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Florida antisemitism definition bill passes state Senate and House

Democratic Rep. Michael (“Mike”) Gottlieb said a former ruling on the matter “became somewhat of a paper tiger.”

An east view of the old Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee. The new capitol is visible in the background. Credit: DXR via Wikimedia Commons.
An east view of the old Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee. The new capitol is visible in the background. Credit: DXR via Wikimedia Commons.

A bill to define antisemitism has passed through both chambers of the Florida legislature and now heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis to be signed into law.

The Florida Senate voted on Feb. 28 in favor of a bill sponsored by State Sen. Lori Berman (D-Fla.) to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. The measure got final approval from the Florida House on Feb. 29, passing unanimously.

“Outbreaks of antisemitism can be a harbinger of deep societal trouble, and reflect that extremism and violence are eminent,” said Berman, who is Jewish. “It is dangerous and unacceptable.”

State Rep. Michael (“Mike”) Gottlieb (D-Fla.), who is Jewish, sponsored the House version of the bill, HB 1877. He told JNS that it was partially inspired by previous Florida legislation that prohibited people “from distributing onto private property material intimidating, threatening. … If you’ll recall, they were using lights to put antisemitic signs and insignia on buildings and leafleting and things like that.”

He said that ruling “became somewhat of a paper tiger because there wasn’t a definition in Florida law of what exactly is antisemitism.”

Gottlieb said the passage of House Bill 187 simply applied “that same IHRA definition—which is the most widely used definition of antisemitism—and it comes with some examples of traditional antisemitic tropes to further create guidelines and guardrails, if you will, for governmental entities to identify what is and isn’t antisemitism.”

He also told JNS that the legislators put in protections for free speech and that the bill’s implementation would guide law enforcement over whether or not they should take action when evaluating an incident.

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