The state House of Representatives passed legislation Monday defining antisemitism and incorporating it into Georgia’s 2020 hate crimes law.
House Bill 30, which passed 136-22, would establish as part of state law the definition of antisemitism used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, an intergovernmental organization founded by Sweden’s prime minister in 1998.
Like the hate crimes measure the General Assembly adopted following the murder of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick, the bill provides for additional penalties when crimes are committed because of the victim’s identity, in this case because he or she is Jewish.
The bill’s chief sponsor, state Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, cited an outbreak of antisemitism that occurred in Atlanta’s northern suburbs in January when Jewish families awakened on a Sunday morning to find antisemitic flyers in their driveways.
While Jews make up only 2% of Georgia’s population, they’re the victims of about 60% of hate crimes committed across the state, Carson said.
“Antisemitic incidents are on the rise,” he said. “This bill is necessary.”
Rep. Esther Panitch, D-Sandy Springs, the only Jewish member of the House, was among those who found flyers in her driveway that day.
“House Bill 30 would not stop those flyers,” she said. “But it would make sure that if, God forbid, someone shot a Jew, it would be a hate crime.”
Some of the bill’s opponents raised concerns it could be used to stifle free speech. Others argued crimes against Jewish citizens already are covered under state law and questioned establishing a definition for antisemitism when there is no legal definition in Georgia law for crimes against Blacks, Latinos, or Asian-Americans.
“There’s no place for hate in our beautiful, diverse state,” said Rep. Jasmine Clark, D-Lilburn. “[But] antisemitic acts are covered under the current hate crimes statute.”
But Panitch said the bill would ensure Georgia’s Jewish citizens are protected from hate crimes.
“Protections for Jewish people do not come at the expense of anyone else except antisemites,” she said.
The bill now moves to the state Senate.
This story available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.
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