In Israel, Governor DeSantis signs bill to curb anti-semitism

Flanked by Florida elected officials in Israel, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday ceremonially signed a measure that prohibits anti-Semitic speech in the state’s public schools and universities.

The proposal will add religion as a protected class when it comes to discrimination against students and employees. Currently, people are protected from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, marital status or disability.

The legislation lays out examples of what would be considered anti-Semitism, including “making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations” about Jews or “the power of Jews as a collective,” such as “the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”

The bill (HB 741) also defines anti-Semitism as “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interest of their own nations.”

The measure will also ban certain speech against the state of Israel on campuses, such as “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.”

The proposal aimed at curbing anti-Semitism, however, makes clear criticism of Israel is allowed, if it is “similar to criticism toward any other country.”

At a ceremonial signing ceremony in Jerusalem Wednesday, DeSantis --- who has vowed to become “the most pro-Israel governor in America” --- said the measure sends “a strong statement about where Florida is.”

State Rep. Randy Fine, a Palm Bay Republican who championed the bill during the 2019 legislative session, was among the 100 lawmakers, university officials and business leaders who joined DeSantis on a trade mission to Israel. Fine thanked the governor for allowing Florida to take a stance against anti-Semitic speech, which he said is on the rise in the United States.

“I do this because I feel obligated to because I am a Jew … All Jewish children are going to be protected because of what you are doing here today,” Fine told DeSantis. “We thank you for signing this bill.”

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.