Australia's Labor Party faces backlash over Palestine policy as lawmaker quits

Australia's Labor Party faces backlash over Palestine policy as lawmaker quits

Lawmakers not even identifying former colleague with her name, points out journalist

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ISTANBUL (AA) - The ruling Labor Party of Australia is facing backlash over “retreating” on its Palestine policy, which supports a cease-fire in Gaza but does not recognize Palestinian statehood.

Senator Fatima Payman quit the ruling party on Thursday, after being suspended for supporting a parliament motion to recognize Palestine.

Payman accused her party of “intimidation” and forcing her to toe the party line which she refused.

“My family did not flee from a war-torn country to come here as refugees for me to remain silent when I see atrocities inflicted on innocent people,” the 29-year-old told reporters after resigning from the Labor party.

“Witnessing our government’s indifference to the greatest injustice of our times makes me question the direction the party is taking.”

Two motions to recognize Palestine as an independent nation, brought by the opposition Greens Party were voted down in May and June. Payman crossed the parliament floor to support the motion last month.

According to Labor Friends of Palestine from New South Wales, the ruling party has retreated its position on recognizing an independent state making it “dependent on a non-existent peace process.”

“Labor has indefinitely delayed recognition” of Palestine, it said on X, citing a parliament motion that supported the government of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

In the wake of the Israeli war on Gaza, which has resulted in the killing of over 38,000 Palestinians since last October, “the priority” of the Australian ruling party “is to take revenge against” Senator Payman for speaking out against this genocide, said Rawan Arraf, lawyer and human rights defender, who is executive director at Australian Centre for International Justice.

The resignation, seen as a protest against the Albanese government, comes amid widespread pro-Palestine demonstrations in Australia where campaigners for free Palestine climbed the parliament building on Thursday to force change in Canberra’s attitude towards Gaza.

Journalist Chantelle Al-Khouri said it was “very bizarre” listening to a Radio program broadcasting Labor lawmaker Michelle Ananda-Rajah where “she refuses to call her now-former colleague Fatima Payman by name.”

“When asked about the senator, she (Michelle Ananda-Rajah) continually refers to her as ‘this individual’ and ‘this person’,” Al-Khouri said on X.

- War refugee to youngest lawmaker

Along with her siblings, Payman reached Australia in 2003 as a refugee family from war-torn Afghanistan, where several Australian soldiers are accused of war crimes. Canberra had deployed its soldiers as part of foreign forces in the nation during the US-led war on terrorism from 2001.

She was raised in the northern suburbs of Perth and became the youngest lawmaker in the 47th parliament of Australia in August 2022.

After shutting the door on Labor, Payman now sits as an independent senator.

- Muslim Vote movement

Prime Minister Albanese has said that faith-based political parties would undermine social cohesion in Australia, after revelations The Muslim Vote movement was planning to target federal seats in the next election, which is expected in May 2025.

The advocacy group's plans came to light after community anger over the government’s stance on Israel throughout the war in Gaza, which has caused a humanitarian catastrophe.

It is said if the Muslim Vote movement gathers momentum in the country, it can cost Labor at least six seats in western Sydney.

Albanese’s comments followed apparent Islamophobic remarks by opposition Liberal Party Peter Dutton.

Dutton said if Labor government returns to power after the next elections, “… if he (Anthony Albanese) is in minority government in the next term of parliament, it will include the Greens, it'll include green teals, it'll include Muslim candidates from western Sydney, it will be a disaster.”

“As a Muslim who grew up in Western Sydney, I find this comment from someone who is running for PM (prime minister’s position) an absolute disgrace. Bigotry at its finest. Fueling Islamophobia from the very top,” said Usman Khawaja, an Australian cricketer.

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