Labor senator Fatima Payman resigns from committees after Israel genocide comment

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun18,2024
Labor senator Fatima Payman has resigned from her position on a prestigious parliamentary foreign affairs committee, after
The WA senator, the first hijab-wearing parliamentarian, had been facing pressure to step down from the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade following a speech earlier this month.
In it, she said: “My conscience has been uneasy for far too long and I must call this out for what it is.”

“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.”

The slogan is seen by some Jewish communities as a call for the destruction of Israel, while many Palestinians consider it as a call for freedom.
It is seen as calling for a separate Palestinian state, which is contrary to Labor’s policy of support for a two-state solution in the Middle East.
In January, in Gaza, a charge Israel strongly rejected. The case is ongoing.

What was the reaction to Senator Payman’s statement?

At the time, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the “river to the sea” comment was “inappropriate” but added the next day that he had not spoken to Payman.
Opposition leader Peter Dutton accused Albanese of “weak leadership” and called on him to remove Payman from the party.
Jewish Liberal backbencher Julian Leeser used Question Time to ask Albanese to remove Payman from parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.
“The chant ‘from the river to the sea’ has been used from time to time by some in the pro-Palestinian movement, by some who argue that Israel should just be one state as well and that Gaza and the West Bank should be wiped out,” Albanese said in response.
“It is inappropriate. I very strongly believe in a two-state solution.”
That day, Labor voted in favour of an Opposition motion in the Senate declaring the slogan “opposes Israel’s right to exist, and is frequently used by those who seek to intimidate Jewish Australians via acts of antisemitism.”
Senator Payman was absent for the vote.
During Question Time that day, Liberal senator Hollie Hughes was forced to withdraw a comment in which she accused Payman of “supporting terrorists”.
SBS News can confirm Payman has resigned from both the joint standing and legislative committees for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.

It is unclear if she was pressured from within her party to do so.

What has the government said about Senator Payman’s resignation?

A government spokesperson said: “Senator Payman has resigned from the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade and the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee.

“The Government’s policy is clear — we support a two-state solution.”

What’s the background?

In her statement, Payman directly addressed the Prime Minister and her colleagues: “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?”
Publicly, Labor colleagues were supportive but clear on the government’s position.
Muslim frontbencher Ed Husic said her comments took “a lot of guts” but was “not what I would have said”.
Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said: “I don’t tell my colleagues what to say, but what she has said is not Labor Party policy”, while Health Minister Mark Butler described the Labor Party as a “broad church”.
Albanese downplayed Payman’s actions as those of a “young Senator” and said, “I speak on behalf of the government.”
Tension within the Labor caucus over the Hamas-Israel war is not new, with while Jewish backbencher Josh Burns spoke out against Australia’s vote in favour of Palestinian representation at the United Nations this month.

Payman has previously told SBS she plans to remain in the Labor Party.

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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