Georgia Passes Hate Crimes Bill - Democrat Questions Why New Protections Only Apply to Jews

Chris Menahan
Mar. 09, 2023

The GOP-controlled Georgia House of Representatives passed a bill earlier this week to expand what constitutes a "hate crime" which left one Democrat questioning why the measure only expands protections for Jews.

From The Jewish Daily Forward, "A Jewish Georgia legislator named Esther helped pass a law on antisemitism on the eve of Purim":
The Georgia House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill defining antisemitism and codifying acts against Jewish people as hate crimes.

The bill was co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Georgia’s only Jewish state legislator, Democrat Esther Panitch. It passed by a vote of 136-22 on Monday, shortly before Purim began.

“When my parents named me Esther, they did not imagine me walking the hall of the Georgia capital in the sandal steps of the first Esther,” she said. “But perhaps, like that first Esther, it is for this moment that I am here.”
Her statement echoed the famous line from the Book of Esther about Esther’s destiny as savior of her people, often quoted as: “And who knows but that you have come … for such a time as this.”
The bill calls for the state of Georgia to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, which 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.”

While speaking before the vote, Panitch said she “never imagined” the bill would be needed in Georgia but that recent events had made its necessity clear. In February, a month after the bill’s introduction, antisemitic flyers were left in the driveways and mailboxes of hundreds of suburban Atlanta Jewish homes, prompting Panitch to give an impassioned speech from the chamber floor about her own family’s losses in the Holocaust. On Monday, Panitch mentioned the shootings of two Jewish men outside Los Angeles synagogues, saying the alleged assailant belonged to the same group that distributed the flyers.

In introducing the bill, Republican co-sponsor John Carson mentioned the flyers and noted that dozens of other states have adopted similar measures, whether by legislative action or executive order.

[...] The bill also included language saying that this definition of antisemitism should be considered when determining whether a law or policy was violated. Georgia criminal law already had a provision allowing for more stringent penalties for crimes motivated by hate towards a protected class, which includes religion.

[...] Among those opposing the bill was Democrat Jasmine Clark, who prefaced her statement by saying, “There is no place for hate in our beautiful, diverse state of Georgia” and adding that there is no excuse for antisemitism. But she pointed out that the Georgia hate crime code does not have similar definitions of anti-Black, anti-Asian or anti-Latino racism.

“Each of these groups could make the argument they’ve been subjected to an increase in acts of violence over the years. While I certainly do not believe in partaking in oppression Olympics, I do believe a bill such as this may unintentionally have the effect of having each marginalized group wondering where is their definition in the code.”
"How far will you go to police our words?" Rep. El-Mahdi Holly, D-Stockbridge, asked. "We must preserve our American values and vote no on this definition."

"Panitch noted on Monday that the bill was assessed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of having a 26% chance of passing," The Jerusalem Post reported. "The Jewish representative said that she would 'channel my inner Queen Esther and beat the odds,' in honor of Purim."

Echoing Democrat talking points, Georgia House Republicans declared, "Hate has no place in Georgia."

"The House stands in solidarity with our state's Jewish community," the GOP added.

The IHRA's definition of anti-Semitism is completely antithetical to the First Amendment.

The IHRA defines anti-Semitism as:
- Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

- Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

- Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).

- Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.

- 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.

- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

- Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

- Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

- Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

- Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
No other ethnic or religious group in America is afforded any such privileges.

As I reported last week, the Florida GOP is working to pass similar legislation to expand what constitutes a "hate crime" in order to "combat anti-Semitism."

For the "Free Speech Warriors" in the Republican Party, the First Amendment must take a backseat to "fighting anti-Semitism."

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