Payman’s stand shows pressure on Albanese over Gaza still growing

Senator Fatima Payman’s resignation shows that the pressure on the Labor government over Gaza is still growing. Payman has become a symbol of the opposition to the genocide, and her stand has helped push the arguments in support of Palestine deeper into society.

Israel is still killing scores of people every day all across Gaza, ordering civilians to evacuate areas across Gaza City and Khan Younis, as it bombs them again.

The actual death toll could now exceed 186,000, a letter from experts in the British medical journal The Lancet has argued, including thousands dead under the rubble and indirect deaths from the breakdown of healthcare and sanitation.

Payman has faced a torrent of Islamophobia and abuse, after she said the “pressure to conform to caucus solidarity and toe the party line”, meant “my conscience leaves me no choice” but to leave Labor.

Labor MPs briefed the media that the Muslim Senator told them she was being “guided by God”, as if she was some kind of religious fanatic. A similar comment from a Christian MP would never spark such attention.

Albanese tried to claim she had been plotting her resignation for a month, feeding unfounded claims that she was working with Muslim groups to set up a religious party.

It was Albanese’s efforts to sanction Payman that drove her out of the party.

Payman told ABC’s Insiders she did not intend the leave Labor, saying she believed that, “I’ve upheld all the values of what, as the Labor Party, we should stand for”.

But after Payman indicated she would cross the floor again to vote for Palestine, Anthony Albanese banned her indefinitely from the Labor caucus—demanding she humiliate herself by agreeing not to cross the floor again if she wanted to return.

Payman’s resignation has meant the scale of the anger over Labor’s backing for the genocide is finally starting to dawn on the media and the government.

Labor is still claiming this is driven by “misinformation” about its actions. But its response to Payman shows that it is using every tool at its disposal to try to silence opposition.

It is still allowing the export of parts for F-35 fighter jets to Israel, feeding military intelligence to Israel through the Pine Gap spy base, and refuses to consider sanctions of any kind to pressure Israel to end its war.

There has been a media frenzy over the moves to run independent candidates against Labor MPs in Western Sydney and The Greens’ challenge in the seat of Wills in Melbourne.

The five pro-Palestine independents who won seats in the recent British election reinforced this.

But it is the ongoing mass protests and the organising for Gaza that has sprung up in schools, universities, among rank-and-file unionists, pickets of MPs offices and in councils that has been key to building pressure on the government.

The next federal election could be held next year—it’s far too urgent to wait until then to land another blow on Albanese.

Cracks in the labour movement

The support for Payman shows how the genocide in Gaza is generating opposition to Albanese inside the unions and the Labor Party.

After she crossed the floor a number of state Labor MPs and union secretaries, such as the AMWU’s Steve Murphy, CFMEU national secretary Zach Smith and Victorian Trades Hall secretary Luke Hilakari, backed Payman.

Many of them noted that, in crossing the floor to vote with The Greens on recognising a Palestinian state, Payman was voting in support of Labor Party policy.

Payman’s stand shows why the movement should welcome all those within the unions and the Labor Party who are prepared to defy Albanese and speak out for Gaza. Shunning them until they are prepared to cross the floor or leave the party will only make them feel more isolated and less willing to take a stand.

The support Payman received from the movement for Palestine and the Muslim, Arab and Palestinian communities also helped embolden her to act.

She was rightly welcomed to speak at the weekend rally for Palestine in Perth on 8 June, after she spoke out to declare Israel’s actions in Gaza a genocide. Payman also visited the student encampments for Gaza at Melbourne Uni, Sydney Uni and Curtin Uni in Perth.

She then went further, signalling her support for recognising a Palestinian state before crossing the floor to vote for it.

There are many more inside the unions and Labor who can be drawn into the movement. As Payman herself noted even as she announced her resignation, she had received “immense support” from “rank-and-file [Labor Party] members, unionists and party volunteers”.

The movement for Palestine still needs to build far broader support, and support in the unions in particular, to mobilise the power necessary to force an end to Albanese’s complicity with Israel.


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