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U.S. House Democrats Plan on Introducing Resolution Condemning Anti-Semitism, Florida Lawmakers Follow Suit by Filing Bill

Two Florida lawmakers want to make it easier to prosecute people for hate crimes motivated by anti-Semitism. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons
Two Florida lawmakers want to make it easier to prosecute people for hate crimes motivated by anti-Semitism. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

Two Florida lawmakers want to make it easier to prosecute people for hate crimes motivated by anti-Semitism. This comes as Democrats in the US House of Representatives are expected to introduce a resolution condemning anti-Semitism in Congress tomorrow.

The bills introduced by Palm Bay Republican Representative Randy Fine and Tampa Republican Senator Joe Gruters would make it easier to prosecute hate crimes and respond to discrimination in schools if they are motivated by anti-Semitism.

Fine says the bill is not only a response to a rise in anti-Semitism but also to remarks about Israel made by Minnesota Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar.

"The largest form of hate crime in the United States is anti-Semitic and it is growing and it’s legitimized by anti-Semites serving in Congress. They’ve created a veneer of acceptability of speaking out against Jews."

[audio mp3="https://www.wmfe.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/antisemitismclipone.mp3"][/audio]

The bills define anti-Semitism as:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jewish people, often in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religoin
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing or stereotypical allegations about Jewish people as such or the power of Jewish people as a collective, including allegations such as the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jewish people controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions
  • Accusing the Jewish people as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, the State of Israel or even for acts committed by non-Jewish people
  • Accusing the Jewish people as a people or the State of Israel of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust
  • Accusing the Jewish citizens of countries other than Israel of being more loyal to Israel or the alleged priorities of Jewish people nationwide, than to the interest of their own nations
  • Demonizing Israel by using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel, Israelis, drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis or blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions
  • Applying a double standard to Israel by requiring behavior of Israel that is not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation or focusing peace or human rights investigations only on Israel
  • Delegitimizing Israel or denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination and denying Israel the right to exist

But Wilfredo Ruiz with The Council on American-Islamic Relations says he’s concerned the bills don’t do enough to protect other religious minorities in the state.

“What about the Muslims that suffer hate crimes continuously? What about the Sikhs as their temples have also suffered hate crimes here in Florida? These are the types of bills that are being introduced year after year only catering to an exclusive community-that is suffering from hate crimes. But it's not the only one suffering from hate crimes."

[audio mp3="https://www.wmfe.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/13002_ANTISEMITISM_DANIELLE.mp3"][/audio]

Ruiz is also worried that anti-Semitism in the bill is defined not only as speech and actions against the Jewish people, but against the state of Israel.  He says this could limit free speech.

And that's where the bill and resolution drafted by the House Democrats diverge.

The resolution does not offer similar protections to other religious minorities, but it does allude to other historical examples of prejudice experienced by people of different faiths:
"Whereas accusations of dual loyalty generally have an insidious, bigoted history, including—

  1. the discriminatory internment of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II on the basis of race;
  2. the Dreyfuss affair; when Alfred Dreyfuss, a Jewish French artillery captain was falsely convicted of passing secrets to Germany based on his Jewish background;
  3. when the loyalty of President John F. Kennedy was questioned because of his Catholic faith; and
  4. the post-9/11 conditions faced by Muslim-Americans in the United States, including unfounded, vicious attacks on and threats to Muslim-American Members of Congress"

The resolution also focuses more on speech and actions against the people of the Jewish faith. And on the state of Israel: "Whereas the definition further includes ''accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations; Whereas the myth of dual loyalty, including allegations that Jews should be suspected of being disloyal neighbors or citizens, has been used to marginalize and persecute the Jewish people for centuries for being a stateless minority; Whereas accusing Jews of dual loyalty because they support Israel, whether out of a religious connection, a commitment to Jewish self-determination after millennia of persecution, or an appreciation for shared values and interests, suggests that Jews cannot be patriotic Americans and trusted neighbors, when Jews have served our Nation since its founding, whether in public life or military service."

Both the bills and the resolution include protections for First Amendment rights.

These actions to address anti-Semitism at the federal and state level come only weeks after Minnesota Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar made comments on Twitter and then in person last weekend questioning the relationship between the United States and Israel.

If you'd like to listen to the full story, please click on the clip above.

Danielle Prieur is WMFE's education reporter.
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