New Antisemitism Bill Divides Democrats in the Florida House

New Antisemitism Bill Divides Democrats in the Florida House

Democratic Rep. Joseph breaks with party lines, voicing anxiety that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of antisemitism may harm Palestinian supporters and critics of Israel

Liv Caputo
Liv Caputo
January 8, 2024

TALLAHASSEE, FL --- A new bill expanding the definition of antisemitism in Florida statute faced backlash Monday morning. Starting off the Legislative Session with a bang, the bill aims to codify and delineate protections of Jewish citizens into law.

"It's my pleasure to bring the bill, but it's sad that I have to," The bill's sponsor, Democratic Rep. Mike Gottlieb said in Monday's House Judiciary Committee, "Antisemitism is a tremendous problem."

HB 187 fully adopts the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) antisemitism definition, applying it to all sections of Florida law:

"Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities."

In a Democratic divide, Gottlieb's fellow party member Rep. Dotie Joseph voiced her opposition to the IRHA definition, stating:  "What we have seen with this particular definition is that when codified, it has been weaponized against people who are seeking to either support the Palestinian cause or to address nuances and criticisms against Israel."

Joseph referenced Republican Rep. Randy Fine's comments on a 2019 Florida law (HB 741) defining and banning antisemitism in K-20 institutions, in which he wrote that "Students for Justice in Palestine are now treated the same way as the Ku Klux Klan--as they should be."

She then raised concerns over First Amendment free speech, ultimately stating that due to the use of the IHRA definition, she would not vote in favor of the bill. Joseph was the only "no" vote in the Committee.

In his close on the bill, Gottlieb countered: " While I hear and understand the concerns that the definition has been weaponized, I'm not really that concerned about that. I think any definition may be weaponized, and speech can always be weaponized."

"I am aware that there are some First Amendment concerns, but the First Amendment does not allow for hate speech," He concluded, "This bill came to me over the summer--prior to October 7th, and there's no more important time to address this epidemic of hate and to help tamp it down."

HB 187 was filed in the wake of both terrorist organization Hamas' October 7th attack on Israel, and a sharp rise in Floridian antisemitism. The bill highlights the over 100 percent increase in antisemitic incidents in Florida since 2020, and Florida's 2022 position as a top five state where the highest number of antisemitic incidents occurred.

HB 187 will advance to the House floor, though its identical Senate companion has yet to see committee.

Related Posts

Liv Caputo

Liv Caputo

Livia Caputo is a senior at Florida State University, working on a major in Criminology, and a triple minor in Psychology, Communications, and German. She has been working on a journalism career for the past year, and hopes to become a successful reporter after graduation. Her work has been cited in Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail

Subscribe to the newsletter everyone in Florida is reading.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


More Related Posts