After 2 years, antisemitism bill passes in General Assembly and heads to governor’s desk

Gov. Brian Kemp says he plans to sign the antisemitism bill into law now that it’s passed the General Assembly.

The bill, which gives antisemitism a legal definition in Georgia law, passed both houses by wide margins.

Channel 2′s Richard Elliot was at the State Capitol Thursday as the Senate passed the bill around 1 p.m. and then was passed the House around 3 p.m.

The lawmakers who worked for more than two years to get it passed were grateful when it did.

Democrat Esther Panitch and Republican John Carson hugged on the floor of the House of Representatives as lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the antisemitism bill -- a bill they worked on for years and a bill that passed both the House and Senate with mostly bi-partisan support.

Panitch is the General Assembly’s only Jewish member, so she felt a particular sense of relief.

“I’m one person, and there are 150,000 Jews in Georgia that now feel like they have been seen and heard and acknowledged and protected,” Panitch told Elliot.

The bill first authored by Carson two years ago gives antisemitism a legal definition in Georgia law.

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Now, if investigators believe crimes like assault or vandalism are motivated by antisemitism, prosecutors can try them under Georgia’s hate crime law.

“We sent a strong message today that this activity has got to stop,” Carson said.

But some critics worry that the bill sends the wrong message.

Azka Mahood of the Georgia chapter of the Council for American Islamic Relations thinks the bill will prevent people from criticizing the government of Israel and stifle their First Amendment rights.

“It seeks to prevent people from criticizing Israel which is a foreign government, and it disproportionately targets Palestinian advocates, especially on campus and educational institutions,” Mahood told Eliot.

The governor’s office sent out a statement shortly after the final vote saying he does plan to sign this bill into law.

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