Opinion

Florida takes the lead against antisemitism

A new law signed by Gov. DeSantis is an important step forward.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses a conference in Israel organized by “The Jerusalem Post” and the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance, April 27, 2023. Credit: TPS.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses a conference in Israel organized by “The Jerusalem Post” and the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance, April 27, 2023. Credit: TPS.
Farley Weiss
Farley Weiss is chairman of the Israel Heritage Foundation (IHF) and former president of the National Council of Young Israel.

On Sunday, Jan. 8 in Davie, Fla., the organization Teach Florida had their legislative breakfast with members of the Florida legislature. More than 750 people attended to thank the group for its increased financial support for school choice.

After the event ended, I spoke to Republican Rep. Randy Fine about my idea to combat the rise of antisemitism in Florida. Fine told me he had the same idea, but it could be helpful if I spoke to the Speaker of the Florida House about it.

I approached the speaker and it was clear from his comments that he was supportive. I relayed his comments back to Fine, who became the lead sponsor of the initial draft of a corresponding bill on Jan. 19.

This past week in Israel, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the legislation into law. He said the law will protect the Jewish community and others from harassment and intimidation. “You don’t have a right to threaten people, you don’t have a right to harass people, you don’t have a right to intimidate somebody, particularly on the basis of somebody’s religious affiliation,” he said.

Fine, who has been the target of such harassment, including an antisemitic flyer on his property in recent weeks, said, “Nazis are not welcome in Florida. The behavior they’re using to terrorize, intimidate and assault Jewish Floridians is going to come to an end.”

Fine traveled to Israel for the signing and wrote on Twitter last Thursday that the law was “the strongest antisemitism bill in the United States.”

“To Florida’s Nazi thugs, I have news: Attack Jews on their property and you’re going to prison,” he added.

The law criminalizes acts such as putting hate flyers on private property and public displays on property without the permission of the owner. It also makes it a crime to maliciously harass, threaten or intimidate people based on their religious affiliation. In other words, it criminalizes conduct that is central to the rise of antisemitism in America.

Kenneth L. Marcus, the founder and chairman of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, and previously the assistant secretary for civil rights at the United States Department of Education, provided Florida’s Jewish community with constitutional and legal analysis in support of the bill. He welcomed the signing of the legislation and hopes it will be replicated nationally.

It is important to juxtapose the action Florida has taken against antisemitism with the lack of action taken by New York. Americans Against Antisemitism studied 194 antisemitic assaults and 135 attacks on Jewish property in New York that have taken place since 2018. According to their July 2022 report, only two of the perpetrators went to prison.

On April 27, the New York City Council voted to establish April 29 as “End Jew-Hatred Day.” Sadly, four City Council members abstained and two voted against the resolution.

“Your antisemitism is showing,” Jewish Councilwoman Inna Vernikov told the six members who refused to support the resolution.

DeSantis has kept to his promise to be the most pro-Israel governor in America. With this legislation, his state is now the leader in the fight against antisemitism in America.

As chairman of the Israel Heritage Foundation, I can say that we strongly support this legislation and encourage other states to follow suit. Antisemitism can be significantly curtailed when antisemites are punished and deterred.

Farley Weiss is chairman of the Israel Heritage Foundation (IHF) and former president of the National Council of Young Israel, as well as an intellectual property attorney for the law firm Weiss & Moy. The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily representative of NCYI.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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