Labor senator unleashes at Anthony Albanese as she breaks ranks to call out her own party

A Labor senator has broken party ranks and called on the Prime Minister to brand Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip genocide.

Western Australia’s Fatima Payman – Australia’s first hijab-wearing Muslim in federal parliament – issued a strong rebuke of the government’s stance on Wednesday, which is also Nakba Day.

Translating to The Catastrophe, the day marks the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, with Palestinians saying it resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

‘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,’ Senator Payman said to reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

‘I ask our prime minister and our fellow parliamentarians, how many international rights laws must Israel break for us to say enough?

‘How many lives does it take to call this a genocide?’

Senator Fatima Payman issued a strong rebuke of the government’s stance on the Middle East conflict. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)


Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has taken issue with comments made by WA senator Fatima Payman. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has taken issue with comments made by WA senator Fatima Payman. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS) 

Israel launched a ground invasion of Gaza after the Palestinian paramilitary group Hamas – designated by Australia as a terrorist organisation – killed 1200 people and took 250 hostages in Israeli territory on October 7, according to Tel Aviv’s tallies.

Israel’s retaliatory action in Gaza has killed more than 35,000 people and injured 77,000 others, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories found Israel’s military campaign since October 7 amounted to genocide.

Israel has emphatically rejected the use of the term genocide, saying its war was against Hamas militants in Gaza, not civilians, and precautions were being taken to reduce casualties.

Senator Payman called on her colleagues to support sanctions and divestment targeting Israel, plus a permanent ceasefire and the recognition of a Palestinian state.

‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,’ the Afghanistan-born senator said.

Her words will likely anger Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who has criticised the  use of the phrase ‘from the river to the sea’, which many Jewish groups say is a call for expulsion of their people from Israel.

Mr Albanese said Australia continued to urge both sides to pursue a two-state solution in which both Israel and Palestine could co-exist peacefully side-by-side, and argued that any sanctions or divestments would be little more than symbolic.

‘The idea we here in Australia can determine what is happening in the Middle East is just not correct,” he said.

‘What we can do is to make our voice heard for humanitarian concerns for standing up for the fact that all lives, all innocent lives, matter whether they be Israeli or Palestinian.’

Mr Albanese has previously said the boycott, divest and sanction movement was racist, as it targeted all Israelis and Jewish people even if they had no ties to the government and regardless of whether they supported or opposes its policies.

One Nation senator Pauline Hanson defended Israel during a Senate debate, saying Jewish people had also been displaced and faced persecution as she sported a scarf with Israel’s Star of David in the Senate chamber.

‘Talking about genocide and displacement, the Jewish people have been treated like this for centuries – thousands upon thousands of years by different races and countries,’ she said, after being told to remove the scarf because it breached the rules.

Protesters held a rally on the lawns of Parliament House as Palestine backers and an international human rights body called on the government to do more to support Gaza.