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April 30, 2019 11:24 am

Florida Senate Passes Antisemitism Bill With Clear Mandate

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Entry sign to the state of Florida. Photo: DonkeyHotey via Flickr. – The Florida Senate unanimously passed an antisemitism bill previously passed unanimously by the Florida House, which adopts the US State Department definition of antisemitism and mandates that discrimination against Jewish people be considered similar to acts of racial discrimination in Florida’s public-education institutions.

Passed by a vote of 26-0, the bill moves to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign it into law.

Jewish and pro-Israel groups applauded the bill’s passage.

“We praise them for recognizing the need to pass strong legislation defining antisemitism, thus making it easier for law enforcement to investigate unprotected conduct, such as harassment and vandalism as hate crimes,” said StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein. “Florida is acting as a role model during these challenging times. We encourage every state to follow Florida’s lead and protect all of its citizens, especially its students, from discrimination based on race, religion or ethnic origin.”

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The political arm of the Israeli-American Council hailed what they called “a groundbreaking law that codifies a uniform definition of antisemitism and works against its manifestation as criminal and discriminatory activity.”

“Recognizing the sharp increase in antisemitic activity, our approach was to pursue legislation that delivers a practical regulatory response,” said IAC for Action Chairman Shawn Evenhaim. “The passage of HB-741 goes far beyond simply showing symbolic support for the plight of the Jewish community. This law is a qualitative addition to efforts that protect Jewish persons. It gives state officials clear parameters whenever they are faced with antiSemitic incidents.”

The journey to the bill passing both legislative chambers wasn’t without controversy.

Earlier this month, State Sen. Audrey Gibson, who leads the chamber’s Democrats, voted against the legislation in committee.

“As it currently stands, this legislation fights the wrong battle, and targets the wrong enemy,” she said in a written statement. “It restrains school children from making antisemitic statements, but removes culpability for those who actually carry out antisemitic hate crime attacks.”

She was repudiated by Florida Republicans, who compared her to US Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), both of whom have made antisemitic and anti-Israel statements in Congress.

“It is sad that in the world propagated by Washington Democrats like Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib and Tallahassee Democrats like Audrey Gibson, fighting antisemitism is ‘divisive,’ ” said state Rep. Randy Fine, a Jewish Republican and the bill’s sponsor.

Even Gibson’s own party condemned her.

Sen. Annette Taddeo, who is Jewish, said she was “extremely disappointed” in Gibson.

Lauren Book, also Jewish, stated that the bill is crucial, especially in the aftermath of antisemitic incidents, including the mass shooting at the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh in October where 11 worshippers were killed—and now in the wake of the April 27 Chabad of Poway, Calif., shooting attack, where a 60-year-old died from gunshot wounds.

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