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Lawmakers want to define antisemitism. But do they limit free speech?

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Lawmakers in more than a half-dozen U.S. states are pushing laws to define antisemitism, triggering debates about free speech and bringing complicated world politics into statehouses.

Supporters say it’s increasingly important to add a definition that lays out how to determine whether some criticism of Israel also amounts to hatred of Jewish people. In so doing, lawmakers cited the Oct. 7 attacks in which Hamas killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took about 250 hostages back to Gaza, which sparked a war that has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians.

“For anybody that didn’t think that anti-Zionism could cross into antisemitism, the rest of the world could see that it had,” said Democratic Rep. Esther Panitch, the only Jewish member of Georgia’s Legislature and one of the sponsors of a bill that the state Legislature passed last week. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to sign.



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