Georgia State capitol building
Georgia State capitol buildingiStock

Lawmakers in the state of Georgia on Thursday passed a bill that would define antisemitism in state law, The Associated Press reported.

“Today we can fight a pervasive and escalating threat in our state and fight it together,” said Senate President Pro Tem John Kennedy, a Republican who guided the bill to Senate passage, 44-6. The measure stalled in a Senate committee in 2023.

The House later agreed to changes, voting 129-5 for passage. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp said he would sign the bill, saying it “builds on our commitment to protect Georgians from criminal acts, including those based on hate.”

The bill adds the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition to the state’s hate crimes law, and opens the door to stiffer penalties for those who commit antisemitic incidents.

The IHRA working definition offers a comprehensive description of antisemitism in its various forms, including hatred and discrimination against Jews, Holocaust denial and, sometimes controversially, the way antisemitism relates to the ways criticism of Israel is expressed.

The definition, which is only referred to in the bill, describes antisemitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

In at least eight states nationwide, lawmakers are working on measures to define antisemitism, part of an upsurge of legislation motivated in part by the Israel-Hamas war. Arkansas passed such a law last year. New bills are pending this year in Indiana, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey and South Dakota, noted AP.

More than half the states in the US have adopted or endorsed the IHRA definition, plus the District of Columbia, either as legislation or as an educational standard.