RONDEAU: Why I Won’t Compromise on the First Amendment for DeSantis

The Florida Governor’s “anti-semitism bill” aims to ban speech critical of Israel

Those of us conservatives with a strong liberty streak are being strongly encouraged by Republicans to support Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for the 2024 GOP presidential primary because of his anti-lockdown stance during the COVID-19 pandemic, but I cannot stomach voting for someone with such an anti-free speech track record. I’d rather align myself with a consistent freedom-oriented conservative who not only fights against government overreach in quarantine mandates, but in speech as well, no matter who it offends.

In May of 2019, Governor DeSantis signed House Bill 741, prohibiting speech deemed to be “anti-semitic” at FL public schools and universities. In my opinion, holding bigoted, preconceived notions about any religious or ethnic group based on immutable characteristics is abhorrent and should be discouraged. On the surface, this seems like a relatively reasonable legislative action. After all, why should school children be subjected to genuinely racist speech? Well, let’s look at how  HB 741 actually defines “anti-semitic speech,” that should be banned.

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DeSantis, who has promised to be “the most pro-Israel governor in America,” signed a version of the bill that included the following definitions of anti-semitism: 

“Delegitimizing Israel by denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination and denying Israel the right to exist.”

“Applying a double standard to Israel by requiring behavior of Israel that is not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation, or focusing peace or human rights investigations only on Israel.”

These definitions clearly go past the common use of the word “anti-semitism,” which is usually referring to unfair or incorrect criticisms of Jewish people, not the state of Israel. By this logic, anyone who is specifically critical of Israel (not even of Jewish people) would be considered anti-semetic. Personally, I am not a Zionist and have previously criticized aspects of the Israeli government and military, particularly related to how the United States funds and supports them with our tax dollars. Most democratic nations do not have mandatory military service or receive hundreds of billions of dollars from our country, but by pointing that out, I’d be considered an anti-semite according to the made-up definition in this bill. However, I love my Jewish friends and of course believe they have a right to exist as they are.

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The establishment Republican obsession with being ultra-Zionist and stifling criticism of the state of Israel is not only anti-first amendment, but anti-American. What other foreign country has special legislation protecting it from negative comments under the guise of “discrimination?” I guess I can’t point that out either, or else DeSantis might accuse me of being an anti-semite.

Well, which Republican might I support in the 2024 primary? Thomas Massie is at the top of my list, who is actually the only Republican in office to oppose federal funding for Israel or interference with private boycotts of the foreign nation, stating, “I voted against H. Res. 246 because it calls for the full implementation of a bill I voted against back in 2014. That 2014 bill spends taxpayer dollars on “green” energy subsidies for another country, despite the fact that we face a debt crisis of over $22 trillion in the U.S.”

Now that is the type of Republican I would support that truly puts American interests first, even though it may offend people.

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