Florida’s chancellor of the State University System is calling on university presidents to investigate whether pro-Palestinian student protests have included criminal “acts of antisemitism.” He said that students who are found to have violated state law should face “appropriate action,” including expulsion.
Across the nation, pro-Palestinian students have held protests that support the Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel and call for the “liberation” of Palestine. Chancellor Ray Rodrigues reacted to the slew of pro-Palestinian demonstrations specifically on Florida university campuses in an Oct. 13 letter to university presidents shared with the media on Monday evening.
“We are deeply troubled that allegations have been made of antisemitic activities at these demonstrations,” he said. “Specifically, it has been alleged that university students called for Israel to be wiped off the map, that these demonstrators stated that killing Jewish babies is legitimate and necessary, and that the killing of Jews was justified.”
“Let me be clear, if any of these allegations are true, this is criminal activity,” he warned. “It is a violation of the Florida statutes prohibiting antisemitic activities. These crimes will not be tolerated. As we have previously discussed, you have been requested to ascertain the facts of what occurred on campus during these demonstrations.”
The State University System of Florida includes Florida Atlantic University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida International University, Florida Polytechnic University, Florida State University, the New College of Florida, the University of Central Florida, the University of Florida, the University of North Florida, the University of South Florida, and the University of West Florida.
Rodrigues stressed that Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has “placed the full weight of state law enforcement resources” at the disposal of universities to ensure that all students are protected and that the state’s laws prohibiting antisemitic activities are enforced.
“Calling for the continuing murder of Jews and those of Jewish heritage is no different than discrimination based on race in the eyes of the law,” he said. “Under our university’s respective codes of conduct, as consistent with state law, these types of grotesque behaviors should be punished equally.”
Students who have been found to have violated the state’s codes of conduct should face “appropriate action,” including expulsion, the letter states, which concludes: “The State of Florida stands with Israel and the Jewish people.”
Rodrigues and Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. reminded the state’s university presidents of their legal obligations to protect Jewish students in an Oct. 8 letter following the devastating Hamas attack on Israel.
That letter cites House Bill 741, which DeSantis signed into law in 2019, that prohibits discrimination in the Florida public education system based on religion and sets requirements for “K-20 public educational institutions in dealing with discrimination against Jewish students and employees.” It also recognizes “discrimination motivated by antisemitism as discrimination based on race.”
He also signed House Bill 269 in April 2023 establishing stronger criminal penalties for antisemitic crimes.
Under Florida law, instances of antisemitism may include “calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews, often in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion;” making “dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews,” such as the claim that Jews control the media; accusing Jews of exaggerating the Holocaust; and more, as Diaz and Rodrigues wrote in their letter.
They also highlighted that antisemitic conduct may include demonizing Israel with symbols and images and delegitimizing Israel by denying the Jewish people their “right to self-determination and denying Israel the right to exist.”
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