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His anti-Semitism bill near to becoming law, SC lawmaker in Israel

State Rep. Alan Clemmons will join White House officials next week to open the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, where the Horry Republican is likely to mention his proposal to target anti-Semitic incidents on S.C. college campuses.

That controversial proposal is set to become law when the state's $8.2 billion general fund budget takes effect July 1.

The bill's passage will make South Carolina the first state to define anti-Semitism by law. The legislation is needed, supporters say, so the state's publicly funded colleges and universities can define and investigate anti-Semitic incidents on campus.

But free-speech advocates say the new law will silence critics of Israel and its policies, particularly those who join pro-Palestinian demonstrations on campuses.

Clemmons introduced the proposal last year, when the Katie & Irwin Kahn Jewish Community Center in Northeast Richland and Jewish centers in other states received bomb threats.

"I’m very pleased that the S.C. General Assembly has appropriately responded to Jew hate ... on campus by adoption of a well-vetted definition that has been adopted by 31 countries and the U.S. State Department," Clemmons said Wednesday. "It is a strong and appropriate stand to make against a disproportionate and growing strain of bigotry."

Clemmons' proposal passed the S.C. House, 103-3, last year. But it stalled in the state Senate, leading lawmakers to attach it to each chamber's version of the state budget.

Gov. Henry McMaster has supported the proposal. In January, the Columbia Republican urged the Senate to pass the bill ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27.

Next week in Israel, Clemmons will watch the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem with a White House delegation that includes President Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his son-in-law, Jared Kusher — both Jewish.

"I consider it an honor to represent South Carolina at this historic event," Clemmons said Wednesday from Israel.

Maayan Schechter: 803-771-8657, @MaayanSchechter