Members of Florida’s legislative delegation, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, wasted no time condemning the massive Oct. 7 attack on Israel that is being called that country’s “9-1-1.” Just days later, DeSantis unveiled proposed legislation that would beef up the state’s sanctions against Iran, the presumed sponsor of the Hamas attack.
Oct. 7 was the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, which celebrates the completion of the reading of the Torah. It is normally a joyous holiday with song and dance. The Torah is the first five books of the Hebrew Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. As Jews worldwide celebrated Simchat Torah, Hamas terrorists coordinated violent attacks in Israel along the Gaza border.
“We’re sad about what happened, I’m angry at what happened, and I think we need justice,” DeSantis said during a speech at the Shul of Bal Harbour in Surfside on Oct. 10. “And justice needs to be so severe that they wouldn’t think of doing this ever, ever again.”
During the morning hours of Oct. 7, hundreds of Hamas militants broke through the barrier between Israel and Gaza and carried out surprise attacks in more than 20 locations that killed 1,600 Israelis in the street, in their homes and at an outdoor music festival. According to estimates, 2,000 people were injured in the attack and militants took more than 100 hostages during the incident. Reports are surfacing of beheadings of babies at kibbutzs.
According to the U.S. State Department, 11 American civilians are among the dead. Others remain missing, the agency said. The attack took place shortly after $6 billion in funds derived from past Iran oil sales were unfrozen after five Americans in prison in Iran were freed. According to the agreement, the funds were sent to the Central Bank of Qatar to be used only to purchase “humanitarian goods,” including food, medicine and blankets, in Iran.
According to the U.S. State Department, those funds remain untouched.
Immediately after the attack, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued a statement condemning the “cowardly attack on civilians” and pledging support for Israel’s subsequent war against Hamas and other militant terrorist groups.
“We need to support our ally Israel in its response because it is in America’s national interest that Iranian-backed Hamas terrorists are defeated,” Rubio said in a written statement. “This should also serve as a wakeup call to the Biden Administration that the Iranian regime cannot be trusted, bargained with, or bought off. Appeasing a regime that hates America will lead to more chaos, more death, and more devastation.”
On October 8, the U.S. Central Command announced that the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group is en route to the Eastern Mediterranean. The battle group includes the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), as well as the Arleigh-Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), USS Ramage (DDG 61), USS Carney (DDG 64), and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80). The strike group arrived on Tuesday, Oct. 10.
“We have also taken steps to augment U.S. Air Force F-15, F-16, and A-10 fighter aircraft squadrons in the region,” said U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla. “The U.S. maintains ready forces globally to further reinforce this posture if required.”
On Oct. 9, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) co-chair of the International Religious Freedom Caucus, said that in the wake of the attack, the world must stand up to global terrorism. “The darkest moments in human history have come when people remain silent in the face of oppression, violence, bigotry and injustice,” he said in a written statement. “We must eradicate its presence around the globe, and we must always continue to support our most steadfast ally in the face of such hatred. Let us remain united in our resolve to stand up against global extremists who use terror as a tool for spreading hate.”
During his Oct. 10 speech at the Shul of Bal Harbour in Surfside, DeSantis outlined proposed legislation that would prohibit state investment in Iranian businesses, including those in the financial, construction, manufacturing, textile, technology mining, metals, shipping, ship building and port sectors. The proposed measure would also prohibit state and local governments from contracting with any company on the list of prohibited sectors.
The sanctions would be the strongest ever enacted against Iran in all 50 U.S. states. “And we will not lift these sanctions until both the President and the U.S. Congress certify that Iran has stopped supporting international terrorism and seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction,” DeSantis said.
Finally, DeSantis told the group that he has sent a letter asking the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to “collaborate” with the Florida Attorney General to enforce the state’s laws protecting Florida’s Jewish community against anti-semitism.
“That includes fundraising for Hamas or other terrorist groups,” he said.
DeSantis was joined by Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez and Israel Consul General Maor Elbaz-Starinsky when he announced the proposed legislation.
The new legislative session convenes on Jan. 9.
In a show of solidarity with Israel, Gov. DeSantis directed U.S. flags to be flown at half staff at all local and state buildings, installations, and grounds throughout the State of Florida from sunrise until sunset on Oct. 13, 2023. The Florida Capitol building will be illuminated in blue and white from sunset to sunrise until Oct. 13. Additionally, the Sunshine Skyway will also be lit in blue and white this week.