Thirty-two years ago, before he was a politician, Republican Congressman Keith J. Rothfus from Pennsylvania traveled to Frederick, Maryland, to attend an anti-Ku Klux Klan rally.
He was surprised back then by the continued presence of the KKK and pro-Nazi groups in the US, and continued to be surprised this week in the aftermath of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday. An anti-KKK protester, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was killed and 19 others were injured when they were targeted by a white supremacist who drove his vehicle into the crowd.
“Everyone has to call out violence and call out any hate that underlies any kind of violence including any white supremacists’ activities or practices or [anybody] trying to encourage people to go down that path,” Rothfus told The Jerusalem Post
on Monday at the tail end of a weeklong visit to Israel.
“I was at an anti-KKK rally back in 1985, really it is now 2017,” said Rothfus. “We have to call it out and show that it is not acceptable in our society."
“It is very troubling that it is out there, I guess I would say I am surprised, because this is something that I would have thought we have left decades ago,” said Rothfus who has been in office since 2013.
He issued a particularly strong statement against the rally from Israel, stating: “The hate-filled ideologies espoused by the KKK, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacist groups, belong on the ash heap of history.
“Our country needs to come together and remember that we were all created equal, and are all members of this one nation, under God,” he said.
He had been part of a delegation of 37 congressmen who visited Israel through the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), which is a philanthropic organization affiliated with American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
On the last day of his visit he traveled with his son to the West Bank, where Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan took him on a tour of the Samaria region. In the Peduel settlement Dagan showed him how the hilltop community had a commanding view of the center of the country, explaining that placing a Palestinian state there would make it easy for missiles to be shot at Ben-Gurion Airport or Tel Aviv.
He was also given a tour of the ancient Roman fortress and Byzantine Church on the outskirts of the settlements.
Rothfus spoke positively about Samaria but was hesitant to make any sweeping policy statements on the future of the West Bank settlements, particularly in light of the pending arrival of a team from the Trump Administration, to advance the peace process.
“I know that I came here today to look at the historical sites and to visit some of the businesses where people are doing a lot of good work here. I think people need to come and take a look. They would be surprised, this is a beautiful area, the people are wonderful and to see people working together here, it is very encouraging,” Rothfus said.
He was hesitant to commit to supporting the Taylor Force Act, explaining that he needed to look at more details, but said he was stood behind the principles that the legislation represented. The bill proposes to stop US economic aid to the Palestinian Authority until it ceases payments to terrorists’ families.
“We are concerned about how money would flow to families of terrorists and we are looking at ways to use our influence to prevent that from happening,” he said. “I am supportive of using the leverage that we have to block money from flowing to the terrorists,” he said. Rothfus was very clear on his support for Israel and for the use of US resources to protect Israel.
Before leaving the US, he said: “In light of the turmoil that plagues the Middle East today, the relationship between the United States and Israel must be stronger and more unbreakable than ever before.
“We face an Iran that wishes death to both America and Israel and continues to have nuclear ambitions. ISIS continues to slaughter religious minorities and destroy their cultural heritage, while attempting to expand its territory. Russia stands united with the vicious Syrian regime that commits genocide against its own people. In the context of this chaos, Israel stands as the only democracy in the region, and a defender of stability and security,” Rothfus said.