Florida law already has a definition for antisemitism, but it’s tucked away in an education-specific portion of state statutes.
A new bill by Boynton Beach Sen. Lori Berman would make the definition apply to all areas of policy and life in the Sunshine State.
Under the bill’s language, antisemitism means “a certain perception of Jewish individuals which may be expressed as hatred toward such individuals.”
“Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish and non-Jewish individuals and their property and toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities,” the bill says.
“For all Florida Statutes, this would be the working definition,” Berman told Florida Politics. “It could be for hate crimes or laws that are passed so that you don’t discriminate against Jewish individuals.”
Berman, who is Jewish, said she’d been inspired to bring forth the legislation after seeing Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin sign a similar measure in May.
Berman’s bill, filed Monday, offers 11 “contemporary examples” of antisemitism:
— Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing or stereotypical allegations about Jewish individuals as such or the power of Jewish people as a collective, such as, the myth of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy of Jewish individuals controlling the media, economy, government, or other societal institutions.
— Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jewish individuals in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of a religion.
— Accusing Jewish people as a collective of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group or for acts committed by non-Jewish individuals.
— Accusing Jewish people as a collective, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
— Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jewish individuals worldwide, than to the interests of their respective nations.
— Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, such as claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavor.
— Applying double standards by requiring of the Jewish state of Israel a standard of behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
— Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism, such as claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel, to characterize Israel or Israelites.
Much of the bill’s language, including its definition of antisemitism and the above examples, is similar or identical to that of a measure (HB 741) Gov. Ron DeSantis signed in May 2019 designed to ban discrimination against Jews in Florida public schools.
The measure, now law, applies only to Florida K-20 public education institutions and added discrimination based on religion to the list of prohibited practices in schools, colleges and universities.
Its sponsors were Republican Reps. Mike Caruso of Delray Beach and Randy Fine of Palm Bay.
The measure, which Sarasota Republican Sen. Joe Gruters sponsored in the Legislature’s upper chamber, preceded a sharp rise in antisemitic incidents statewide. Through the end of last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League, hate crimes against Jews has more than doubled in Florida since 2020.
Caruso and Fine this year successfully backed another measure increasing criminal penalties for spreading antisemitic messages and symbols in Florida.
Berman’s new bill, unintentionally and unfortunately, also comes just days after the worst attack on Israel soil in half a century. On Saturday, Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip launched a surprise attack on southern Israel, killing 900 civilians on the street, in their homes and at a nearby music festival, raping many, wounding nearly 2,400 and kidnapping about 150 more, including women and children.
Israel swiftly launched a counterattack, which by Tuesday led to a comparable number of dead and wounded Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Hamas has vowed to broadcast executions of civilian hostages if Israel targets Palestinians without warning.
According to President Joe Biden, at least 11 Americans were killed in the Hamas attacks, and others have likely been taken hostage.
SB 148, which Berman drew up before the Hamas onslaught, includes three additional examples of antisemitism to which questionable acts in Florida could be compared. One centers on the Holocaust, while the other two would broaden the state’s consideration of antisemitic acts as they relate to Israel.
The added examples in Berman’s bill include:
— Denying the fact, scope, and mechanisms, such as gas chambers, or the intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of Nazi Germany and its supporters and accomplices during the Holocaust.
— Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
— Holding Jewish individuals collectively responsible for the actions of the state of Israel.
If passed, SB 148 would become law July 1, 2024.