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Bill Adopting IHRA Definition of Antisemitism Passes South Carolina House

The House of Representatives of the South Carolina General Assembly has approved landmark legislation that would require state officials to refer to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism when investigating complaints of anti-Jewish discrimination.

All 105 members of the body voted unanimously in favor of bill H.4042, which was authored and proposed by Rep. Beth Bernstein (D). Bernstein told The Algemeiner on Thursday during an interview that she was surprised by the measure’s receiving bipartisan support in an era of extreme political polarization.

“I anticipated there would be some debate on it,” she said. “I was happy that there wasn’t and that we were able to pass this definition of antisemitism, so we could have some clarity and guidance on what antisemitism is.”

Bernstein added that the bill may not be receive a vote in the Senate before the legislative session ends this May but that efforts to make it law will resume in January, when the next session begins. The lawmaker, the only in the General Assembly of Jewish heritage, is also still advocating passage of the Pinckney Hate Crime Act, which, she says, will reinforce the provisions of H. 4042 and prevent South Carolina’s becoming the only state never to pass hate crimes legislation.

Brandon Fish, Director of Community Relations at the Charleston Jewish Federation, said the outcome was “heartening,” explaining that getting the state’s ideologically diverse legislators to agree on anything is difficult.

“A bill on Women Hunting and Fishing Awareness Day in South Carolina can get hijacked and turned into a debate about something else altogether,” he said. “It’s amazing that this did not, and you know, as a Jewish community member, that a bill that meant so much to the Jewish community could become a unifying priority in our statehouse, which can be so bitterly divided, is a good sign.”

First adopted in 2005 by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the 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 IHRA definition of antisemitism is used by over 850 governing institutions, including the US State Department, European Union, and the United Nations. Over 30 countries have adopted it with support from lawmakers across the political spectrum.

Virginia became the most recent state to embrace the IHRA definition in the past year, joining Massachusetts, Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Arizona, New York, and Arkansas.

Over half of all US states and the District of Columbia have done so also. In March, however, the Georgia General Assembly failed for the third time in a row to pass legislation adopting the definition after lobbyists representing the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which opposes it, and a renegade Republican lawmaker, Sen. Ed Setlzer, persuaded members that it would undermine free speech.

One in four Americans Jews believe their status in the US is less secure, according to a survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee. 80 percent feel that antisemitism has increased and half said it does not attract as much attention as other forms of discrimination.

Source: https://www.algemeiner.com/2023/05/04/heartening-bill-adopting-ihra-definition-of-antisemitism-passes-south-carolina-house/