Australian Senator Resigns Following Backlash Over Gaza Vote

Senator Fatima Payman has resigned from Australia’s ruling Labor Party just days after voting against it to support a motion on Palestinian statehood. Labor enforces strict penalties for members who undermine its policy positions, and Ms. Payman had already been “indefinitely suspended” from the party’s caucus after pledging to repeat her dissent.

“This is a matter I cannot compromise on,” the 29-year-old said on Thursday, adding that she was “deeply torn” over her decision. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Ms. Payman had thanked him for his leadership and denied allegations that she had been intimidated into quitting.

Ms. Payman will now serve as an independent senator. She is the first and only hijab-wearing federal politician in Australia, and her family fled Afghanistan after it fell to the Taliban in 1996. “Unlike my colleagues, I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of injustice. My family did not flee a war-torn country to come here as refugees for me to remain silent when I see atrocities inflicted on innocent people,” she said during a press conference announcing her resignation.

The Gaza conflict has become a volatile political issue in Australia, with all sides carefully managing their positions. The government officially supports a two-state solution but did not back the motion on statehood after unsuccessfully attempting to insert a condition that recognition should be “as part of a peace process.”

The Israeli military launched a campaign against the Hamas group in Gaza following an unprecedented Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on October 7, which resulted in about 1,200 deaths and 251 hostages taken. Since then, more than 37,900 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Ms. Payman said she had received “immense support” from some colleagues and “pressure… to toe the party line” from others since voting with the Greens party last Tuesday. She also reported receiving “death threats and emails that were quite confronting” from the public.

Prime Minister Albanese, who issued the indefinite suspension on Sunday, had stated that Ms. Payman could rejoin the caucus if she was willing to participate “as a team player.” However, Ms. Payman said earlier this week that she had been “exiled” by Labor, explaining that she had been removed from meetings, group chats, and all committees.

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