Senator Payman resigns from Labor Party following its refusal to recognise Palestinian statehood

Source: ABC News (Australia)

At a press conference in the Australian Parliament on Thursday 4th July, Senator Fatima Payman announced her resignation from the Labor Party.

Senator Payman’s resignation followed her decision to support a motion by The Greens in the Senate on Tuesday 25th June which referred to “the need for the Senate to recognise the State of Palestine.” 

While receiving much support from Labor Party branch members, trade unions and others in the community for taking this stance, Labor’s parliamentary leadership took a different view.  With the backing of caucus members, PM Albanese first suspended Senator Payman’s participation in caucus meetings during the current session of parliament. Days later, PM Albanese announced that she was indefinitely suspended from the party.

Senator Payman’s action and its repercussions within the parliamentary wing of the Labor Party has attracted much commentary in the media. In general, both Labor’s response, as well as the mainstream media’s coverage, have failed to address the central issue underpinning this significant event: the reprehensible refusal of the Labor government to seek official parliamentary endorsement for Palestinian statehood.

Countries such as Spain, Norway and Ireland in the last month or so, have officially recognised Palestinian statehood as a means of accelerating efforts to secure a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. It is worth noting that Spain, Norway and Ireland previously had a position of only recognising Palestinian statehood at the end of a peace process. However, all three countries emphasised that this position was no longer tenable in light of the death and destruction wrought by Israel’s war on Gaza.

For example, Ireland’s Prime Minister Simon Harris stated: “We had wanted to recognise Palestine at the end of a peace process. However we have made this move alongside Spain and Norway to keep the miracle of peace alive.”

Likewise Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was reported as saying: “It’s the only way of advancing toward what everyone recognises as the only possible solution to achieve a peaceful future, one of a Palestinian state that lives side by side with the Israeli state in peace and security.”

Of the 27 members of the European Union, Sweden, Cyprus, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria have already recognised a Palestinian state, while a number of other member states are committed to doing so.

The recent change in policy by Spain, Norway and Ireland means that 146 of the 193 member states of the United Nations now recognise a Palestinian state.

Labor’s parliamentary leadership is fully aware that the Netanyahu government has been unrelentingly hostile to negotiating a two-state solution. Along with the rest of the Australian community, day after day after day they would have witnessed the growing famine, the mutilation and the slaughter of Palestinian civilians in Gaza by the Israel armed forces over the last nine months.

Yet in the face of Israel’s daily atrocities, PM Anthony Albanese, Foreign Minister Penny Wong and other ministers persist in clinging to a redundant policy. This redundant policy may align with US foreign policy and satisfy the Zionist lobby in Australia. However, it is demonstrably at odds with achieving a permanent ceasefire, let alone a negotiated and lasting peace in the future.

In a speech to the Australian National University national security conference on 9th April, Foreign Minister Penny Wong stated that the Netanyahu government’s “refusal to even engage on the question of a Palestinian state” had brought about “widespread frustration”. This was the reason why the international community was “now considering the question of Palestinian statehood as a way of building momentum towards a two-state solution”.1

Unlike the majority of nations around the world, the Albanese government has failed to officially recognise a Palestinian state and help build momentum towards a ceasefire in the short term and a two-state solution in the longer term. Had Labor adopted the appropriate action of recognising Palestinian statehood in recent months, all the self-inflicted repercussions so bitterly complained about would never have taken place.

Australia should have been a lot more active in bringing about a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. This includes imposing a range of sanctions on Israel to help achieve this end. To advance this cause, it needs to immediately follow the example of Spain, Norway and Ireland, along with the majority of nations around the world, and officially recognise a Palestinian state.2

Senator Payman’s stance is to be applauded. She has courageously condemned Israel’s war crimes in Gaza and persistently called for the protection of human rights and the observance of international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territories. In doing so, she has also been resolute in representing corresponding community opinion on these matters in her state of Western Australia.

1. Senator Penny Wong, ‘Speech to the ANU National Security College “Securing our Future”’, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Apr 9, 2024.
2. Such sanctions include ending Australia’s two-way arms trade with Israel, including the supply of Australian made components for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 joint strike fighter aircraft that are operational in Israel’s war on Gaza. Refer to Michelle Fahy, ‘Decoded: Defence Department’s deadly deceits’, Jul 1, 2024.

More information
MPG, ‘Spain, Ireland and Norway have recognised a Palestinian state – what’s stopping Australia?’, May 30, 2024.

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