Sanction Israel not Senator Payman

Every supporter of Palestine must get behind Senator Fatima Payman, following Anthony Albanese’s decision to sanction her for crossing the floor in the Senate to vote with The Greens to recognise a Palestinian state.

It is a disgrace that Albanese has suspended her from the Labor parliamentary caucus for doing nothing more than vote for something that is Labor Party policy, in recognising a Palestinian state.

Indeed the Labor government itself voted for Palestine to have full membership of the UN in May.

The Albanese government is more interested in sanctioning Labor members who support Palestine than sanctioning Israel.

Senator Fatima Payman has become a symbol of the labour and Palestine movement’s opposition to the Labor government’s complicity in the Gaza genocide.

Payman’s stand shows how the Palestine movement is creating cracks inside the Labor Party. A number of state Labor MPs and union secretaries, such as the AMWU’s Steve Murphy and Victorian Trades Hall secretary Luke Hilakari, have now backed Payman. Some rank-and-file members have also submitted their resignation from Labor.

After she crossed the floor CFMEU national secretary Zach Smith defended her, saying, “Senator Payman’s principled stand on Palestine this week undoubtedly strengthened the labour movement…

“She is 100 per cent in line with our movement’s values, and true Labor people should be applauding, rather than anonymously decrying her stand.”

The months of demonstrations and community opposition to the Labor government’s support for Israel has brought sections of the Labor Party and the union movement into open opposition to the Labor leaders.

After Payman indicated she would cross the floor again to vote for Palestine, Anthony Albanese has banned her indefinitely from the Labor caucus—demanding she humiliate herself by agreeing not to cross the floor again in order to return.

Labor dissidents

Payman’s stand shows why the movement for Palestine 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 has received from the movement for Palestine, the Muslim, Arab and Palestinian communities, as well as within the unions and the Labor Party has 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 and declared, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free”. Payman also visited the student encampments for Gaza at Melbourne Uni, Sydney Uni and Curtin Uni in Perth.

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

Prior to Albanese’s decision to exile her from the party caucus, Payman told ABC’s Insiders she did not intend the leave the party, saying she believed that, “I’ve upheld all the values of what, as the Labor Party, we should stand for” and pointing to the support she had received from rank-and-file members and unionists.

It is Albanese’s efforts to punish her that have put her party membership under question. But it is Albanese who is not upholding Labor policy.

The core of the Palestine movement driving mass mobilisations has rightly rejected the “two-state solution” being advocated by Labor and by Payman. “From the river to the sea”, for most people on the streets, means an end to the apartheid state of Israel and a single democratic state.

The significance of Payman’s move to cross the floor, however, opens space for the movement to make ground and underscores the importance of a non-sectarian approach to campaigning. The movement needs to build out far beyond the ranks of the committed core, and this means welcoming anyone willing to fight against Albanese’s complicity with genocide.

Encouraging more opposition inside Labor and the unions, and more MPs to speak out, will weaken the government’s position and help build a broader and stronger movement for Palestine.

It is vital now that the labour movement redoubles its effort to end the genocide and demand Australia cuts ties with apartheid Israel. Every section of the Palestine movement should back Senator Payman and tell Albanese, “Sanction Israel, Not Senator Payman.”

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