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‘Overwhelmed With Gratitude’: Georgia Assembly Passes Bill Adopting Leading Definition of Antisemitism

The Georgia General Assembly on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to approve legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Esther Panitch (D) and Rep. John Carson (R), that would require state officials to refer to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism when investigating antisemitic hate crimes, drawing praise from national civil rights groups and nonprofits.

The bill, HB30, passed nearly a year after similar legislation was blocked during the waning hours of the 2023 legislative session, an outcome that a legislator described to The Algemeiner at the time as “devastating to watch.” This time it passed in the Georgia House 129-5 and in the Georgia Senate 44-6. It now awaits a signature from Governor Brian Kemp (R).

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude to my co-sponsor Rep. John Carson and colleagues in the Senate for their bipartisan support of this bill,” Rep. Panitch told The Algemeiner in a statement. “Jewish Georgians know our state supports us and can better protect us with the added tool of the IHRA definition.”

HB30, proposed after a series of antisemitic incidents in the state involving harassment and literature drops by neo-Nazi organizations, faced numerous obstacles on its way through the Georgia Assembly. Last year, lobbyists representing the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) worked to add unfriendly amendments to it that would have defeated its purpose, and a Republican lawmaker, Sen Ed. Setzler, amended it to replace the IHRA definition of antisemitism with his own After Setzler proposed his amendment, three Democrats voted to approve it, prompting sponsors of the bill to motion to table it. Further efforts to pass it failed.

A surge of antisemitic incidents in the US and across the world after Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7 gave the measure new importance this legislative session, and both parties worked to ensure its success.

Jordan Cope, Director of Policy Education at StandWithUs, an antisemitism watchdog that has filed numerous civil rights grievances on behalf of US college students, commended the Georgia Assembly for passing the bill this year.

“With antisemitism having exploded worldwide post October-7, the IHRA definition remains a tool of paramount importance for helping identify and quell the mounting tide of antisemitism,” Cope said. “Georgia’s moral clarity on this matter sets a clear example from which other states ought to draw inspiration as Jews around the world desperately seek assurances of their own safety.”

StopAntisemitism, a nonprofit that tracks antisemitic incidents across the world, also praised Georgia lawmakers, calling the vote “great news,” noting that the IHRA definition will be used “for purposes of hate crime and prosecution.”

First adopted in 2005 by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism states that “antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews,” and includes a list of illustrative examples ranging from Holocaust denial to the rejection of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. The definition is used by hundreds of governing institutions, including the US State Department, European Union, and the United Nations and is supported by lawmakers across the political spectrum.

https://www.algemeiner.com/2024/01/26/overwhelmed-with-gratitude-georgia-assembly-passes-bill-adopting-leading-definition-of-antisemitism/