Governor Ron Desantis formally recognized International Holocaust Remembrance Day by ordering all flags to be flown at half-staff Thursday to honor the more than 6 million Jews and 5 million other prisoners murdered in the Nazi genocide. The governor encouraged Floridians to “reflect on the tragedy of the Holocaust” and to “confront antisemitism where it rears its ugly head.”
Desantis is widely viewed as a strong supporter of Israel. In 2019, Gov. Desantis visited the State of Israel and signed into law HB 741 in Jerusalem. HB 741 formally defines antisemitism, adds religion as a protected class with regard to discrimination against public school students and employees, and requires K-20 public schools to treat antisemitic discrimination in an identical manner to discrimination motivated by race. Florida is also one of 22 states which require Holocaust education at all K-20 public schools.
However, Florida has seen a disturbing rise in antisemitism. The Anti-Defamation League found that antisemitic incidents rose by 40% in 2020. 2021 saw a similar increase in incidents after tensions between Israel and Gaza responded to Hamas’ rocket fire in the summer. Sentiments of antisemitism cloaked as “anti-Zionism” infected the U.S. populous, propelling movements like B.D.S (Boycott, Divest, Sanction). In July of 2021, Florida Sen. Rubio (R) and Sen. Scott (F) joined Sen. Cotton’s (R) Anti-BDS Labeling Act, which would prohibit the Bend Administration from issuing new labeling guidelines that would help the B.D.S. movement target specific goods made in territories controlled by Israel.
COVID-19 has further fueled antisemitic rhetoric in the public sphere. On January 23rd, flyers blaming labeling leaders of the CDC and pharmaceutical company as “JEWISH” and claiming that the pandemic is somehow part of a Jewish agenda were distributed in Miami Beach. The incident is reportedly now being investigated by the FBI.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) made recent comments where she compared the Governor’s leadership to that of Adolf Hitler. Her statement was met with widespread criticism for trivializing the Holocaust and diluting the memory of those who were systematically murdered as a result of Hitler’s power.