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Fetterman blasts South Africa ‘genocide’ case against Israel amid unrest, crime: ‘Sit this one out’

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Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., criticized South Africa for bringing a genocide case against Israel in the United Nations’ International Court of Justice, saying the African nation should focus on quelling unrest on its own continent.

The International Court of Justice in The Netherlands was set to hear oral arguments on Thursday in the case South Africa submitted in late December accusing Israel of genocide. 

‘Who are they really fighting?’ Fetterman said of Hamas terrorists while speaking at the Orthodox Union luncheon in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. ‘ It’s a group of cowards. They hide in tunnels, they hide behind civilians, they attack, kill and mutilate children, women. And they do that. Stop talking about proportion on that. They shot their best shot on October 7th, and they would have taken more lives if they could do that.’

‘Now we’re also talking about genocide,’ Fetterman continued. ‘And now South Africa… bringing that kind of trial. Maybe South Africa ought to sit this one out when they’re talking about criticizing the behavior of another nation. Sit out!’ 

The Associated Press reported in 2020 that White farmers and organizations representing them in South Africa have called for farm killings to be made a priority crime, but the South African government insists that White farmers are not being targeted because of their race, saying the violence is a result of South Africa’s high crime rate. 

South Africa has one of the highest crime statistics in the world. A great deal of South Africa’s best farmland is owned by White farmers, as a result of the eviction of Black farmers when the country was ruled by a White minority. Although South Africa now has majority rule, land ownership remains a contentious issue, with parties like the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters mobilizing supporters and urging the government to seize White-owned land without compensation and return it to Black families.

Fetterman’s office said he was not referring to the issue of White farmers. ‘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,’ the senator said in a statement.

In the third quarter of 2023, South African farm attacks soared by 21% compared to the previous quarter, according to AfriForum, a non-profit civil rights organization. AfriForum’s Community Safety Division documented 88 farm attacks, including 13 farm murders, from July to September 2023. 

In the second quarter from April to June, 73 farm attacks, including 23 murders, were recorded, the group said. 

Fetterman, a Democrat who drew heavy criticism from conservatives during his campaign and following his victory over Dr. Mehmet Oz in 2022, has recently been championed by conservatives while drawing left-wing backlash over his stance on Israel. 

‘The Fetterman 180 is the most amazing development in political history,’ conservative lawyer Marina Medvin wrote on X, sharing the clip. 

‘John Fetterman is the only politician with the stones to stand up against the radicals in his own base, and it is beyond respectable,’ Harrison Krank wrote to his 244,000 followers, reshaping the clip originally posted on X by Dovi Safier. 

During opening statements on Thursday, South African lawyers said the latest Gaza war is part of a decades-long oppression of the Palestinians by Israel. South Africa is seeking binding preliminary orders to compel Israel to stop its military campaign in Gaza. 

The Palestinian health ministry, which is run by Hamas, claims more than 23,000 people have died and does not distinguish between civilian and militant casualties. 

‘Genocides are never declared in advance, but this court has the benefit of the past 13 weeks of evidence that shows incontrovertibly a pattern of conduct and related intention that justifies as a plausible claim of genocidal acts,’ South African lawyer Adila Hassim told the judges and audience in the packed, ornate room of the Peace Palace in The Hague, according to the Associated Press. ‘Nothing will stop the suffering except an order from this court.’ 

Israel, however, says it is battling a fierce enemy in the Gaza Strip that carried out the deadliest attack on its territory in Israel’s history, killing more than 1,200 people on Oct. 7. Israel says it is following international law and does its utmost to avoid harm to civilians. It blames Hamas for the high toll, saying the terror organization that had been controlling Gaza embeds in residential areas.

Ahead of the proceedings at The Hague, hundreds of pro-Israeli protesters marched close to the courthouse with banners saying, ‘Bring them home,’ referring to the hostages held by Hamas since Oct. 7. But South Africa reportedly turned a deaf ear to Israel’s arguments, insisting the Jewish state committed genocide by design.

‘The scale of destruction in Gaza, the targeting of family homes and civilians, the war being a war on children, all make clear that genocidal intent is both understood and has been put into practice. The articulated intent is the destruction of Palestinian life,’ lawyer Tembeka Ngcukaitobi said, according to the AP. ‘What state would admit to a genocidal intent? Yet the distinctive feature of this case has not been the silence as such, but the reiteration and repetition of genocidal speech throughout every sphere of the state in Israel.’ 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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