Florida Senate Unanimously Approves Bill to Define Antisemitism

Credits: San Diego Union-Tribune

The Florida Senate unanimously passed a bill that seeks to define antisemitism in state law, citing a rise in acts against Jewish people. The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Lori Berman, highlighted the dangers of antisemitism and its potential to lead to extremism against other groups.

The bill’s language is based on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, describing it as a certain perception of Jewish individuals expressed as hatred toward them, with rhetorical and physical manifestations directed at both Jewish and non-Jewish individuals, their property, and community institutions.

Florida’s Historic Capitol (Credits: The Times of Israel)

The context for this legislation includes a surge in antisemitic incidents coinciding with the Israel-Hamas war, as well as previous incidents in Florida, such as neo-Nazi protests, antisemitic flyers, and projections on buildings.

Berman emphasized that the bill is intended to combat antisemitism by defining and codifying it, making it clear that such behavior will be identified, confronted, and called out.

Berman clarified that the bill does not infringe on free speech rights or prevent people from criticizing Israel. Instead, it aims to educate and sensitize elected officials, judges, police, teachers, media, and civil society about what constitutes antisemitism.

Including this definition in law would enable law enforcement to use it in prosecuting hate crimes. The bill has already passed the House and will now return to the House for consideration of minor changes made by the Senate before it can be sent to Republican Governor Ron DeSantis for review. DeSantis’ office stated that he will review the bill once it is received.