France’s Dangerous Cocktail

On July 18, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon festively proposed to “all the Jews of France” “to move to Israel immediately … because in France today, one of the wildest forms of anti-Semitism is spreading.”

Sharon is wrong — not in his concern about a real rise in anti-Semitism in France, but because he explains it too simplistically.

Ten percent of the French population is of Muslim origin. Most are not fundamentalists who feel solidarity with the Hamas suicide bomb campaigns.

Those who attack the Jews are a tiny minority, and that is a reassuring fact. But they are forging alliances with other anti-Semitic movements, and that is a disturbing fact.

On French campuses — as well as on other European and American campuses — leftist anti-Semitism is rife. This anti-Semitism, under the guise of anti-Zionism, turns the Palestinians into the cutting edge in the fight against imperialism, capitalism and globalization.

For the fashionable rebels, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat equals Che Guevara, and to the same extent, Sharon equals Hitler. This is the source of the increasing delegitimization of a country that allows a “Nazi” to head it.

Classical anti-Semitism, from the days of the [French] Vichy and Petain regime (1940-1945), is clandestinely lifting its head, mainly in the circles of old France. We should remember the attack of the French ambassador in London against that “s—–y little country, Israel. Why should the world be in danger of World War III because of those people?”

The ambassador, who served as spokesman for the foreign minister under former President Francois Mitterand, was sharply attacked in the British press but made no apology. His words, as opposed to those of Sharon last month, were not considered “unacceptable.” He is concluding his career as the French ambassador to Algeria, a very desirable job.

When Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi suggested including Russia, Turkey and Israel in Europe, the reply he received from the French was: Why Israel? “There is no geographic connection [that is true], no historical or cultural connection between Israel and Europe.”

This statement is the height of ignorance

There is a well-known joke: “Tomorrow we will kill the Jews and the bikers.” To which the punch line is: “Why the bikers?”

The disappearance of Israel would cause few tears in Paris.

Unfortunately, the present situation is linking the three ways of ostracizing the Jews and is thereby mixing a dangerous cocktail.

The fundamentalists are very warmly received by the good souls who oppose globalization. It seems that the politically correct protesters have found the new “deprived masses” in the intifadists — a substitute for the workers that they will never enlist.

From the extreme right to the extreme left, all of political France thundered against intervention in Iraq — rank-and-file militants, members of Parliament, trade union activists, ministers and government leaders.

“Bush, Sharon — murderers,” shouts the street. “Sharon, Bush — contempt for international law,” declare the salons.

The rise of anti-Semitism, which is far from being a simple consequence of the intifada, is the twin of the anti-American wave that has landed on Europe since Sept. 11 and has flooded it since the war in Iraq. And since political France almost unanimously judges the American and Israeli leaders as violators of the law, it is not at all surprising that the fans of Hamas are running around happy and in a good mood in France, which identifies only two major enemies: Bush and Sharon.

But Sharon should be told: Refrain from unnecessary panic. The time has not come for Frenchmen of Jewish origin to lock their suitcases “as quickly as possible” in order to flee to Israel. France is not going through Kristallnacht. It is going through a rising wave of angry and pretentious foolishness. That happens occasionally in soft democracies.

The wave is also licking at other shores, and every citizen with common sense, whether Jewish or not, has an obligation to treat this contagious mental illness in his own home.

Andre Glucksmann is a philosopher. Reprinted with permission Ha’aretz. © 2004

Car Donations May Hit IRS Roadblock

Get rid of your old car, help out a charity and get a
write-off. What could be easier?

With the April 15 IRS deadline drawing near, charities are
tapping taxpayer frustration by increasing their appeals for vehicle donations.
But a proposed government crackdown on the value donors can claim for a donated
vehicle is changing the way programs are being advertised.

Claims of “highest blue book value” and grandiose statements
about how a car donation will support your favorite charity are giving way to
cautious, increasingly detailed disclosures of the donation process, including
specifics on how much a charity might expect to receive from a donation.

The pressure on advertisers to come clean about the donation
process follows a recent congressional investigation that found many donors
claim the highest “blue book” value on their taxes, while many charities are
typically earning 20 percent or less from the transactions. In some cases,
nonprofits are even losing money on the deal.

Uncle Sam is now threatening to step in and regulate a
system based primarily on the honor system, which provides donors with plump
write-offs and makes car auctioneers a tidy bundle but leaves charities with
little to show.

“There’s clearly been an area where there’s potential abuse,”
said Paul Castro, president of Jewish Family Service (JFS).

While charities might be receiving a small percentage of the
total donation, many are increasingly reliant on the vehicle sales as a funding
source for annual budgets.

JFS, which uses a third party to collect and sell donated
cars, is worried that any changes in the current system will carry a negative
financial impact for charities. Proceeds from the sale of donated vehicles 
account for 22 percent and 33 percent of the budgets for the organization’s
Valley and Santa Monica offices, respectively.

“Obviously, anything that gets into place from a regulatory
perspective that chills the donor is something that’s going to effect us,
because people are going to be more cautious,” Castro said. “On the other hand,
if the charity is forced to get the appraisal, then it’s going to become a
burdensome process, and if the donor is required to get an appraisal, they’re
going to be less likely to donate it.”

The Bush administration, as part of its budget proposal for
2005, is hoping to close this tax loophole, which could save the federal
government billions in estimated savings over the next 10 years by establishing
either a deduction limit or stricter appraisal requirements for used vehicle
donations. However, the change could have a deleterious impact on nonprofits at
both the national and local level.

If passed by Congress, the changes could take effect this

A November 2003 report prepared for the Senate Finance
Committee by the General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of
Congress, found rampant abuse by taxpayers who donate vehicles to nonprofits.
In addition to taxpayers inflating write-off claims for used vehicles to “blue
book” value instead of fair-market value, the report found that charities often
earn anywhere from 20 percent to 5 percent of the value donors claimed on their

The report tracked 54 donated vehicles, most of which were
sold at auction. In one instance, a donor valued a 1987 Volvo 740 at $3,000,
but the nonprofit’s final take was $35. Some charities lost money on the
donation after paying towing, repair and resale costs.

The GAO estimates that tax claims for vehicle donations cost
the federal government $654 million in revenue for 2000, but the report did not
estimate how much the IRS loses when donors use the higher “blue book” value
rather than fair market.

The Treasury Department and several senators are pushing for
stricter requirements.

According to the Treasury, closing the tax loophole on car
donations, as well as a crackdown on deductions for intellectual property and
patents, would raise about $4.8 billion over a 10-year period. Under a plan
submitted by the Treasury, the IRS would require taxpayers to get their vehicle
appraised prior to donation. Current IRS regulations require appraisal only if
the vehicle’s value is greater than $5,000.

“We encourage people to proceed carefully when donating
vehicles,” IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson said. “But people should know that
in some cases, the donation is providing little value.”

Before donating a vehicle, the IRS advises that taxpayers
ask questions of the charity to determine how the vehicle will be sold — either
by the charity itself or a private fundraiser, like an auction house — and how
much of the sale price will be used for charitable purposes.

California law requires that nonprofits issue donors a
receipt that lists the mileage and condition of the vehicle for a state tax
deduction. It’s a model the federal government may turn to as a blueprint for
any vehicle donation reform.

While more stringent reporting at the state level has made
the taxpayer more honest, third-party retailers are still behind the curve. A
California study revealed that 80 percent of charities contracting with
fundraisers to run their car donation program received less than 60 cents for
every dollar value of vehicle donated.

However, smaller-scale car donation programs that handle
their own intake and sales, like Southern California Jewish Center or Chabad,
aren’t worried that future regulations will scare off potential donors.

Rabbi Moshe Bryski said Chabad of the Conejo, which recently
sent out an advertisement about its vehicle donation program to congregants,
takes in about a dozen cars every year that are then sold by a volunteer.

“Organizations that primarily get their cars donated from
people who care about the organization, not so much doing it for the tax
write-off but doing it to help Chabad, it’s not going to have an effect on us
at all,” he said.