A crowd of over 100 Bal Harbour, Florida residents broke into applause last night after the Village Council unanimously passed a measure that cleared the way for local law enforcement to consider anti-Semitism as a “motivation for criminal offenses in order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its Jewish community.”
Unofficially referred to as the “Anti-Semitism Definition Act,” the 5-0 vote adopts the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism — directing the police department to consider this description when investigating crimes, consistent with the federal and state hate crime statutes.
A small Florida town that is popular with snowbirds, Bal Harbour is not new to combating anti-Semitism.
In 2015, the Village Council passed an ordinance “prohibiting the Village from entering into agreements with businesses that boycott a person or entity based in or doing business with an Open Trade Jurisdiction such as Israel, and requiring businesses to pledge not to engage in such a boycott during agreements with the Village.” Two years later, approximately 35 cities have followed Bal Harbour’s lead and have passed anti-boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) legislation that forbids the municipality to do business with or invest in entities that boycott the Jewish state.
Currently, nearly half the states in the union have passed anti-BDS measures, a number that is expected to greatly increase in the coming year. But while debate exists on the inherently anti-Semitic nature of BDS, defining anti-Semitism has also become a subject of controversy.
Earlier this month, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on rising anti-Semitism on college campuses and varying perspectives on the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act” currently under consideration by the committee. This bill that passed the Senate (but not the House) last year, would direct the Education Department to rely on the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism.