Let's open this posting by looking at the First Amendment to the United States Constitution:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." (my bold)
In the United States, at the state government level, more than half of states have passed laws that are designed to discourage any semblence of a boycott against Israel. This legislation is, in part, designed to fight the Boycott, Divest and Sanction or BDS movement. From the Jewish Virtual Library, here is a complete list of the 27 states which have passed such legislation, the date on which the legislation was passed and a summary of the legislation:
In recent days, one state has taken its anti-Semitism legislation to a higher level. Here is a bill that was recently signed into law by Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis:
This bill is designed to prohibit discrimination in Florida's educational system under the state's K-20 Education Code and takes great pains to define the term "anti-Semitism".
Here is the transmission letter for the bill which clearly outlines the reasoning for the law:
Under this legislation, it is forbidden for students or employees of the Florida educational system to have certain perceptions of Jews examples of which include:
1.) calling for, aiding or justifying attacks on Jews.
2.) making stereotypical allegations about Jews including the myth of Jewish control of governments, the economy etcetera.
3.) accusing Jews either individually or as a group which includes the State of Israel for real or imagined wrongdoing by a Jewish person or persons.
4.) accusing Jews or the State of Israel of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
5.) accusing Jews of being more loyal to Israel then to the interest of their home nation.
The legislation also includes examples of anti-Semitism as related to the State of Israel including:
1.) demonizing Israel and drawing comparisons of modern day Israeli policy to that of the Nazis or blaming Israel for all religious and political tensions.
2.) requiring that Israel behave in a fashion that is not expected of other democratic nations including focusing human rights investigations only on Israel.
3.) denying Israel the right to exist and its people the right to self-determination
The legislation does have one caveat:
"Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to diminish or infringe upon any right protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, or the State Constitution. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to conflict with federal or state discrimination laws."
According to the transmission letter, the bill would not apply to lawful demonstrations and public-forum student speech that fall within the protections of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
What would motivate Governor Ron DeSantis to sign this bill into law? Back in 2013, Governor DeSantis did meet with members of the highly influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee better known as AIPAC as shown here:
Here the governor comments on Palestine:
During this recent trip to Israel, the Governor signed eight Memoradums of Understanding between Florida schools and Tel Aviv University with the goal of bringing economic activity to Florida.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Governor DeSantis ceremoniously signed the aforementioned law into effect at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem after a historic Florida Cabinet meeting held at the U.S. Embassy during a recent trip to Israel as shown here:
After the signing in Tallahassee, the governor had this to say:
“I’m proud to sign this bill to make clear through a bipartisan effort that anti-Semitism has no place in our state and our educational institutions will not tolerate discrimination against the Jewish people. I was especially proud to hold a ceremonial bill signing in Jerusalem. Florida is the most Israel-friendly state in the country and as long as I’m Governor, we will continue to stand with the Jewish community.”
It is interesting to see that Florida has taken its anti-Semitism laws to a new level that goes far beyond other states' moves to combat the BDS movement. It will be interesting to see if this sets the standard for state-level legislation that is designed to protect Israel.
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