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Senator’s pro-Palestine comments inappropriate: PM

Senator Payman's statement

Source: SBS News

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has condemned the comments of a Labor senator who has broken ranks with the party to label Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip a genocide.

Western Australian senator Fatima Payman issued a strong public rebuke of the government’s stance on Wednesday.

“I must call this out for what it is – this is a genocide and we need to stop pretending otherwise,” she said.

Payman, who is Afghan born, is the first hijab-wearing Muslim woman in federal Parliament.

Payman ended her statement to SBS News on Wednesday with “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – a phrase Palestinians consider a call for freedom while some Jewish communities believe it is a call for the destruction of Israel.

Conservative politicians and Albanese have also taken issue with the phrase.

He has previously said it goes against a two-state solution in which Israel and Palestine co-exist side by side.

Asked on Thursday if Payman’s use of the words was appropriate, Albanese said: “No, it’s not.”

“What is appropriate is a two-state solution, where both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in security, in peace and prosperity,” Albanese told ABC radio.

“It is not in the interests of either Israelis or Palestinians to advocate for there to just be one state that is a forerunner of enormous conflict and grief.”

Later on Thursday, the Senate voted to formally rebuke Payman.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham moved a motion calling for senators to avoid “inflammatory and divisive comments”, and singled out the phrase used by Payman.

“Anti-Semitism manifests itself in many ways. Attacks are often made via expressions of hatred, via threats, via intimidation,” he said.

“These include the use of chants and phrases like calls for ‘Intifada’ and the chant ‘from the river to the sea’. Let us be very clear – they call for violence. They stand against the existence of the state of Israel.”

The motion passed with the support of the government, but was opposed by the Greens. It did not name Payman, who was not in the chamber for the vote.

Hamas – designated a terrorist group by the Australian government – launched an attack on Israel on October 7 that killed 1200 people and led another 200 to be taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel has since launched a ground offensive and bombing campaign in Gaza that has killed almost 35,000 people and injured about 77,000 more, according to the local health ministry.

At least 1.7 million people in Gaza have been displaced and the majority are starving, according to the UN, as Israel throttles aid into the region and launches an attack on the territory’s last refuge.

Payman’s comments were made on the 76th anniversary of the Nakba.

Translated as “the catastrophe”, it marks the 1948 Palestine War in which thousands of Palestinians were killed in massacres by Israeli military forces, and hundreds of thousands more were expelled from their homes in the land that would become Israel.

“We are seeing enormous grief in Gaza. That is having a significant impact on people who have relatives and friends in Gaza – and that is a very traumatic occurrence,” Albanese said.

“Just as a lot of trauma is being experienced by Jewish Australians due to the rise in anti-Semitism that we’re seeing here, where people who happen to be Jewish are being held responsible for actions of the [Israeli] government.”

Albanese said he hadn’t yet spoken directly with Payman but he stood by his government’s position.

“The government’s policy has been very clear: From our opposition to the terrorist activity of Hamas on October 7, our call for the release of hostages, our call for humanitarian ceasefire is a call for humanitarian aid to be delivered to the people of Gaza, our opposition to any ground offensive,” he said.

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-with AAP

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