‘Right to resist’: Muslim group supporting Palestinian ‘resistance’ given charity status

May 17, 2024

Friday 17 May 2024
Rhiannon Down and Joe Kelly
The Australian

A Muslim group awarded charity status in this week’s budget have warned senators of the legal risk of condemning the anti-Israel “river to the sea” chant and claims Labor has abandoned its own senator, Fatima Payman, over her allegations of genocide in Gaza.

The Australian Muslim Advocacy Network’s AMAN Foundation was endorsed as a deductible gift recipient in Tuesday’s federal budget, just days before the group wrote an open letter warning a motion the Senate passed condemning a controversial pro-Palestine slogan risked breaking the law.

In the open letter to senators sent on Friday May 17, the Network said Senator Payman had showed courage in breaking ranks with the Albanese government and speaking out at a “critical point of history where further genocide can be prevented”. It criticised her Labor colleagues for “disloyalty” for refusing to back her, saying this was a “disheartening” outcome.

The letter accused upper house MPs who voted in support of a motion to condemn the “from the river to the sea” chant of characterising Palestinians as “inhuman, violent, and genocidal”, warning of the legal risks of violating racial vilification laws.

“Without the protection of Parliamentary privilege, the Senate motion would likely violate section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and various state vilification laws, including those in Victoria that prohibit encouraging, assisting, or inducing vilification,” the letter said.

“‘From the river to the sea’ is a call for freedom from Palestinians and their allies, fundamentally different from the annexation and colonisation promoted by Likud under the same phrase.”

The letter said Senator Payman was a “truth-seeking brave woman from a minority community” who was “not afraid to speak truth to power and uphold the values of justice and dignity for all people, regardless of their background”.

The foundation’s director Adel Salman said in the wake of the Hamas terror attack on October 7 that Palestinians had a “right to resist” as long as it didn’t constitute “wanton violence”.

Mr Salman, who is a business leader and president of the Islamic Council of Victoria, said it was “absolutely legitimate for the Palestinians to try to break this siege of Gaza, which is a form of occupation” in a fiery ABC interview in February.

Another director at the foundation Moustafa Kheir led a legal push to refer the Prime Minister to the International Criminal Court as an accessory to genocide, submitting a 92 page document outlining his complicity in the violence in Gaza.

Mr Kheir, who is the principal solicitor at Birchgrove Legal, wrote to Mr Albanese on two occasions to inform that his government was “supporting war crimes” and had been forced to make the referral when they did not receive a response.

Opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson raised concern that a group which refused to condemn Hamas for October 7 should be given special status, meaning that its donors will receive a tax dedication on their contributions.

“The Albanese government should urgently explain why it is granting tax-deductible status to an organisation which has issued legal threats to three quarters of the Senate for taking a principled stand against anti-Semitism,” he said.

“The Prime Minister should explain why this group deserves this special privilege when they also defend the use of a statement he himself has agreed is very violent and has no place in Australia.”

The revelation comes after Innovation Minister Ed Husic said Senator Payman showed “guts” by deciding to speak out on the Israel-Hamas war, but stopped short of endorsing her use of the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.

Mr Husic, who was one of the first Muslim cabinet ministers, said Senator Payman had been brave in drawing attention to the issue of “moral silence” on the conflict, after she made a defiant address on Wednesday in which she accused Israel of genocide and invoked the controversial chant.

“What has gone missing in this is that it takes a lot of guts to go out on an issue as tough as this as a first term member of parliament,” he said.

“And to try and get people to focus on the moral issue at hand on the role of silence when in her perspective, you’ve seen 35,000 people being killed, being starved and we’ve seen what is happening in Rafah – which the international community has urged Israel not to do.”

The Network was contacted for comment.

A government spokeswoman said Mr Albanese had been “very clear that he rejects the river to the sea chant”. “The government supports a two state solution where both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in security, peace and prosperity,” she said.

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