‘Taking a proactive stance’: Legislature approves definition of antisemitism in state Statutes
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 2/10/22-Rep. Mike Gottlieb, D-Davie, speaks during session, Thursday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

Both chambers voted unanimously.

Florida Statutes will soon have a broadly applying definition for antisemitism that state lawmakers uniformly agreed upon.

House members voted 115-0 for a bill (HB 187) providing that Florida defines antisemitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews,” and rhetorical and manifestations of such hatred “directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals, their property, community institutions and religious facilities.”

The measure, which Senators passed 40-0 Wednesday before sending it to the House for approval the following day, includes 11 examples of antisemitism that line up with its definition. They include “dehumanizing” stereotypes that Jews control industries and government, “demonizing” symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism such as blood libel, Holocaust denial, and double standards when criticizing Israel, the only Jewish-majority country.

But the bill explicitly provides that the term “antisemitism” does not apply to criticism of Israel that is similar to criticism of any other country. It also states that the measure “may not be construed to diminish or infringe upon any right protected under the First Amendment … or to conflict with federal or state antidiscrimination laws.”

Those two clarifications were enough to flip Democratic Reps. Anna Eskamani of Orlando, Dotie Joseph of North Miami and Angie Nixon of Jacksonville, who voted “no” on an earlier version of the bill that did not include them.

Unless Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoes it, HB 187 will go into effect July 1. The definition, which the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) adopted in 2016, already exists in Florida law already, but it’s tucked away in an education-specific portion of statutes.

The measure comes amid a staggering rise in hateful acts against Jews. It would not establish any new law or crime. Rather, the definition could be used in conjunction with Florida’s existing hate crime and discrimination statutes.

Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. surged 360%, according to the Anti-Defamation League, since the Oct. 7 attack in western Israel by Palestinian Hamas terrorists and the ensuing — and ongoing — war in Gaza.

“Jews in the United States are the recipient of 60% of all religious-based hate crimes. Yet we represent only 2.4% of the population,” said Davie Democratic Rep. Mike Gottlieb, who sponsored the bill with Boynton Beach Democratic Sen. Lori Berman.

“This definition of antisemitism will help people understand traditional antisemitic tropes and will help authorities in prosecuting under already existing hate crimes statutes. The bill is not intended to stifle free speech and will not infringe on constitutionally protected speech. As a Jew, I cannot sit and do nothing as hate grows.”

Gottlieb added that he was honored to pass the legislation on the inaugural Israel Day at the Capitol.

Berman called the IHRA definition the “gold standard” that 43 United Nations member states and 11 U.S. states have adopted.

By adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism, we are sending a powerful message that discrimination against Jewish individuals will not be tolerated in our state,” she said. “We are taking a proactive stance to ensure that Florida remains a welcoming and inclusive place for everyone.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • Dont Say FLA

    February 29, 2024 at 5:36 pm

    What will Rhonda’s fanboys the march outside Disney have to say about THIS?

    • My Take

      March 1, 2024 at 12:37 am

      They’ll HATE it.

      • Dont Say FLA

        March 1, 2024 at 12:01 pm

        I agree. Think they’ll hate it enough to trade in their Rhonda flags for some other flags to carry alongside their Nazi flags?

  • John L

    March 1, 2024 at 11:34 am

    DUH Santis …the pro measles governor

Comments are closed.


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