Sunday, March 24, 2019

Florida Advances Bill Prohibiting Antisemitic Speech

TEL AVIV — A bill that would define anti-Semitism as racism, bar religion-based discrimination at schools and universities as well the demonization of Israel was unanimously approved by the Florida House Criminal Justice Subcommittee Tuesday.

Sponsored by Rep. Randy Fine, the bill would prohibit expressing hatred of Jewish people through acts including: justifying or supporting violence against Jews; comparing Israel to Nazi Germany; peddling myths about a Jewish conspiracy to control the world through media or government; Holocaust denial or accusing Jewish people of exaggeration in regards to the Holocaust; and demonizing, applying a double standard to, or delegitimizing Israel.

It would also amend the Florida Educational Equality Act to include religion on the list of categories prohibiting discrimination.

The move comes amid an outcry over freshman congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s comments that Jewish Americans have “allegiance to another country” and support for Israel is “all about the benjamins,” i.e. money.

The legislation’s definition of anti-Semitism is derived from a 2017 ordinance adopted by the city of Bal Harbour in Miami-Dade County. According to Bal Harbour Mayor Gabriel Groisman, the same definition has been adopted by 26 U.S. municipalities as well as 90 countries, including the UK and France.

“It gives law enforcement the tools they need and holds universities and schools accountable,” Groisman said.

He added that the BDS movement “is not about boycott or divestment, but just pure and simple anti-Semitism and an obsessive hatred for Israel.”

“I am proud of the state of Florida for taking the lead,” he said.

In January, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered state officials to boycott Airbnb when conducting state business and said he would make the vacation rental giant “feel the heat” unless it walks back its decision banning rentals in Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

DeSantis said his state would bar using Airbnb for state-paid travel as well as consider stopping the state’s pension fund from investing in the company were it to become publicly traded.

“If we can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat,” he said.

DeSantis, who is making his first trip abroad to Israel in May, has pledged at least $2 million in state money to Jewish schools for security purposes.

Deborah Danan

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