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March 7, 2023 2:17 pm

Georgia House Advances Bill Adopting IHRA Definition of Antisemitism


avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Part of an exhibit on the Holocaust supported by the International Holocaust Remembrance Association. Photo: courtesy of IHRA.

The Georgia House of Representatives on Monday approved a bill proposing statewide adoption of what is widely considered the world’s leading definition of antisemitism.

Passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 136-22, House Bill 30 will, if passed by the Senate, require state agencies and officials to refer to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism when investigating hate crimes and assessing complaints of antisemitic discrimination.

The IHRA definition of antisemitism is used by over 850 governing institutions, including the US State Department, European Union, and the United Nations. Over 30 countries have adopted it with support from lawmakers across the political spectrum.

A similar bill stalled in the Georgia legislature in 2022, but a series of antisemitic incidents in the state, including antisemitic flyers dropped at homes in a suburb of Atlanta prompted new interest in passing it to protect the state’s Jewish community, according to the Associated Press.

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“Children who went out to play on their driveway picked up baggies filled with hate and asked their parents, ‘What is this?,'” Rep. Esther Panitch (D), a sponsor of the bill and the only Jewish legislator in Georgia, said on Monday during remarks at the State Capitol, . “A bill of this type should be uncontested. It gives our system a clear definition of antisemitism.”

Opponents of the bill composed a small group of lawmakers, who argued that the IHRA definition would outlaw criticism of Israel. Rep El-Mahdi Holly (D) charged that it would “police our words” and that voting no would “preserve our American values.”

Others celebrated its progress through the legislature.

“Hate has no place in Georgia,” Georgia House Republicans tweeted when voting concluded. “The House stands in solidarity with out state’s Jewish community.”

Virginia became the most recent state to embrace the IHRA definition in the past year, joining Massachusetts, Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Arizona, New York, and Arkansas. Over half of all US states and the District of Columbia have done so also.

One in four Americans Jews believe their status in the US is less secure, according to a survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee. 80 percent feel that antisemitism has increased and half said it does not attract as much attention as other forms of discrimination.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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