This 2024 - Let's Win the Battle of Headlines
update deskAntisemitism

Georgia governor signs bill using IHRA to define Jew-hatred

Esther Panitch, the only Jewish member of the Georgia state legislature, told JNS that she is "overwhelmed with gratitude to my colleagues and leaders, who listened to the Jewish community" and took action.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signs an antisemitism bill, HB 30, on Jan. 31, 2024. Credit: Georgia Governor's Office.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signs an antisemitism bill, HB 30, on Jan. 31, 2024. Credit: Georgia Governor's Office.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill that uses the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s working definition of antisemitism to define Jew-hatred in state law.

Jenny Sividya, who survived Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel, joined the Republican governor as he signed the bill. “Thank you for being here,” Kemp told her. “We are honored by your presence.”

“There has been a troubling rise in antisemitism across our nation in recent years, especially following the horrific terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7 that claimed the lives of over 1,200 Israelis,” he said. “These acts of hatred have taken on many forms, including harassment, intimidation, and even violence. Georgia has not been immune to that horrible reality.”

Jewish citizens “have experienced hate in the form of antisemitic flyers spread across neighborhoods, messages on social media calling for the death of Jews in Israel and around the world and even hateful gatherings outside synagogues,” Kemp added.

The legislation, which Kemp signed on Wednesday, had passed the state Senate 44-6 and the state House 129-5.

Kemp, who visited Israel for the first time last year, had said he would sign the bill because it “builds on our commitment to protect Georgians from criminal acts, including those based on hate.”

Georgia state representatives Esther Panitch, a Democrat, and John Carson, a Republican, led the legislation, which calls on state agencies to define Jew-hatred “as provided for in the working definition of antisemitism and the contemporary examples of antisemitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.”

Georgia HB 30
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signs an antisemitism bill, HB 30, on Jan. 31, 2024. Credit: Georgia governor’s office.

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude to my colleagues and leaders, who listened to the Jewish community about what we were being subjected to with antisemitism and took action,” Panitch, the only Jewish member of the Georgia state legislature, told JNS after the bill passed the state Senate.

“We applaud Gov. Kemp and the Georgia Legislature for taking a bold stand against antisemitic and national origin discrimination,” stated Shawn Evenhaim, board chair of the Israeli-American Coalition for Action. “By acting today, Georgia is protecting their citizens against anti-Jewish bias and hatred, which has been at crisis levels since Oct. 7.”

Chris Carr, the attorney general of Georgia, wrote that HB30 is important amid rising antisemitism. “In Georgia, we continue to push back against these acts of evil and in support of our Jewish friends and neighbors,” he stated. “We’re thankful to our General Assembly for sending a message that antisemitism has no place in our state.”

Rabbi Ari Weisenfeld, associate national director of state relations for Agudah Israel of America, encouraged other states to follow suit.

“Agudath Israel is especially grateful to Representatives Panich and Carson for championing the bill last year and for continuing to advocate for it this year,” he stated. “We also thank Senate President Pro Tempore John Kennedy for sponsoring the bill in the Senate.”

Carson, who sponsored the bill, noted the efforts of attorney Joe Sabag, “who helped lead the formation of Georgia’s anti-BDS law in 2016 and developed this IHRA bill” and also thanked Naty Saidoff, chair emeritus of the Israeli-American Coalition, for affording him “the opportunity to visit Israel and learn more about the problem of global antisemitism. (BDS is to the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.)

Sabag, executive director of the Israeli-American Coalition for Action, called the bill “a major step forward for equal protection for Jewish Georgians.”

“Without the IHRA definition, our community was suffering a civil rights deficit, where perpetrators of antisemitic crime and discrimination would target Jews and Jewish institutions and then hide behind the false pretense that they were motivated by anti-Israel politics and not anti-
Jewish bigotry,” he said. “Today’s ratification of HB30 is a great step forward for Georgia.”

Jordan Cope, policy education director at StandWithUs, attended the Senate vote. “With antisemitism having exploded worldwide post-Oct. 7, the IHRA definition remains a tool of paramount importance for helping identify and quell the mounting tide of antisemitism,” he stated.

“Georgia’s moral clarity on this matter sets a clear example from which other states ought to draw inspiration as Jews around the world desperately seek assurances of their own safety,” he added.

You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Israel is at war - Support JNS

JNS is combating the barrage of misinformation with factual reporting. We depend on your support.

Support JNS
Topics
Comments
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates