(JNS) South Africa, which has brought genocide charges against Israel at the International Court of Justice, should “sit this one out,” US Senator John Fetterman said on Wednesday at an Orthodox Union lunch on Capitol Hill.
The Pennsylvania Democrat, who has developed a reputation as one of Israel’s staunchest supporters in Congress, said that Hamas’s terror attack on Israel on October 7 cannot be compared to Israeli self-defense and critics of the Jewish state should not accuse the latter of asymmetrical response.
“Who are they really fighting? It’s a group of cowards. They hide in tunnels. They hide behind civilians. They attack, kill and mutilate children, women,” he said. “Stop talking about ‘proportion.’”
The senator, who is known for flouting conventions, including the Senate’s dress code, then turned his attention to South Africa.
“Let’s also talk about that now that we’re talking about ‘genocide,’ and now South Africa is bringing that to trial,” he said. “Maybe South Africa oughta sit this one out.”
South Africa presented its case to the International Court of Justice on Thursday that Israel’s military campaign against Hamas constitutes genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza.
Israel has argued that the case is legally and factually baseless, and Israel’s Foreign Ministry accused South Africa of acting as the “legal arm of the Hamas terrorist organization.”
Israel is scheduled to present its side of the case to the court on Friday.
A clip of Fetterman’s comments criticising South Africa went viral on social media overnight.
Fetterman told JNS that South Africa should pay attention closer to home. “The entirety of my point was this. South Africa should instead focus on the spiraling humanitarian crises on its own continent—like Sudan, where more than 7 million people have been displaced with widespread atrocities,” he said.
Fetterman has emerged since October 7 as one of the most vehemently pro-Israel voices in the Democratic Party.
In an interview with Politico in December, Fetterman said he is willing to continue standing with Israel even as a growing number of fellow Democrats call for a ceasefire in the war against Hamas.
“I would be the last man standing to be absolutely there on the Israeli side on this with no conditions,” he said.
At Wednesday’s OU event, Fetterman also hit back at anti-Israel protesters demanding a ceasefire. There will never be a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict until Hamas is eliminated, he said.
“Protests all around the nation. They’re blocking tunnels. They’re blocking roads. Why?” Fetterman asked. “Why aren’t they protesting: ‘When will we get the hostages home?’ Why aren’t they protesting Hamas? Why aren’t they protesting the systemic rape and torture of Israeli women and children? I will never get it.”
“Hamas is anathema to peace,” he added. “We’ll never have a stable, two-state solution, we’ll never have any peace for Israel until they are fully eliminated.”