(April 29, 2019 / JNS) The Florida Senate unanimously passed an anti-Semitism bill previously passed unanimously by the Florida House, which adopts the U.S. State Department definition of anti-Semitism 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 anti-Semitism, 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.”
The political arm of the Israeli-American Council hailed what they called “a groundbreaking law that codifies a uniform definition of anti-Semitism and works against its manifestation as criminal and discriminatory activity.”
“Recognizing the sharp increase in anti-Semitic 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 anti-Semitic 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 anti-Semitic statements, but removes culpability for those who actually carry out anti-Semitic hate crime attacks.”
“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 anti-Semitism 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 anti-Semitic 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.