Holocaust haunts violence in Charlottesville for Smucker

August 16, 2017
In The News

With the worst results of racism fresh on his mind Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker criticized weekend protesters in Charlottesville, Va.

"We simply cannot accept that kind of behavior here, and we can't tolerate what were really horrendous acts of racism, displays of white supremacy, and the idea of Nazi flags being waved. It just simply is unacceptable," Smucker said.

The Lancaster County Republican who represents part of Berks County just returned from a week in Israel that included a visit to Yad Vashem, Isreal's Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

"It's a really somber experience to visit that type of memorial. But it's necessary and valuable to do that to better understand the horrors of the Holocaust. And it's just a really stark reminder of the racism and the hate that drove Hitler and drove the Nazis."

Smucker said President Donald Trump's statement Monday clearly disavowed Nazi and white supremacist groups, but it would have had more impact if he had done that sooner.

After Trump's remarks Tuesday that “there is blame on both sides”, Smucker tweeted: Those who march under Nazi flags or with KKK-affiliated groups are not "fine people."

Smucker was part of a Republican congressional delegation that visited Israel, a trip that overlapped briefly with a visit by a congressional Democrats. The groups spent some time together to show that support for Israel is not a partisan issue, Smucker said. The trip happens every two years for incoming members of Congress. It was sponsored by the American Israel Educational Foundation, a charitable organization that is privately funded by American citizens. No funding came from the taxpayers or the Israeli government.

Smucker said the trip gave him a better firsthand understanding of the security concerns Israelis face.

"Security is the top issue, always on their mind, and it is startling to see that," Smucker said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "I am more optimistic about the future of Israel than I had ever imagined. But I also understand the world is a dangerous place, especially in the Middle East."

Smucker also said that we must do what we can to mitigate the danger of violence not only there but here in the U.S.

In June, Trump spoke in support of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In July, Vice President Mike Pence promised a day would come when the embassy would make the move.

Smucker said he also supports the proposed change.

"We should move it. It wouldn't take much to make it be official. I don't think there would be much negative reaction to it," Smucker said.

Such a move would acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, something the United Nations and most Western nations have not done in deference to the U.N.'s determination in 1949 that Jerusalem is international territory. Then-U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in 2009 that peace in the region depends on the city being the capital of both Israel and Palestine, with agreed upon access to its holy sites that is acceptable to all.