Florida House Republicans, Democrats condemn call for cease-fire in Palestine

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TALLAHASSEE — A Florida Democratic lawmaker’s resolution calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war on Tuesday was condemned by members of her own party and prompted accusations she was antisemitic.

The resolution by Rep. Angie Nixon, D-Jacksonville, called for “an immediate de-escalation and cease-fire in the State of Israel and occupied Palestine.” It states that “all human life is precious, and the targeting of civilians, no matter their religion or ethnicity, is a violation of international humanitarian law.”

Advocating for her resolution on the floor of the House of Representatives, Nixon fought back tears and a palpable hostility from both sides of the aisle.

“I have and will continue to publicly condemn Hamas and the violent terrorist attacks that they committed on Oct. 7” Nixon said on the floor. “Honestly, it’s about the babies. The Israeli babies and the Palestinian babies.”

The reaction was swift and intense, even for a chamber that has seen tempers flare over the years while debating Gov. Ron DeSantis’ culture war legislation.

Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, who is Jewish, questioned why she used the term “occupied” Palestine. The term is considered a loaded one, albeit one used by groups such as Amnesty International. Nixon filed an amendment to remove the term from her resolution.

“If you vote for this, you are putting my child and every Jewish child in this state at risk,” Fine told fellow lawmakers. “If you vote for this, you’re an antisemite.”

Multiple Democrats also spoke against her resolution.

“When I hear a cease-fire that does not understand our history, or has contempt for our history, I believe it to be born out of ignorance and antisemitism,” said Rep. Michael Gottlieb, D-Davie, who is chairperson of Florida’s Jewish Legislative Caucus.

Rep. Hillary Cassel, D-Dania Beach, questioned why Israel has “to defend its actions all the time.”

“We are dealing with an absolute attempt to massacre an entire group of people, and we are fighting back, and we will not stop until every single one of those babies — that you care about — comes home,” Cassel said, to applause.

“Caring about thousands of innocent lives lost does not make anyone antisemitic,” Nixon said.

While Nixon made her closing arguments, nearly all the Republican lawmakers stood up and turned their backs to her.

“We are at 10,000 dead Palestinians. How many will be enough?” Nixon said.

“All of them,” an unidentified female lawmaker said on the floor.

“One of my colleagues just said, ‘All of them.’ Wow,” Nixon said.

Her resolution was voted down, 104-2. Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, an Iranian-American whose parents fled that country’s Islamic overthrow, was the only other vote in favor. Four other Democratic lawmakers were on the floor but did not vote, in violation of House rules.

“If you can’t speak with moral clarity on this issue, you can’t speak with moral clarity on anything,” House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, told reporters afterward.

The resolution was the end — for the House — of this week’s special legislative session, which was called by DeSantis to express support for Israel following the Oct. 7 massacre, when members of Hamas invaded and murdered 1,400 men, women and children. More than 240 others were kidnapped by Hamas.

Israel’s response has included launching airstrikes on Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, destroying neighborhoods and killing civilians. About half the area’s population is under age 18. On Monday, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres reiterated a call for a cease-fire and said Gaza is becoming a “graveyard for children,” which Nixon also referenced in defending her resolution on the House floor.

Florida lawmakers on Tuesday approved $25 million to bolster security at Jewish day schools and preschools in the state as well as synagogues, museums and cultural centers. They assigned another $20 million to boost security at other nonprofit schools and museums.

They also passed two resolutions expressing support for Israel and condemning Hamas. The Senate is set to take up the measures on Wednesday.

Afterward, Nixon told reporters that “the people” wanted her to file the resolution.

“Outside of these four walls, the people stand firmly with me,” she said.

House Minority Leader Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said later that she had asked Nixon to withdraw her resolution.

“My caucus, yeah, you’d be surprised to know that I don’t actually get to control them,” Driskell told reporters.

“This happened today, and our caucus will move on.”

Times/Herald staff writers Romy Ellenbogen and Ana Ceballos contributed to this report.