Bill would define ‘antisemitism’ in state code as antisemitic incidents skyrocket in SC
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - According to the FBI, more than half of all hate crimes related to religion across the country are perpetrated against Jews, who only make up 2% of all Americans.
Data shows antisemitism is on the rise in the United States and South Carolina.
The Anti-Defamation League reports the number of antisemitic incidents across the US last year was the highest since the ADL began tracking this data in the 1970s, and it was a 36% increase from 2021.
In South Carolina, antisemitic incidents spiked 193% in that time.
“This rise is visible in graffiti in our K-12 schools, incidents on college campuses, organized antisemitic flyering of hundreds of homes in Horry County, South Carolina, harassment in public, and antisemitic rhetoric on social media,” Brandon Fish of the Charleston Jewish Federation said.
Of the 44 incidents in South Carolina in 2022, 36 were categorized as harassment, and the rest as vandalism, according to the ADL, which said no antisemitic assaults were reported last year.
“It’s glaring that this has become an increasingly important issue,” Rep. Beth Bernstein, D – Richland, said.
Bernstein, the only Jewish member of the South Carolina General Assembly, has filed a bill to add the definition of antisemitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and the US State Department to state code.
It defines 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.”
The IHRA definition, adopted in 2016, also includes contemporary examples of antisemitism and notes that criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country isn’t regarded as antisemitic.
“While antisemitism is the oldest form of hate, it remains misunderstood by many, and for this reason, the creation of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism has been an important development in our work to address the problem,” Fish said while testifying before lawmakers earlier this year on behalf of the Jewish federations of South Carolina in support of this addition.
The bill, H.4042, would require the state to take this definition into consideration when determining if there were violations of anti-discrimination policies, laws, or regulations.
“In hiring, in HR, human resources, it could be used now for state employees,” Bernstein said.
If this bill went into effect right now, Bernstein said, its application would be limited.
But she said that impact would be greater if South Carolina passes its hate crimes bill because law enforcement and prosecutors would use that definition to determine if a violent crime was committed against a Jewish person because of their religion.
That bill has already passed the House of Representatives with strong bipartisan support and awaits a debate in the Senate. The same bill died last year in the Senate, where several Republicans with objections to the legislation blocked debate on it after it had passed in the House.
“I’m very hopeful that we will be a state that will pass hate crimes and we’ll not be the only state that does not have any hate crime legislation on its books,” Bernstein said, referencing South Carolina as being one of two states without a hate crimes law.
The antisemitism bill advanced out of a House subcommittee this week and will next be under consideration by the full House Judiciary Committee.
More than 30 countries have already adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, and Columbia, Charleston, Greenville, and Myrtle Beach have all also passed local resolutions with this definition.
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