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DeSantis heads to Israel, signs law providing new tools to law enforcement to combat anti-Semitism

New law creates first degree misdemeanor to willfully and maliciously harass a person based on the person’s wearing or displaying of any indicia relating to any religious or ethnic heritage.

Published: April 30, 2023 7:07am

(The Center Square) -

While in Israel as part of a four-country international trade mission tour, Gov. Ron DeSantis met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, advanced Florida-Israeli business partnerships, and signed a bill that strengthens law enforcement tools to punish those who commit anti-Semitic crimes or target religious communities.

The governor signed HB 269 into law in Jerusalem after the bill passed unanimously in the Florida House and Senate.

“In 2019, I had the opportunity here in Israel to sign into law groundbreaking legislation to root out anti-Semitism from our public education system, establishing Florida as a leader in protecting religious liberty,” DeSantis said when signing HB 269.

”Four years later, the threats faced by religious Americans of all faiths have evolved. Through this legislation, we are ensuring that perpetrators who commit acts of anti-Semitism and target religious groups or individuals will be punished.”

The bill amends public nuisance laws in several ways, according to the bill analysis. It makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to intentionally dump litter onto private property for the purpose of intimidating or threatening the owner, resident, or others. If the litter contains a credible threat, it increases the penalty to a third degree felony.

The new law will make it a first degree misdemeanor to willfully and maliciously harass, threaten, or intimidate another person based on the person’s wearing or displaying of any indicia relating to any religious or ethnic heritage. The crime increases to a third degree felony if the act includes making a credible threat. It also requires that violations be reported as hate crimes.

It makes it a first degree misdemeanor to display or project, using any medium, an image onto a building, structure, or other property without the written consent of the owner of the building, structure, or property; if the image contains a credible threat, the charge increases to a third degree felony.

It also creates a new trespass offense as a first degree misdemeanor if a person who is not authorized, licensed or invited willfully enters the campus of a state university or Florida College System institution for the purpose of threatening or intimidating another person, and is warned by the state university or Florida College System institution to depart and refuses to do so.

It increases the penalty from a second degree misdemeanor to a first degree misdemeanor for those that disturb schools and religious assemblies in a willful and malicious act. The penalty is increased to a third degree felony for those who disturb an assembly of people gathered to acknowledge someone’s death.

In 2019, DeSantis was the first Florida governor to sign a bill into law in Israel while also holding a Florida Cabinet meeting there.

DeSantis in 2019 signed HB 741 into law, which added religion as a protected class as it pertains to students and employees attending and employed by Florida’s public education system. The law requires a public K-20 educational institution to treat discriminatory acts committed by students or employees or institutional policies motivated by anti-Semitism identical to discrimination motivated by race.

It also added to state law a definition of anti-Semitism similar to one adopted by the U.S. Department of State’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. It defines anti-Semitism as “a certain perception of Jewish people, which may be expressed as hatred toward 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 trip to Israel was the third leg of a four-country trade tour. The last stop is the U.K.

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