Corbyn Project


It is Tom Watson Who Should Have Been Suspended for Racism and Disloyalty  



 The suspension of Chris Williamson is shameful. If there has been one MP who has steadfastly opposed the false anti-Semitism campaign that has been waged for the past 3½ years it is Chris Williamson.
Shamefully Betrayed by Corbyn's Cowardice
Nothing that Chris Williamson has said is anti-Semitic. Chris Williamson is first and foremost an anti-racist MP who has defended Marc Wadsworth and Jackie Walker throughout the racist attacks by the Zionists on them. It is Chris’s accusers who have fed the anti-Semitic trolls by deliberately associating Israel’s war crimes with Jewish people.  That was the meaning of the adoption of the IHRA definition of ‘anti-Semitism’.
Does Corbyn really think that the Zionists are going to let up on him if he throws his friends to the wolves?
It is obvious that having achieved the expulsion of Marc Wadsworth and Tony Greenstein  and the removal of Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker’s suspension that the racists and Zionists who support the world’s only apartheid state, Israel, would turn on the only principled MP in the Parliamentary Labour Party.
The Guardian and its Zionist leader writer Jonathan Freedland have waged an incessant war against Corbyn and those who support him
What has happened today will not appease the Israel Lobby.  On the contrary they will renew their efforts to obtain the head of Corbyn.  The Zionist lobby has repeatedly called Corbyn an anti-Semite.  They will not give up now but will  renew their efforts until Corbyn is deposed. 
Corbyn is a fool for having succumbed to the demands for Chris Williamson’s head.  Jennie Formby may have formally suspended him but it was Corbyn who who gave his assent.
Tom Watson is reliant on large and regular donations from the supporters of Labour Friends of Israel
It is ironic that the Jewish Labour Movement, which boasts that it is the ‘sister party’ of the Israeli Labour Party, has said absolutely nothing about the ILP’s support for the attempt of Netanyahu to deport 40,000 Black African refugees.  The ILP is a party that openly advocates segregation of Jews and Palestinians.   It is a thoroughly racist party, which organised the original ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.  These racist scumbags are still affiliated to the Labour Party whilst good socialists like Chris Williamson are subject to a racist witch-hunt.
This is the kind of vitriol and bile that the Zionists have thrown around and Corbyn has, once again, demonstrated he has no backbone
Only last July the Jewish Chronicle and two other Zionist papers printed a joint editorial United We Stand which  spoke of ‘the existential threat to Jewish life in this country that would be posed by a Jeremy Corbyn-led government.’ Corbyn was deemed a threat to the very existence of the Jewish community in Britain.  In other words he was anti-Semitic. Accusations that Chris Williamson was a Jew Baiter’ have been the staple of Zionist propaganda.  Once again Corbyn has demonstrated that he lacks a backbone.
Corbyn has once again bowed to this disloyal and treacherous rat
Corbyn’s lack of loyalty to his friend and comrade are shameful.  He must know that in throwing Williamson overboard he has dramatically increased his own chances of being deposed.
Where are all those ‘left’ Labour MPs who apparently support the Corbyn Project?  Laura Pidcott, Cat Smith, Dan Carden, Dennis Skinner, Lloyd Rusell-Moyle? Their silence has been deafening.
It is no surprise that Owen Jones has, once again, scabbed on socialists and sided with racists
It was to be expected that fair-weather turncoat and former socialist, Owen Jones, would support the suspension of Chris Williamson.  Jones has become the left face of the witchhunt. He is a racist who has long made his peace with the Jewish Labour Movement and the Zionist movement.
It will be interesting to see what position Jon Lansman adopts given that the vast majority of Momentum members support Chris Williamson.  Still as unelected Chair he will not be in fear of being deselected.  I have organised a petition.  Please support it.
Support my Petition Calling for Chris Williamson to be Reinstated and Tom Watson to be Suspended

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Israel’s Racist Election - The main debate is ‘Who Has Killed the Most Palestinians?’

As the Zionist ‘Left’ Disappear will the Generals’ Blue & White Party Replace Netanyahu?


In most Western countries, parties compete over issues such as taxation, nationalisation/privatisation, poverty, Brexit, refugees, global warming in general elections. Political parties in most European countries, with the exception of avowedly racist parties of the far-Right, are inclusive of ethnic minorities and supporters of different religions and faiths. It is unknown in Europe, with the exception of fascist parties, for parties to frame their arguments in terms of maintaining a demographic majority of a certain section of the population.
In Israel, the self-styled ‘only democracy in the Middle East’, politics are entirely different. You have Jewish parties and Arab parties. Only the Communist Party, Hadash, and to a less extent the left-Zionist party Meretz, has a mixed membership.
Leaders of the Blue & White 'General's Party (l to r)
Moshe Yalon, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, Gabi Ashmenazi
The other feature of Israeli politics is its political instability.  Parties come and go virtually every election. So Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah, which was the offshoot of Kadimah and in 2009 the largest party in the Knesset, latterly in alliance with the Israeli Labour Party, will disappear.
There have been a plethora of 'centrist' parties in Israel, from the old General Zionists, to Shinui to Yesh Atid, each more right-wing than its predecessor.

Springing up out of nowhere is the Blue and White Party an alliance of the right-centrist (though in the Israeli context labels like left, right and centre are largely meaningless) Yesh Atid and Resilience, a new party formed by former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz together with two other former Chiefs of Staff Moshe Yalon and Gabi Ashkenzi. Not for nothing is it known as the General’s Party.
As Elizabeth Tsurkov of the liberal Zionist Forward observed Campaign ads seem to be competing over which candidate has killed the most Palestinians.’ This is what British politicians such as Emily Thornberry and Barry Gardiner call a ‘beacon of democracy’. Presumably Jews getting to have a vote on which party can kill most Arabs is an example of democracy at its best!
Likud’s Avi Dichter, a former Director of Shin Bet, Israel’s equivalent of MI5, put out a video which ends with A thousand mothers of terrorists will cry and my mother won’t.” In the minds of most Israelis every Palestinian is a terrorist. Gantz put out an ad boasting of how many Palestinian militants had been killed in Gaza in 2014. Tsurkov wrote that these campaign ads ‘demonize, ridicule and belittle Palestinians, who are presented as a people without history, pathological liars and terrorists.’ This is Israel today.
A primaries campaign video put out by Likud’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotoveli shows her speaking in the Knesset where she presented a book filled with empty pages. According to Hotovely, that book represents the history of the Palestinian people. She proclaimed that: “You have no Kings, no heritage sites” in Israel. An ad produced by Culture Minister Miri Regev, a self-proclaimed fascist, refers to Palestinian citizens of Israel as a “trojan horse,” and the Joint List uniting several Arab parties as a “fifth column.” Those with a sense of history will remember that accusations of being a fifth column were a favourite in the days of McCarthyism. It is a rerun of the Nazi theme of the 'stab in the back'.
Gantz boasted of sending Gaza back into ‘the stone age’ during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.  A boast not without foundation.  Netanyahu who is playing the Arab card for all its worth accused Gantz and his party of being ‘leftists’ which in Israel today is an insult.
Yair Lapid has led Yesh Atid since 2012.  In 2013 it obtained the second largest number of seats, 19, and entered into coalition with Netanyahu. In the 2015 election it fell back to 11 seats. It had been engaged in protracted negotiations with Benny Gantz regarding an electoral coalition until Netanyahu made what could be a fatal mistake in pressurising the far-Right Jewish Home party into allying with the neo-Nazi Otzma Yehudit. This resulted in the formation of the Blue and White Party. See Ultra-nationalists join forces ahead of Israeli elections as liberal and Palestinian blocs splinter
Last week Jewish Home’s Central Committee agreed to an electoral pact with Otzma Yehudit which will receive the 5th and 8th seats on the list making it all but certain that one of their members will be elected.
Even the worm, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, turns
Otzma Yehudit is led by an open supporter of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, former MK Michael ben Ari. The actions of Netanyahu in seeking to unify the ultra-Right with Otzma Yehudit has led to an unprecedented backlash amongst diaspora Zionist organisations.  Even the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has condemned this alliance as has the American Jewish Committee though this hasn't stopped AIPAC from inviting Netanyahu to its conference in March. Netanyahu’s opportunism however may backfire on him judging by the reaction amongst even loyal Zionists abroad. As Phillip Weiss and Yossi Gurvitz note
The outrage at Netanyahu over the move has been unprecedented, for rehabilitating the “David Dukes” of the Israeli political scene, heirs to Meir Kahane who advocate for transfer of Palestinians to other countries.’
Israel Hayom, an Israeli free-sheet which is owned by Sheldon Adelson, one of the largest donors to Trump’s election campaign, had a screaming headline calling AIPAC ‘irresponsible’ for getting involved in domestic politics.
Netanyahu’s rationale was that Otzma Yehudit might, as in the 2013 and 2015 elections ‘waste’ votes by standing and thus imperil the election of a Likud government. His solution was for Jewish Home to form an electoral pact with Otzma Yehudit because a party now needs 3.25% to enter the Knesset.
The Jewish Home Party is already in an electoral alliance with Bezalel Smotrich MK’s Tkuma party. Smotrich describes himself as a ‘proud homophobe’ and openly supports the segregation of Israel’s Arab citizens. He has defended the practice of Israeli hospitals which separate Jewish and Arab women in maternity wards.
Israel’s General Election is impossible to call at the moment because there are a number of variables, not least the impact if Netanyahu is indicted for corruption. In most countries this would be a death sentence for a candidate but Israel is not most countries.
According to polling from Israel’s Channel 12 in Israel (tweeted by Lahav Harkov) the following is how the parties fare:
Blue and White 36
Likud 30
Labor 8
UTJ (religious party) 7
New Right 6 (Shaked/Bennett)
Ta’al Hadash (Tibi/Odeh) 6
Joint List 6
Shas (religious Mizrahi party) 5
Yisrael Beytenu 4
Bayit Yehudi (including Jewish Power) 4
Meretz 4
Kulanu 4

It is clear that the Israeli Labour Party is heading for disaster.  The ILP formed every single government from 1948 to 1977 as well as the 1992 and 1999 governments. It was last in a coalition government in 2011. Since then Netanyahu has formed every government. In 2015 under Isaac Herzog the ILP ran on a joint electoral list with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah and gained 24 seats. 
In 2017 the ILP elected a new leader, Avi Gabbay, a former Minister in Netanyahu’s government, who immediately decided to move the ILP several degrees further to the Right.  Among his policy innovations were to support Netanyahu’s attempt to deport Israel’s 40,000 Black African refugees on the grounds that they were neither White nor Jewish. He also supported the retention of the settlements. Gabbay, who was Chief Executive of Israel’s largest company, Bezeq International, a telecommunications giant, from 2007-2014 echoed Netanyahu when he declared that:
"In 1997, Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu] said that 'the left has forgotten what it means to be Jewish.' Do you know what the left did in response? Forgot [how] to be Jews,"
This is the pathetic level of the ideology of the Israeli Labour Party. It is a sign of desperation of a party which has no purpose and it would seem no social base in Israel.

Gabbay at the beginning of the election campaign, in front of the TV cameras, publicly humiliated Tzipi Livni by announcing that their electoral pact was over. Livni, although a horrendous racist and a war criminal in her own right, is nonetheless seen as on the left in Israel, which is an indication of just how far right-wing Israeli politics are today. But if Gabbay thought that he would receive an electoral boost from this he was soon to be disappointed. The ILP ‘strategy’ of moving further and further to the Right simply alienates those Israelis still on the Left without appeasing those on the Right. Gabbay is yet to learn that however fast and far he moves to the Right Netanyahu can move even faster, even to the extent of taking genuine neo-Nazis on board.
At the moment although Blue and White is estimated to gain 36 seats to the Likud’s 30, Netanyahu still has the greatest chance of forming a government coalition. Gantz’s B&W, even if it receives the support of Meretz, the ILP and Kulanu will still only have 52 seats. Given their refusal to contemplate a coalition with Arabs, Netanyahu is likely to be able to form a coalition with the religious parties (12) and the far-Right parties (15) making a total of 57.

If current projections are correct then the Jewish Orthodox parties will go down from 13 to 12 seats, Kulanu - a Likud offshoot - will decline from 10 to four - and the far-Right will increase from 11 to 14.
Netanyahu and Mendelbit in happier times
However this is to miss out one factor. The Police long ago recommended that Netanyahu should be indicted for corruption and it is likely that before the election campaign finishes Attorney General Avichai Mendelbit will charge Netanyahu.  In most states purporting to be democratic and a few which are not, that would spell the death knell of a candidate.  However in Israel nothing is guaranteed.  There has been a systematic campaign of intimidation against Mendelbit including the desecration of his father’s grave.  Such is the nature of Israeli politics.
Meretz, which originates in Ratz, the Civil Rights Party and Mapam, the United Workers Party, had 12 seats in 1992.  Today they have five seats and are hovering on the brink of extinction with a predicted 4 seats. If Meretz do fail to get candidates elected to the Knesset it will be the end of a long tradition of left-Zionism, the most hypocritical face of Zionism. They talked socialism but practised segregation. Mapam talked about co-existence but their Kibbutzim were not only Jewish only but were established on the ruins of destroyed Arab villages.
In March 2018 Tamar Zandberg replaced Zehava Gal On as leader of Meretz. Tamar Zandberg was elected after having hired a right-wing election fixer Moshe Klughaft as an adviser to her campaign. Klughaft was previously a strategist for Jewish Home and had targeted left-wing activists and NGO’s.  

Under Zandberg Meretz has focussed mainly on peripheral topics such as the environment, cannabis legalisation, civil and gay marriage to the exclusion of the major issue in Israel which is the Occupation of the Territories and the racism and discrimination against Israel’s Palestinian citizens.

Avi  Gabbay (Israeli Labor Party) and Tamar Zandberg (Meretz)

Zandberg is on record as stating that she would join a government coalition with Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beteinu. Lieberman is an open advocate of the transfer of Israel’s Arab population out of Israel and the imposition of a loyalty oath on Israel’s non-Jewish population. Galon called this ‘flushing ideology down the toilet” though to be fair Meretz has long ago dispensed with anything in the way of ideology.

Zandberg also called on the Israeli Labour Party to form a joint party or electoral pact, which would save Meretz from extinction but Gabbay rejected this out of hand.

The other major development is the splitting of the Joint Arab-Jewish List into two. Previously the Arab parties have run separately but in 2014, on the proposal of Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s fascist Defence Minister, the threshold for election to the Knesset was raised from 2% to 3.25%. The purpose was to eliminate the Arab parties from the Knesset but what happened was that they unified in one Joint List.  Ironically Lieberman’s Yisrael Beteinu nearly didn’t qualify!

Ahmad Tibi (Ta'al) and Aymen Odeh (Haddash)

However this time around the Joint list has split into two separate electoral alliances. Ahmad Tibi’s Ta'al has combined with Haddash (Communist) and Balad (National Democratic Union) has united with the United Arab List (Ra’am). Tibi, a veteran member of the Knesset, believed that his group, was underrepresented in the Knesset.

According to the Channel 12 poll above both alliances are scheduled to get 6 seats each though according to Channel 13’s poll, as reported in The Times of Israel, the Hadash-Ta'al group will get 10 seats and Balad and Ra’am will get 4 seats, which if true would be an improvement of one over the present situation.

I hesitate from this distance to make any predictions about Israel’s General Election.  My hunch is that Likud will be rocked by Netanyahu’s indictment and that this may propel the General’s party into power. What isn’t in much doubt is that the Zionist ‘left’, if it can be called that, is going to be heavily defeated. It is quite possible that Meretz, whose raison d’ĂȘtre has long since vanished will disappear and the Israeli Labour Party will pay a heavy price for trying to imitated Likud.

On the Israeli Palestinian front it is regrettable that the Joint Arab List split. It is entirely possible that Balad and Ra’am will also fail to make the minimum of 4 seats and thus be eliminated from the Knesset. It is a great pity that firstly Ahmad Tibi put the interests of his own party above Arab unity and secondly that Hadash and the more nationalist parties were unable to unite.

Hadash has always had a Jewish member of the Knesset even though it receives very few Jewish votes. The days have long since gone when Israel’s Jewish voters would elect communists to the Knesset.  However the replacement for Dov Kheinin, Dr Ofer Cassif, a lecturer at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University is a far more dynamic character. He has had no hesitation in describing Israel today as politically similar to Nazi Germany in the 1930’s.

In a lecture to his students, which was secretly recorded he stated that

‘"those who refuse to see the similarities between what is happening in Israel, specifically in the past two years, and Germany in the 1930s, has a problem and will be responsible for the potential situation of the state."

Dr Ofer Casif, Hadash's Jewish candidate and lecturer at Hebrew University

Cassif also called Ayelet Shaked, Israel’s ‘Justice Minister’ and a member of Jewish Home (now the United Right) Party a ‘filthy neo-Nazi’ Which is about right. Shaked has previously declared that Israel should abandon universal values of human rights in favour of ‘Jewish values’ and that the Torah and halachah should form part of the jurisprudence of the Israeli legal system. Shaked also called for the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza in a (now deleted) Facebook post where she wrote, quoting Uri Elitzur, a settler leader, speechwriter and close advisor to Netanyahu, who had died a few months previously that:

‘What’s so horrifying about understanding that the entire Palestinian people is the enemy? Every war is between two peoples, and in every war the people who started the war, that whole people, is the enemy....

They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there....

There is nothing more just, and probably nothing more efficient. Every suicide attacker should know that he takes with him also his parents and his house and some of the neighbors. Every brave Um-Jihad who sends her son to hell should know she’s going with him, along with the house and everything inside it.”

No doubt if Dr Casif was a member of the Labour Party he would have been suspended for ‘anti-Semitism’ for having dared to compare Israel to Nazi Germany!

Tony Greenstein

Sunday, 24 February 2019

The Last Chance of Freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal, the United States' Mandela – Framed for Killing a Racist Cop





Alice Walker once said of Mummia abu-Jamal that "He reminds me of Nelson Mandela.". 
Mumia Abu-Jamal was the victim of a frame-up 37 years ago on charges of killing a cop.  He is one of the last Black Panther prisoners and having caught Hepatitis C in prison, he now has cirrhosis of the liver. He was only cured of Hep C after a legal fight because the prison authorities did not want to spend the money on a cure. One assumes that given the nature of the US medical system the only cure for cirrhosis, a liver transplant, is out of the question.
Mumia’s long and determined fight against a system that for many years kept him on death row is a testament to his political will and consciousness. It is to be hoped that the decision to give him the chance of appeal won’t be appealed by the current Pennsylvanian authorities who pose as being more progressive.

Tony Greenstein 


A Court decision in Philadelphia will allow Mumia Abu-Jamal to reargue his case. Mumia has spent 37 years in prison after being falsely convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and renowned writer and activist of 64 years, who has spent 37 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit, has been allowed to reargue his case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. A judge in Philadelphia delivered the decision on December 27 on the grounds that the Chief Justice at the time of sentencing, Ronald Castille, refused to recuse himself from the case despite his earlier role as a district attorney during Abu-Jamal’s appeal.
Activists across the world celebrated the decision by the court that could mean that freedom for the 64 year old revolutionary is within reach.
Let is not be thought that the poison of Rupert Murdoch is only confined to the Sun - here the radio equivalent Fox News demonstrates its faux outrage at the idea that an innocent person might be granted an appeal
Abu-Jamal was arrested in 1981 on charges of killing a white police officer, Daniel Faulkner. In 1982, he was convicted and sentenced to death in a trial that was filled with violations and irregularities, including witnesses changing their testimonies several times, court clerks stating that they wanted to convict him and concrete proof of evidence tampering, among others.
The sentence was condemned by activists and human rights organizations across the globe and since then, there has been a fierce campaign demanding his release. In 2011, after strong pressure and campaigns, Mumia was sentenced to life without parole and was moved off the death row.
After he was moved off death row, Mumia talked to Democracy Now in a rare live interview in 2013 about what it felt like: “Well, I could, but I’d be lying, because I call this “slow death row.” “Life” in Pennsylvania means life. Pennsylvania has one of the largest “life” populations of any State in the United States. It has the distinction of having the absolute highest number of juvenile lifers of any state in the United States—indeed, of any jurisdiction in the world. So, that should give you some sense.”
A couple years ago, activists had to fight a sustained struggle in order for Mumia to have access to proper health care when his life was at risk. After Mumia fell ill in prison, it was discovered that he was suffering from hepatitis C. The Pennsylvania prison system refused to treat Mumia or the other 7,000 prisoners suffering from hepatitis C, as the treatment cost would be around $100,000. His legal team filed a suit and won and guaranteed treatment for Mumia, a decision which not only affected him but set a precedent for other incarcerated people to have access to treatment.
Though these victories are important, the objective for activists has always been and will always be Mumia’s complete freedom, (and that of all political prisoners).
The latest verdict represents a new possibility in the struggle for Mumia’s freedom. In the appeal, Mumia’s defense team may have the opportunity to present all of the violations that have occurred throughout the legal process, information that unequivocally points to bias by the judiciary to seal his sentence. However, like all of the victories that have been achieved thus far in Mumia’s case, and in the cases of many other political prisoners, a victory in the courtroom now will only be possible if if there is accompaniment and solidarity from activists and movements across the world.
The best known of all incarcerated black radicals speaks out in a two-year email correspondence with Ed Pilkington on the ‘continuum’ of the Black Panthers to Black Lives Matter

‘Intoxicating freedom, gripping fear’: Mumia Abu-Jamal on life as a Black Panther

Mon 30 Jul 2018
Former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal. Photograph: April Saul/Philadelphia Inquirer

The letter was dated 30 August 2016. Written in black ink in spidery, meticulous handwriting, it proclaimed at the top of the page: “On a Move!”, the mantra of the Move group of black liberationists from Philadelphia who clashed violently with the city’s police force 40 years ago, sending nine of them to prison for decades.
The author was Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is the closest thing that exists today to an imprisoned Black Panther celebrity. He joined the Black Panther party in the 1960s when he was just 14, and later became a prominent advocate for the Move organization.
For the past 36 years he has been incarcerated in Pennsylvania prisons, including two decades spent on death row, having been convicted of murdering a police officer at a Philadelphia street corner in 1981. His case has reverberated around the world, inspiring admiration and opprobrium in equal measure, in what has become a global cause-celebre.
As such, he could be regarded as the figurehead of the cadre of imprisoned African-American militants who are still behind bars today. Collectively they amount to the unfinished business of the 1970s black liberation struggle, as they languish still in prison in some cases almost half a century after they went in.
By the Guardian’s count, there are 19 of them, two women included. That headcount is very slowly being diminished, as the debate around whether they have earned their freedom grows more intense with every passing year.
Last week one of Abu-Jamal’s peers, Robert Seth Hayes, was released from a New York maximum security prison on parole having served 45 years for the murder of a city transit officer.
I had sent that initial letter to Abu-Jamal to ask his views about Albert Woodfox, a former Black Panther from Louisiana who had been held in solitary confinement in a 6ft by 9ft concrete box for 43 years until his release a few months earlier.
In my opening letter to Abu-Jamal, I’d mentioned that the warden of Angola penitentiary in the 1990s, Burl Cain, had tried to justify keeping Woodfox in total isolation for four decades because of the prisoner’s commitment to “Black Pantherism”.
Abu-Jamal, 64, found that expression very diverting, judging by his response. Until Woodfox’s “illegal and unjust imprisonment,” he wrote back, “I had never heard nor read of the so-called crime of ‘Black Pantherism’! Leave it to the prisoncrats of Angola to actually coin the term!”

A supporter of inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal outside City Hall in Philadelphia, in 2006. Photograph: Jeff Fusco/Getty Images

Then Abu-Jamal did something that was to become familiar to me over the ensuing months. He took that one comment of a Louisiana prison warden and riffed off it to create an entire social theory of modern American society.
“As we see from the obscene and unprecedented mass incarceration of Black people,” he wrote, “‘Black Pantherism’ is but a synonym for Blackness itself. For in a society deeply imbued with white supremacy, Blackness is itself a crime.”
Abu-Jamal spent 20 years on death row and during that time concerns about the fairness of his death sentence drew international attention. Amnesty International took up his cause, the New York Times crowned him the “world’s best known death-row inmate” and a Paris street was named after him. Among the movie stars, writers and intellectuals who protested on his behalf were Paul Newman, Alice Walker, Salman Rushdie and Noam Chomsky.
As impressive as the high-profile support he attracted over the years was the vitriol he inspired in detractors. Philadelphia police unions worked tirelessly to keep him on death row and since he was moved to the general prison population in 2012 they have continued to work equally tirelessly to prevent him going free.
Maureen Faulkner, the widow of Daniel Faulkner, the police officer Abu-Jamal was convicted of murdering, has been equally consistent. Earlier this year she wrote a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer in which she said the real political prisoners in this story were her family. “We committed no crime, yet we received life sentences with no possibility of parole or reprieve.”
In April, when Abu-Jamal’s case came up before a Philadelphia judge in a legal dispute over the handling of his appeals, Maureen Faulkner appeared on the steps of the court and proclaimed to local TV cameras: “Mumia Abu-Jamal will not – not ever – be free, and I will make sure of that.”
My initial letter to Abu-Jamal in August 2016 developed into a correspondence that continues two years later. Over time it mushroomed into a larger project in which I reached out to several of his peers – black radicals incarcerated like him for decades – in an attempt to understand how they came to be given such lengthy sentences and how they cope with their enduring punishment today.
At a time when America is still grappling with the racial legacy of slavery and segregation, when the issue of police brutality has welled up again through Black Lives Matter, when at least one in four black males born today can expect to end up in prison, and when inequality shows no sign of abating for African Americans, there is renewed interest in the perspective of the Black Panthers. Just ask Beyoncé, who injected a Black Panther homage into the 2016 Super Bowl.
Black Pantherism’ is but a synonym for Blackness itself. For in a society deeply imbued with white supremacy, Blackness is itself a crime
And so Abu-Jamal and I began to correspond. We would contact each other through a closed email network set up by the Pennsylvania prison system.
With each email I would try and probe a little deeper, trying to get under the skin of what it was to be a black radical for whom, in some sense, time had stood still through long years of incarceration. Sometimes he would answer in short staccato emails, as though his mind were elsewhere; sometimes he would be thoughtful and expansive.
Sometimes he didn’t reply for weeks. It’s remarkable how busy a man locked up around the clock can be. “I’ve been meaning to write to you,” he said in November 2017, “but my projects (I just finished my booklet last nite) have eaten my time – oops, I’m about to get on the phone…”
In our exchanges he reflected on how he had become involved as a teenage boy in the black resistance struggle of the late 1960s, and why decades later so many black militants remain behind bars. He talked also about how his militancy as a former Panther relates to the critical movements of today, notably Black Lives Matter, which controversially he called a “continuum” of the Black Panthers.
Early on, I asked him why he thought the judicial system had borne down on him singularly harshly by giving him the death penalty. He replied in an email on 23 September 2016: “I think we posed an existential challenge to the very legitimacy of the System – and it unleashed unprecedented fury from the State. That’s why they used any means, even illegal, to extinguish what they saw as a Threat.”
He added: “The State reserves its harshest treatment for those it sees as revolutionaries.”
Construction workers at a rally in 2001 near the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, calling for Mumia Abu-Jamal’s execution. Photograph: Tom Mihalek/AFP/Getty Images

Mumia Abu-Jamal was born Wesley Cook and brought up in a low-income African American neighborhood of Philadelphia. He was given the name Mumia by a high school teacher as part of a class on African culture and he later changed his last name to Abu-Jamal (“father of Jamal”) when his son was born in 1971.
In 1968, when he was 14, a friend introduced him to a copy of the Black Panther party’s newspaper, and he was instantly transfixed. “A sister gave me a copy of The Black Panther newspaper and I was dazzled,” he wrote to me in an email. “I made up my mind to become one of them.”
Three years of head-spinning activity ensued as a Black Panther in Philadelphia. The party, though relatively small in numbers, quickly began to make an impact with its revolutionary talk, its audacious opposition to police brutality in black neighborhoods, and its social programs that quickly expanded to include food and clothing banks for low-income communities and even Black Panther elementary schools.
The city at that time, he told me, was a place of “intoxicating freedom, and gripping fear. The freedom? To be active in a part of a vast Black Freedom Movement was Living, Breathing, Being Freedom. We spoke and acted in the world in ways our parents never dreamed possible.”
The fear? “Every Panther knew, in her/his heart, that the State was willing to kill a Panther in his/her bed.”
He was alluding to the death of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in a police raid on a Panther house in Chicago in December 1969. Hampton was shot and killed while asleep in bed. A subsequent federal investigation into the killing found that in the shoot-out the Panthers had fired one bullet, while the police fired up to 99.
“I was one of several Panthers sent to Chicago,” Abu-Jamal wrote in an email. “We entered the apartment. We saw the bullet holes which raked the walls. We saw the mattress, swollen with Fred’s blood. I was 15.”
The death of Hampton was just one of several bloody shootouts that erupted as confrontations between law enforcement and the Panthers became more frequent. Many years later it was revealed that the FBI had put several prominent members of the movement – the teenage Abu-Jamal included – under a vast web of surveillance.
The State reserves its harshest treatment for those it sees as revolutionaries
The FBI’s director J Edgar Hoover had come to see the Panthers, with their links to revolutionary parties around the world and growing popularity in black inner cities, as a major threat to national security. He instructed his agents to redirect the secret domestic surveillance operation, known as “Cointelpro”, specifically onto black radicals.
Abu-Jamal recalled the naivety that existed within the Panther party about the governmental forces targeted at them.
“We didn’t know about Cointelpro. When people raised questions, we’d laugh at them and tell them: ‘Stop being paranoid!’ The very idea the government would read your mail, or listen to your phone calls, was crazy! We never believed we were important enough.”
The FBI certainly did think them important enough. It made sure the party was thoroughly infiltrated with informers, leaders were rounded up and imprisoned, internal dissent fomented. By 1970 open warfare had started to break out between west coast and east coast factions of the party, leading to threats, expulsions and internecine violence.
An exodus of Panthers began, among them Abu-Jamal who quit the party towards the end of 1970. From then, he turned his hand to journalism, becoming a prominent reporter on Philadelphia race relations as well as a vocal supporter of Move.
It was not until 1982 that the Black Panther party formally disbanded. By then Abu-Jamal was already in captivity and facing murder charges relating to the death of Officer Faulkner.
The events of the early hours of 9 December 1981 have been the subject of reams of analysis and conjecture over the past almost four decades. Faulkner carried out a traffic stop at an intersection in Philadelphia, pulling over William Cook, Abu-Jamal’s younger brother.

Demonstrators supporting Mumia Abu-Jamal in Los Angeles, California, in 2000. Photograph: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

Abu-Jamal at that time was working as a taxi driver to supplement his journalism income. He happened to be driving past when he spotted the altercation between Faulkner and his brother.
A shootout occurred. Faulkner died at the scene from gunshot wounds. Abu-Jamal was shot once in the stomach. In June 1982 he was put on trial, found guilty and sentenced to death.
Since then he has consistently professed his innocence of the charges leveled against him, though he has declined to discuss what actually did happen that night. I wrote to Abu-Jamal in June asking him whether he’d talk to me about Faulkner’s death. I said: “So what did happen? What do you recollect of the incident? Who shot Officer Faulkner?”
Earlier this month he replied to me. He began the email by saying that he’d just returned from the eye doctor who in order to inspect his inner eye had dilated his pupils. “My vision is so impaired that I can’t read the newspaper so this won’t be long, I haffa be quite brief.”
He did address his case, in general terms. “The question arises, how can you getta fair result with an unjust, unfair process? Due process. A judge who wuzza life member of the FOP [Fraternal Order of Police] said at one of my hearings: ‘Justice is just an emotional feeling’.”
Abu-Jamal did not address in the email my questions about the specifics of his own case.
While doubts persist about the nature of the crime, what is not in doubt is that Abu-Jamal’s prosecution, as he remarked, was riddled with flaws. Amnesty International investigated it in 2000 and concluded that though they could not pronounce on his guilt or innocence, “numerous aspects of this case clearly failed to meet minimum international standards”.
A long struggle to fend off execution followed, sending reverberations around the globe. Twice he had a death warrant issued that would have sent him to the death chamber; twice it was averted in the courts.
Every Panther knew, in her/his heart, that the State was willing to kill a Panther in his/her bed
It took two decades of almost constant appeals to overturn his death sentence in a federal court. Since moving off death row, he has more privileges but he’s less in the limelight now, less of an international figure, as he alluded to when I asked him how much mail he receives. “I probably get 6-10 pieces a day or 30 to 50 pieces a week (which is nothing like I used to get).”
He has slowed down in recent years in other ways too. “I used to read 2-3 books a week. Now? 2 per month. It’s a different environment. I leave the cell often here: not so on death row.”
As he gets older, health becomes more of an issue. He fought a tough legal battle after the Pennsylvania department of corrections denied him treatment for Hepatitis C, winning a federal court ruling that has set a precedent that will help thousands of other prisoners across the country defeat the virus.
He complains though that the prison authorities are still denying treatment to many inmates on grounds they aren’t sick enough. “People are dying from their denials and delays. Literally. $$$ over life.”
Despite health issues, he keeps closely engaged with political currents. In March I asked him what he thought were the similarities and contrasts between the Black Panthers in the 1970s and Black Lives Matter today. I was curious to see whether he was critical of BLM in an echo of the criticism the Panthers directed in the 1970s at the civil rights movement ­– that it’s a reformist compromise rather than the black power revolution that’s needed.
He replied that in his view the Panthers and BLM are “part of a continuum. The BPP was born in an age of global revolution. Black Lives Matter came into being during an era of sociopolitical conservatism, and rightist ideological ascendance. What is possible is subject to the zeitgeist of the period.”
He went on: “I am reminded of [Frantz] Fanon’s adage: ‘Every generation must, out of relative obscurity, find its destiny, and fulfill it or betray it.’ I think both movements have done so, if only in their own ways.”
He also keenly follows his fellow imprisoned black radicals’ efforts to gain their freedom, decades after they were arrested. In one email, sent in May, he commented on the release of Herman Bell, a former Black Panther and member of its clandestine wing the Black Liberation Army, who had secured his own parole a couple of months before partly by denouncing his involvement in the struggle. There was “nothing political” in the double police killing that he was involved in, Bell told the parole board, “it was murder and horribly wrong”.
Abu-Jamal told me that in his view Bell’s release was the exception that proves the rule. “If a man is only truly parole-eligible if he renounces his political ideas, how could those who aren’t ‘eligible’ because they aren’t renunciators be seen as anything but political prisoners?”
What I always find interesting is how profoundly different the American systems of ‘justice’ are from those that exist abroad
There are many who will disagree with the argument that the 19 imprisoned Black Panthers and Move members are political prisoners. For the police unions and the families of victims, they are “cop killers”, pure and simple.
Yet no one could accuse Abu-Jamal of being a “renunciator”. Since coming off death row he has been resentenced and put onto life without parole. That means that he has no chance of ever persuading a parole board to release him, which in turn, paradoxically, has given him his own kind of freedom – to speak his mind.
“Parole is a political tool,” he wrote. “It’s especially used against radicals to punish them for their political beliefs. I think it should be abolished. Period.”
One of the most evocative emails he sent me was composed on New Year’s Eve last year. Maybe the end of the year had put him in a reflective mood, or maybe the calendar means nothing to a man who has lived for 37 years in a cell.
In any case, he started riffing again, this time about the US justice system. He talked about how parole appeared to be a pipe-dream for black radicals in particular.
He referenced the Move 9 again, the group from his home town of Philadelphia, six of whom will next week mark the 40th anniversary of their incarceration. He spoke too of other former Black Panthers who had in recent years been granted release orders only to have them overturned by the higher courts.
Then he switched, in his own rather professorial way, to a more personal point. “What I always find interesting is how profoundly different the American systems of ‘justice’ are from those that exist abroad,” he wrote. “Under Pennsylvania law, life means life, with no parole eligibility for anybody.”
For “anybody”, read Mumia Abu-Jamal. He went on to spell out for my benefit his probable fate.
Legal scholars and activists in Pennsylvania have a name for it, he said: “Death by incarceration”.


UPDATE

February 19, 2019
The event at Yale organizing the REBLAW conference, happened on Friday and Saturday February 15th and 16th and was a great success.  Mumia called in on Friday night.  Confrontations of Krasner wherever he speaks are continuing and educating many audiences. 
 On December 27, Judge Leon Tucker, surprised and pleased Mumia supporters by ruling that Mumia was entitled to a new appeal of his case.  His position was very clear:  Ronald Castille, who ultimately became Chief of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, after having worked in the District Attorney’s Office prior to becoming a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Judge, should have recused himself from the case when it came before him at the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  Though Tucker did not conclude direct involvement of Castille in Mumia’s case, he ruled that Castille’s well known and well publicized support for the death penalty, close relationship  with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), and the high profile of Mumia’s case all led to the appearance of bias on the part of Castille, and that that appearance of bias was not acceptable.   
Mumia was thus granted an opportunity for a review of his post-conviction review before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, that is, the opportunity to present all the material previously rejected on the Castille court, all over again.  This was a major breakthrough in opening up the possibility of Mumia’s release.  Regardless of this very significant and unusual ruling, Mumia should have of course been released long ago, in fact, should never even have been arrested since he was and is an innocent political prisoner.  He was clearly framed by the police (the Fraternal Order of Police playing a major role), the prosecutors, and the judiciary, with the cooperation of other significant players in the Government and even additional sectors because of his effectiveness as a political activist and well-known writer and journalist. 
To the disappointment of some, who had expected “progressive District Attorney” Krasner to play a positive role in this case, as he had promised during his campaign to address all cases of prevous miscarriage of “justice”, Krasner appealed the very positive judge’s ruling, thus closing off the possibility of a quick process potentially leading to Mumia’s release.
As word, and organizing to pressure Krasner to change his position, spread, a group of students at Yale Law School took a dramatic position in “disinviting” Krasner as a keynote speaker at a conference at Yale on “rebellious lawyers”.  See letter below where the students ask Krasner to withdraw his appeal of Judge Tucker’s ruling if he wishes to speak at the conference.  Mumia Abu-Jamal was immediately scheduled to replace Krasner as a key speaker at the conference.
Additionally, on December 28, Krasner announced that he found six boxes of Mumia materials marked with Mumia’s name, that had not been discovered before and were therefore not reviewed in the court proceedings of the past two years!  He passed that information on to Judge Tucker on January 3, 2019 and released it to the public on January 9th, 2019.  On January 25, 2019 District Attorney Krasner gave notice of his appeal of Judge Tucker’s ruling!