A bill that would have added the IHRA definition of antisemitism to Georgia”s hate crimes law failed to pass the state assembly early Thursday, the day the legislature adjourned for 2023, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The bill was opposed by anti-Israel groups, who claimed it would limit criticism of Israel, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). According to the Shore News Network, CAIR have been actively lobbying for several years to prevent the legislature from adopting the IHRA definition, claiming in a petition that the bill would “attempt to stifle our First Amendment rights.”
The bill, HB144, didn”t pass after Senate leaders on Wednesday did not call a vote.
It would have added the IHRA definition to the state”s hate crimes law, and opened the door to stiffer penalties for those who commit antisemitic incidents.
Rep. Esther Panitch, Georgia”s only Jewish lawmaker, who has been pushing for the bill”s adoption, and had co-sponsored previous bills with similar proposals that failed to pass, told the Journal-Constitution: “I”m disappointed that Jews under assault weren”t a priority. But I’m not going anywhere and am more determined than ever.”
Murtaza Khwaja, CAIR”s Georgia chapter executive director, agreed that “antisemitism is a very real problem.”
But Khwaja told the news outlet that “HG 144 is not the way to do [it]. What this bill does is conflate antisemitism with critiques of the state of Israel.”
However, proponents of the bill explained that adding the definition to hate crimes law in Georgia would mean it would only be applied when Jews were the victims of discrimination or crimes.
A previous attempt earlier in Mach to pass a version of the proposal, HB30, failed after a Senate committee adopted an amendment that watered down the IHRA definition in the legislation.
Its sponsors, including Panitch, said it was needed to aid prosecutors and public officials in identifying hate crimes and discrimination against Jewish residents of the state, and without the definition included in the bill, they pulled the proposal from the legislature.
At the time, Panitch told Fox5 that the failure of the measure left her “incredibly disheartened.”
“The African-American community had to wait until Ahmaud Arbery was dead in order to get the hate crimes bill passed. I”m hoping we don”t have to wait for the same to get a definition of antisemitism in the books,” she said.