Florida OKs Bill That Defines “Antisemitism,” Clarifies Anti-Jewish Hate Crime

Florida lawmakers have passed a bill that defines antisemitism.

Florida State Capitol
The Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida (Photo by Walter Bibikow/DigitalVision via Getty Images)

The measure, sponsored by Senator Lori Berman, passed the Senate unanimously on February 28 and the Florida House the following day, and adopts the working definition formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). The IHRA definition includes “a perception of Jewish individuals which may be expressed as hatred toward such individuals” and any overt evidence of antisemitism toward Jewish people, their property, community and religious institutions. Such manifestations would include Holocaust denial, calling for death or misfortune on Jewish people, dehumanizing Jews or pushing stereotypical canards “such as the myth of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy or of Jewish individuals controlling the media, economy, government, or other societal institutions.”

Rather than creating a new crime, the bill clarifies what antisemitism is in order to expedite the enforcement of existing hate crime laws.

“Combating antisemitism requires cooperation among experts, governments and civil society,” Senator Berman said. “Defining it and codifying it makes a clear statement that we are going to identify, confront, and call out antisemitism.”

At a February Senate hearing, Berman emphasized that, rather than creating a new crime, the bill clarifies what antisemitism is in order to expedite the enforcement of existing hate crime laws.

State Representative Michael Gottlieb, who sponsored the House version of the bill, said the House bill applies “that same IHRA definition—which is the most widely used definition of antisemitism—and it comes with some examples of traditional antisemitic tropes to further create guidelines and guardrails, if you will, for governmental entities to identify what is and isn’t antisemitism.” Gottlieb added that the bill is fortified with free speech protections, which will further help law enforcement evaluate whether or not to take action when confronted with a potential hate incident.

“Outbreaks of antisemitism can be a harbinger of deep societal trouble and reflect that extremism and violence are eminent. It is dangerous and unacceptable,” Senator Berman said. “When there is hateful behavior against anyone, it can quickly become a societal endemic.”

From October 7 to January 17, the Anti-Defamation League tracked 3,291 antisemitic incidents, a 361 percent increase compared to the same period in the preceding year. Florida has had to contend with neo-Nazi protesters at highway overpasses, antisemitic flyers distributed in residential areas and antisemitic projections on buildings, including the Jacksonville Jaguars football stadium.