Wed. May 29th, 2024

‘From the river to the sea’: Labor senator breaks ranks to accuse Israel of genocide

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell May16,2024
Labor senator Fatima Payman has broken ranks to accuse Israel of conducting a “genocide” in Gaza and called on the prime minister and her government to sanction the Israeli government while urging her colleagues to “stand for what is right”.
In a veiled criticism of her party leader, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, criticised Australian leaders for “performative gestures”.

“Instead of advocating for justice, I see our leaders performatively gesture defending the oppressor’s right to oppress, while gaslighting the global community about the rights of self defence,” she said in Canberra on Wednesday.

It’s understood she is the first federal Labor parliamentarian to break ranks by publicly describing what is happening in Gaza as a genocide.

“My conscience has been uneasy for far too long and I must call this out for what it is,” she said.

“This is a genocide and we need to stop pretending otherwise. The lack of clarity, the moral confusion, the indecisiveness is eating at the heart of this nation.”
In January, in Gaza, a charge Israel strongly rejected. The case is ongoing.
Payman had originally intended to deliver the speech at a rally outside federal parliament on Wednesday where dozens had gathered to commemorate the 76th anniversary of
Three people stand around a camera on a tripod

Labor senator Fatima Payman at a pro-Palestine rally outside Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday. Source: AAP / /

Instead, she delivered it to a small group of journalists, including SBS News, at Parliament House.

She said people could no longer “shy away” from having the moral clarity to “stand up to face evil”.

“And the system that keeps feeding it until it’s so diseased with it, that we can no longer distinguish between the good and the bad. Has our humanity been eroded? So eroded, that even when we can discern, we choose to side with the bad.”

Two flags fly outside a building

Supporters hold flags at a pro-Palestinian rally outside Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday. Source: AAP / aap

She directly addressed Albanese: “I ask our prime minister and our fellow parliamentarians, how many international rights laws must Israel break for us to say enough? What is the magic number? How many mass graves need to be uncovered before we say enough? How many images of bloody limbs of murdered children must we see?”

Payman called on her colleagues to “stand up for what is right” and said Australia should impose sanctions, engage in divestments, stop trade with Israel, and call for a permanent ceasefire.

She ended her speech by repeating the phrase:
The phrase is considered by some Jewish communities as a call for the destruction of Israel, while Palestinians consider it as a call for freedom.
Albanese has said the phrase was “not appropriate”, saying chanting it would not be able to find the Jordan River on a map.
“The reason why ‘From the river to the sea’ is not appropriate, whether it be, and it’s been used from time to time over the years, to describe either Palestine or Israel as one state. We support a two-state solution,” he said.
Responding to Payman’s comments on Wednesday evening, Albanese said the government had condemned Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October while also “calling out” Israel for actions in saying how it defends itself mattered.
He said the government had called for the release of hostages, voted in the United Nations for a “cessation of hostilities”, called for humanitarian assistance and referenced Friday’s vote on .
“The idea that we here in Australia can determine what is happening in the Middle East is just not correct,” Albanese told Triple J’s Hack program.
“What we can do is make our voice heard for humanitarian concerns and standing up for the fact that all innocent lives matter whether they be Israeli or Palestinian.”
A government spokesperson said in a statement, “The government is using Australia’s voice to advocate for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and humanitarian access, the release of hostages, and for the protection of civilians.

“The government supports a two state solution with the right of Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace, security and prosperity.”

Jewish Council sends Payman “mazel tov”

The Jewish Council of Australia — a coalition of Jewish academics, lawyers, writers and experts on antisemitism and racism — said it supported Payman’s statement.
“The Jewish Council of Australia sends Fatima Payman a big mazel tov (expression of congratulations) for her courage in breaking with the party line and strongly speaking out against Israel’s genocide,” executive officer Max Kaiser told SBS News in a statement.

“It should not be controversial to use this terminology as it is in line with the finding of the International Court of Justice that Israel’s action’s constitute a plausible genocide. This has been backed up by numerous legal scholars worldwide including the UN special rapporteur.

“We reiterate that now is the time for strong action to stop this genocide, words of condemnation will not suffice.

“As explained by Palestinian people the world over, ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ is a call for freedom and equality for all people, Jewish and Palestinian. It’s definitely not something that should be construed as a threat to Jewish people or Israelis. This is a very bad faith reading.”

‘She should consider her position’: ECAJ

But the Executive Council of Australian Jewry criticised Payman, saying she should “consider her position”.

“It is an old Arab supremacist slogan calling for the destruction of Israel and the ethnic cleansing of its Jewish population,” co-CEO Alex Ryvchin said in a statement to SBS News.

“This is why it has been denounced as antisemitic by both the White House and our prime minister. The senator should immediately apologise for stoking hatred in such a vile way. If she can’t refrain from using racist slogans at a time of extreme tension in our society, she should consider her position.”

Who is Fatima Payman?

and among the youngest in history in 2022 when she was unexpectedly elected on Western Australia’s third Labor party Senate ticket spot.

She is also the first Afghan-born and hijab-wearing politician in parliament.

Payman came to Australia as a refugee at the age of eight in 2003, after her father fled Afghanistan by boat in 1999 and saved enough money to sponsor her and her family.

In her first speech to parliament she spoke of her hijab being “ridiculed” at university, and how “inferences to extremism” made her feel like she didn’t belong.

SBS News has contacted the Israeli embassy in Canberra.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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One thought on “‘From the river to the sea’: Labor senator breaks ranks to accuse Israel of genocide”
  1. Aisha Jenkins feels that Labor senator Fatima Payman’s courage in speaking out against the alleged genocide in Gaza shows a commendable commitment to justice and human rights. She believes that it is crucial for political leaders to stand up for what is right and not shy away from calling out oppression and injustice.

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