Labor Senator Fatima Payman accuses Israel of genocide, demands sanctions

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Remy Varga
The Nightly
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Labor Senator Fatima Payman has broken ranks to accuse Israel of genocide.
Labor Senator Fatima Payman has broken ranks to accuse Israel of genocide. Credit: MT EA/AAPIMAGE

Jewish groups are demanding Prime Minister Anthony Albanese condemn comments made by a Labor senator after she broke ranks with her party to accuse Israel of genocide.

Senator Fatima Payman on Wednesday implored the PM to sanction Israel just days after Foreign Minister Penny Wong flagged her potential support for recognising Palestinian statehood before a formal peace process was completed.

Pro-Palestine encampments remain at universities across the nation, with tensions running high as Israeli tanks pushed deeper into Rafah where more than a million people have sought refuge in the ongoing conflict.

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Senator Payman told reporters that a lack of moral clarity was eating away at the heart of Australia and called on Mr Albanese and the Labor Party to impose sanctions, stop trade and engage in divestments with Israel while calling for a permanent ceasefire.

“I ask our prime minister and our fellow parliamentarians how many international rights laws must Israel break for us to say enough?” she said.

“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?”

The Palestinian death toll is at more than 35,000, according to Gazan health officials who do not distinguish between civilians and fighters.

Senator Payman ended her address by declaring “From the river to the sea”, a phrase used by supporters of Palestinian statehood that some Jewish groups consider a call for the destruction of Israel.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin said the phrase was an old Arab supremacist slogan that called for the genocide of its Jewish population.

“This is why it has been denounced as antisemitic by both the White House and our Prime Minister,” she said.

“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.”

Israel is attempting to eliminate what remains of Hamas’ fighters in Rafah and believes at least four battalions remain in the city on Gaza’s southern border.

Israel launched the operation after Hamas militants led an attack on civilians in October 7 last year, killing 1200 people and taking more than 250 hostage.

Australian Jewish Association Chief Executive Officer Robert Gregory said Senator Payman’s comments were a direct challenge to Mr Albanese and said the PM needed to crackdown on extremism in his own party.

Question Time
Senator Payman’s comments have been labelled a direct challenge to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr Gregory said Senator Payman’s comments were the latest in a history of false accusations that dehumanised the Jewish people and fuelled antisemitic sentimatent.

“The precautions that Israel takes to avoid civilian casualties are unprecedented in the history of warfare,” he said.

“Senator Payman should have directed her condemnation at those Islamic terrorist groups like Hamas who hide behind civilians.

“Prime Minister Albanese needs to speak out strongly and condemn the repugnant and false remarks by Senator Payman.”

Last week Foreign Minister Penny Wong joined 143 other nations backing a United Nations resolution to expand the rights and privileges afforded to the Palestinian delegation.

The United States and Israel voted against the resolution. Ms Wong said the vote was not about Palestinian statehood but said Australia no longer believe that recognition could only come at the end of a peace process.

On Wednesday the Australian National University became the second university to tell students at protest camps supporting Palestine to prepare to leave after weeks of encampments.

It followed Deakin University moving to shut camps at the Burwood campus on Monday.

The Nightly contacted the Prime Minister’s office for comment.

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