Kosher tax (antisemitic canard)

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This article is about an antisemitic canard. For actual taxes formerly imposed by European governments on kosher foods, see Kosher tax. For the cost of certifying foods as kosher, see Kashrut.

The "Kosher tax" (or "Jewish tax") is a canard or urban legend spread by antisemitic, white supremacist and other extremist organizations. They claim that unwilling food companies and unwitting consumers are forced to pay money to Jewish organizations to support Zionist causes and Israel.

Food companies actively seek kosher certification to increase market share and profitability. Consumers who prefer kosher foods include not only Jews, but also Seventh-day Adventists. It is similar to the Muslim dietary restrictions of halal. The fees collected support the certifying organizations themselves. Extra business generated by the voluntary certification process more than makes up for the cost of supervision, hence, the certification does not necessarily increase the price of products, and may in fact result in per item cost savings.[1][2]

Claims[edit]

Antisemitic, white supremacist and other extremist organizations spread the canard or urban legend that the kosher certification of (typically food) products is an extra tax collected from unwitting consumers.[3][4][5][6] Similar claims are made that this "Kosher tax" (or "Jewish tax") is "extorted" from food companies wishing to avoid a boycott,[6][7] and used to support Zionist causes or the state of Israel.[8]

University of Pittsburgh professor of sociology Kathleen M. Blee found that some racist groups encourage consumers to avoid this "Jewish tax" by boycotting kosher products.[9] The 2000 Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents by the B'nai Brith Canada reported citizens being encouraged to request a refund from the government on their income taxes.[10]

In 1997 the Canada Revenue Agency issued a news release noting the existence of flyers recommending that consumers claim a deduction on their taxes "because they supposedly contributed to a Jewish religious organization when they purchased these groceries." In it Jane Stewart, then Minister of National Revenue stated, "The intent and message in this literature is deeply offensive to the Jewish community and, indeed, to all Canadians. The so-called 'deduction' described in these flyers does not exist and I urge all taxpayers to ignore this misleading advice".[11]

During the 2014 Quebec provincial election campaign, Parti Québécois candidate and academic Louise Mailloux defended the PQ government's proposed Quebec Charter of Values by asserting that kosher and halal certification was a religious tax used to fund religious wars and enrich religious leaders. The The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs called on the PQ to debunk the “urban legend of the kosher tax” but PQ leader and Premier of Quebec Pauline Marois defended her candidate's comments saying of Mailloux, "Her writings are eloquent, I respect her point of view.”[12]

Refutation[edit]

Kosher certification symbol. Kosher certification is a voluntary process, the cost of which is more than offset by the increased revenues generated.

Although companies may apply for kosher certification, the cost of the certification is minuscule for some products,[8][13][14] and is more than offset by the advantages of being certified.[13] In 1975 the cost per item for obtaining kosher certification was estimated by The New York Times as being 6.5 millionths of a cent ($0.000000065) per item for a General Foods frozen-food item.[15]

In 2009, delegates at a meeting of the Rabbinical Council of Europe were in broad agreement that the tax which supports the rabbinate, mikvo’os and other communal facilities should be reduced. "While the supermarket Tesco sells a whole chicken for £2, its kosher counterpart of similar weight costs five to six times more."[16]

Certification leads to increased revenues by opening up additional markets to Jews who keep kosher, Muslims who keep halal, Seventh-day Adventists, vegetarians, and the lactose intolerant who wish to avoid dairy products (products that are reliably certified as pareve meet this criterion).[15][17][1][18]

Quebec's Bouchard-Taylor Commission on Reasonable Accommodation refuted what it described as "[t]he most fanciful information is circulating among Quebeckers”[12] about the so-called kosher tax in its 2008 report and stated that there was no evidence of price inflation as a result of kosher certification and that rabbis made little money from granting certification.[12]

According to Berel Wein, "The cost of kashrut certification is always viewed as an advertising expense and not as a manufacturing expense."[14] Dispellers of the "kosher tax" legend argue that if it were not profitable to obtain such certification, then food producers would not engage in the certification process, and that the increased sales resulting from kosher certification actually lower the overall cost per item.[1][2][19] Avi Shafran adds that "[i]f the kosher item in fact proves more expensive, [the consumer] can simply opt for one that hasn’t been supervised by a rabbi..."[19]

Obtaining certification that an item is kosher is a voluntary business decision made by companies desiring additional sales from consumers (both Jewish and non-Jewish) who look for kosher certification when shopping,[17] and is actually specifically sought by marketing organizations within food production companies.[1] The fees charged for kosher certification are used to support the operation of the certifying bodies themselves, and not Zionist causes or Israel.[1][8]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Dispelling a rumor - there is no kosher tax or Jewish tax". Boycott Watch. December 22, 2003. Retrieved 2006-10-24. 
  2. ^ a b Sullum, Jacob (July 1993). "Kosher Cops". The Freeman 43 (7). Retrieved 2013-11-03. "…anti-Semitic propaganda has for years railed against what hate groups call "the kosher tax." This is the alleged increase in price that results when a food company pays for private kashrut supervision, so that its products can display a mark of certification… For those who don't buy Jewish-conspiracy theories, a more plausible explanation is that the companies have calculated that the extra business generated by kashrut certification more than makes up for the cost of supervision. (Hence no price increase is necessary.)" 
  3. ^ Lungen, Paul (February 20, 2003). "Jewish, Muslim groups join forces join to protect ritual slaughter". Internet edition (Canadian Jewish News). Retrieved 2011-11-03. "Anti-Semites have advanced 'the libel of the kosher tax' to claim consumers are paying an extra tax on products that carry kosher certification." 
  4. ^ Kaplan, Jeffery; Leonard Weinberg (February 1999). The emergence of a Euro-American radical right. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. p. 163. ISBN 0-8135-2563-2. LCCN 9823536 Check |lccn= value (help). 
  5. ^ Levenson, Barry M. (2001). Habeas Codfish: Reflections on Food and the Law. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 188. ISBN 0-299-17510-3. "The dark side of this rather uneventful marketing fact is that some anti-Jewish hate groups have developed a bizarre and baseless theory that there is a 'kosher tax' levied on food, a kind of Jewish conspiracy to extort money from the population at large." 
  6. ^ a b Tuchman, Aryeh. "Dietary Laws", in Levy, Richard S. Antisemitism: A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution, ABC-CLIO, 2005, p. 178. "Antisemites have decried this certification as a 'kosher tax' that powerful Jews have enlisted governments to collect on their behalf; others have alleged that greedy rabbis threaten businesses with a Jewish boycott unless they accept their fee-based kosher certification."
  7. ^ "Anti-Semitism: Patriot publications taking on anti-Semitic edge". Intelligence Report. Southern Poverty Law Center. Winter 2002. Retrieved 2007-04-25. "Media Bypass, for one, offered a story about a 'Kosher Nostra scam,' in which 'major food companies throughout America actually pay a Jewish Tax amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars per year in order to receive protection' against Jewish boycotts. These 'elaborate extortion schemes' are coordinated, alleges writer Ernesto Cienfuegos, by 'Rabbinical Councils that are set up, not just in the U.S. but in other western countries as well.'" 
  8. ^ a b c Mikkelson, Barbara (May 24, 2002). "The Kosher Nostra". Urban Legends Reference Pages. Retrieved 2006-10-23. 
  9. ^ Blee, Kathleen M. (2002). "The Place of Women" (Googlebooks). Inside organized racism: women in the hate movement. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. p. 129. ISBN 0-520-22174-5. LCCN 200141449 Check |lccn= value (help). "Some [racist groups] urge their members to boycott products certified as kosher." 
    See also footnote 70: "For example, see 'Kosher Racket Revealed: Secret Jewish Tax on Gentiles' (pamphlet distributed by an anonymous racist group, ca. 1991)," p. 232.
  10. ^ "Antisemitism in Canada — Regional Climates: Ontario: Toronto". 2000 Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents. B'nai Brith Canada. 2001. Retrieved 2007-04-25. "Some antisemitic myths continued to proliferate through the year 2000. The Kosher Tax myth claims that the purchase of foods with a kosher symbol on it means that a portion of that money constitutes a tax which benefits the Jewish people. Individuals are advised to go to their cupboards and estimate the worth of all the foods which have those "hidden" symbols on them and claim the money back from the government in their tax returns. Many of the alerts that our offices received about the distribution of the "Kosher Tax" advisories were from accountants who received them as a mailing or were given them along with instructions from their clients to include the material in their taxes. According to these accountants, the people who wanted the refund were not antisemites per se but had received the letters and were ignorant to the meaning of the symbols on the groceries. However, it could be said that those fooled were all too ready to believe the message of the advisories that Jews are sneakily trying to extort money from an unsuspecting public." 
  11. ^ "Revenue Minister concerned by tax deduction misinformation", Canada Revenue Agency news release, March 10, 1997.
  12. ^ a b c "Marois defends PQ candidate accused of anti-Semitic beliefs". Globe and Mail. March 14, 2014. Retrieved March 18, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Brunvand, Jan Harold (November 2002) [2001]. "The Jewish Secret Tax". Encyclopedia of urban legends (Reprint ed.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 222–223. ISBN 0-393-32358-7. LCCN 2001000883. 
  14. ^ a b Wein, Berel (December 27, 2002). "The problem with Shinui". Jerusalem Post. pp. 8B. Archived from the original on 2002-12-27. Retrieved 2006-10-24. "…due to the volume of goods produced, the cost of certification per unit is so small that it really does not figure in the cost of the product." 
  15. ^ a b "The "Kosher Tax" Hoax: Anti-Semitic Recipe for Hate". Anti-Defamation League. January 1991. Retrieved 2006-10-23. 
  16. ^ Gold, Asher (October 29, 2009). "Brussels call for lower kosher tax". Rabbinical Center of Europe. 
  17. ^ a b Luban, Yaakov. "The "Kosher Tax" Fraud". Orthodox Union. Retrieved 2006-10-23. 
  18. ^ Levenson, Barry M. (2001). Habeas Codfish: Reflections on Food and the Law. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 188. ISBN 0-299-17510-3. "Adherents to other faiths, including Moslems and Seventh-Day Adventists, look to kosher certification for a variety of reasons (including making sure the product is pork free)." 
  19. ^ a b Shafran, Avi. "Yes Bubba, It's a Jewish Plot", Cross-Currents, January 19, 2007.

References[edit]