Desantis heads to Israel ahead of viewing an Anti Semitism bill

Victoria Reed

Four UNF representatives left for Israel on Saturday as part of Governor Ron DeSantis week-long business trip.

The UNF representatives are planning to establish a partnership with the University of Haifa to pinpoint potential areas of collaboration with an Israeli University.

Governor DeSantis is expected to sign a bill that is highly focused on anti-Semitism.

If signed by DeSantis, the new House Bill, HB741: Anti-Semitism, could contend with anti-Semitism in Florida by classifying religion as a protected class in the state’s education system.

According to The Florida Senate website, anti-Semitism is defined as a “perception of Jewish people, which may be expressed as hatred towards the Jewish people, rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism directed toward a person, his or her property, or toward Jewish community institutions or religious facilities.”

The Florida Educational Equality Act (FEEA) protects students and employees of Florida’s K-20 educational institutions from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, or marital status. However, religion isn’t one of the categories currently protected by FEEA.

House Bill 741 will add religion as a protected class when it comes to discrimination against students and employees in Florida’s K-20 public educational institutions. The bill was signed by officers last Thursday, and is now awaiting a signature from the Israel-bound governor.

According to The Florida Senate website, anti-Semitism includes, “accusing Jews as a people or the State of Israel of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust,” and “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 Office of the Attorney General states that hate crimes motivated by religion in Florida is at 27.2 percent, according to The House of Representative Staff Analysis report.  

So, why is this important?

There are concerns about the rise of anti-Semitism for Jewish students on UNF’s campus, according to Matt Hartley, associate director of the Interfaith Center at UNF.

But according to Hartley there are other concerns associated with this bill, “I know that there are concerns that this bill, with its focus on Israel, silencing critic on campuses.”

Students on campus may support Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), a movement seeking to encourage companies and consumers to boycott divest and have sanctions against the state of Israel for its policies regarding Palestine.

The relationship between Israel and Palestine is one that is highly combative. The concern is that this bill is heavily weighed towards anti-Semitism, and would silence the debate resulting in emphasizing religious freedom in one aspect, but not in others.

“In general, when we talk about religious freedom we have that challenge of asking, whose freedom,” said Hartley.

Overall Hartley says, he’s glad there are concerns about the rise of anti-Semitism in recent years.


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