Labor senator Fatima Payman calls on government to ‘recognise Palestine’ in rebuke to Albanese

<span>Labor senator Fatima Payman says ‘politicking’ can not hide the ‘fact that genocide is ongoing and the Australian public knows it’.</span><span>Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP</span>
Labor senator Fatima Payman says ‘politicking’ can not hide the ‘fact that genocide is ongoing and the Australian public knows it’.Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

The Labor senator Fatima Payman has called on her own government to “recognise Palestine” and undermined efforts by the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, to discredit protests against Israel’s military actions in Gaza.

Payman, writing for Al Jazeera, argued that nations needed to take a “definitive stance” on Palestinian statehood because Israel “continues to disregard its obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and cease genocidal acts”. Israel denies committing genocide in its military response to the 7 October attacks by Hamas.

Labor has accused the Greens of encouraging protests outside MPs’ electorate offices, which it argues are undemocratic, and joined with the Coalition opposition to condemn what it calls “misinformation” over the government’s position on recognising Palestine.

The Greens have targeted the Albanese Labor government for its refusal to join a procedural motion to bring on a parliamentary debate about recognition of Palestinian statehood.

“My party, the Australian Labor Party, has consistently argued that such motions are political machinations on the part of the Greens in order to score ‘cheap points’ and sway the public,” Payman wrote.

“Even if that were the case, this ‘politicking’ does not detract from the underlying fact that a genocide is ongoing, and the Australian public knows it.”

Related: Campus holdout: University of Sydney tells Gaza protesters to leave but small group vows ‘encampment has not ended’

Payman broke ranks in May by accusing Israel of genocide and declaring “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – a politically charged phrase that Albanese has criticised.

“Our country must not become one that smothers voices calling for justice, or one that censors the oppressed seeking freedom,” she wrote in Al Jazeera.

“Australian hearts have an affinity for justice. This is the reason why our students across the country are standing up as their predecessors did when they denounced the wars in Vietnam, and Iraq, and Afghanistan. The students were right on each of these generation-defining conflicts.”

Payman also noted that “in opposition, our prime minister and the Labor Party were fierce champions of Palestine and passionate voices for justice”.

“I ask that we summon that spirit of old and do the same in power.

“Let historians write of us that we were on the right side of history, that we boldly reinforced international law, and that we were a shining beacon and voice for freedom. It is time to recognise Palestine.”

Australia supported a UN vote on Palestinian membership although the foreign minister, Penny Wong, was at pains to note the motion was not about recognising Palestine as a state.

The international criminal court has applied for warrants for the arrest of five people including three Hamas leaders, and the Israeli prime minister and defence minister for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Albanese government has said it respects the independence of the ICC, as the opposition led by Peter Dutton demanded it denounce the decision.

On Tuesday Alex Ryvchin, the co-chief executive of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, blasted Payman, who he said had “taken positions on the conflict utterly antithetical to her government’s own policies, including the use of a chant that our own prime minister called ‘violent’ and contrary to a two-state solution”.

Ryvchin said the offices of her own colleagues had been targeted.

“Instead of writing for Qatari state media, the senator would be well served reflecting on how this war started and calling on the Hamas leadership in Gaza and Doha to accept the ceasefire that Israel and all meditating parties have supported.”

Payman has rejected claims her use of the politically charged phrase “from the river to the sea” promoting Palestinian freedom is antisemitic. Organisers of protests outside electorate offices insist they are peaceful.

“This is all a distraction from what is at stake: the total destruction of Gazan society and the mass killing of innocent civilians,” Payman said on Tuesday night. “Words are not violence, violence is violence, and it beggars belief that Israel continues to act with impunity, punishing innocent civilians, eradicating entire family lineages, ignoring international law, and still claiming with a straight face, that it is defending itself.

“I reiterate that I do not want to see antisemitism and islamophobia weaponised here or anywhere else, nor any harm come to innocent people. The various strategies to cast those standing up for the recognition and liberation of Palestinians as violent, obfuscate the very real violence that we condemn and demand that it be stopped.”

Earlier in June the Greens leader, Adam Bandt, hit back at the prime minister and the opposition leader, accusing them of “attempting to distract from their complicity” and adding: “I will not be lectured to about peace and non-violence by people who back the invasion of Gaza.”