On September 24, Florida’s Broward County unanimously passed a resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement after an Israeli official denounced it in front of the county’s commission.
Resolution No. 2019-445 was introduced by County Commissioner Steve Geller. It expresses opposition to BDS and calls on Palestine and Israel to return to direct negotiations. Its text declares that:
“[BDS] seeks to establish a Palestinian state on territories commonly known as the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and it seeks to ensure the ‘right of return’ to the State of Israel of all Arab residents who resided there in 1948 and all of their descendants, which would create a non-Jewish majority within the State of Israel itself. Thus, the BDS Movement effectively seeks to destroy the State of Israel as a homeland to the Jewish people, and seeks to establish one or two Palestinian-majority states.”
Before the vote took place, Gellar asked Lior Haiat to address the commission. Haiat is currently Israel’s Consul General to Florida, but is tabbed to become Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman later this fall. In his remarks, he stressed the importance of such legislation and praised the United Kingdom’s recent decision to delay a visa for BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti:
I want to thank you for raising this issue. I want to thank you for taking a stand against discrimination, taking a stand against racism, and taking a stand against anti-Semitism because BDS does not stand for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. BDS stands for anti-Semitism. This is the new face of anti-Semitism and their only goal is to destroy the state of Israel. This is not what I’m saying, this is what they’re saying and I’m very happy to see that people around the world and countries around the world are taking a stand against it. Just last week, Great Britain denied the entry of the creator of the BDS movement because he’s a supporter of anti-Semitism. This is the moral stand that we should take.
The resolution passed 8-0 with multiple commission members asking if they could co-sponsor the measure.
“This is an outrageous, misguided attack on free speech, and is surely unconstitutional,” Jewish Voice for Peace member David Elfant told the Sun-Sentinel, “The BDS movement is not anti-semitic; we are simply struggling for the Palestinian people to be able to live with freedom, justice and dignity. The people who are so up in arms about the BDS movement should spend more time looking in the mirror and research the truth about the never-ending injustices imposed on the Palestinian people by the state of Israel.”
In 2016, Florida passed an anti-BDS bill to prevent the state from doing business with any company that boycotts Israel. That legislation also required the establishment of a blacklist for companies that support BDS. In 2018, it passed legislation that expanded the original bill.
This past April, Florida lawmakers unanimously passed HB 741, a bill that amends the state’s discrimination laws to effectively equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. HB 741 was sponsored by State Representative Randy Fine, who made headlines that same month for referring to a Jewish constituent as a “Judenrat” for opposing the legislation. That’s a term generally used to describe Jews who collaborated with the Nazis in the concentration camps. Fine made that comment on Facebook thread in which he also declared that Palestine doesn’t exist.
Governor Ron DeSantis held a symbolic signing ceremony for HB 741 in Israel, where a state cabinet meeting was also held. The move prompted a number of lawsuits from local news organizations who argued that the session violated Florida’s transparency laws.