The Florida House recently unanimously passed a bill to adopt the nation’s first state-sanctioned definition of anti-Semitism and require public schools and universities acknowledge that anti-Semitism is racism.
House Bill 741, sponsored by Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, amends the Florida Educational Equality Act to add religion to the list of prohibited discrimination categories and adopts a 2017 definition of anti-Semitism encoded by the Miami-Dade County city of Bal Harbour and endorsed by the U.S. State Department.
Passed by 114 to zero, the bill was filed in response to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which boycotts companies, businesses, and others based in Israel, arguing Israel is an occupying state of “Palestine.”
The bill labels the BDS movement as a terrorist group like the KKK and ISIS.
It also comes after U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, said Jewish-Americans owe “allegiance to another country” and support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins.”
Co-Sponsor Rep. Mike Caruso, R-Boca Raton, pointed out that Florida has the third-largest Jewish population of 630,000 residents. As such, Florida must “take the lead” in assuring Jews that they will be protected. He said:
“They said, ‘Never again!,’ and here we are, again. Let’s not stand by this time and hope – hope – this is gong to go away because it won’t.”
“It is so important that we take a stand-alone stance in standing up to anti-Semitism,” agreed Rep. Carlos Guillermo-Smith, D-Orlando, himself a victim of bullying and discrimination as a college student.
“Many of us who advocate for marginalized communities, [we’re] fighting back against discrimination that many of us see as very personal issues,” Guillermo-Smith said. “That is what I applaud [Fine] for bringing this bill forward, because it is important to make a stand-alone stance.”
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Rep. James Bush, D-Opa Locka. “Anti-Semitism, racism, sexism — all the isms — is wrong. It is wrong yesterday. It is wrong today. It is wrong tomorrow.”
The bill’s companion in the Senate Bill 1272, has yet to be heard in two committees before it can be voted on by the full Legislature. It has already passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, by a vote of 5-1.
Senate Democratic leader Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, voted against it. Later, she defended herself by saying, “I am not anti-Semitic.”