Posted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
When I led public protests in the summer of 2009 against the arrival of Moammar Gadhafi to Englewood, New Jersey, that ultimately pushed him out of our town, friends called me concerned that I would be found in a shallow ditch somewhere, a victim of Gadhafi’s global terror apparatus. None of us could possibly have known or believed that just 27 months later Gadhafi himself would be found hiding in a ditch in Libya and executed by his own people.
The people of Libya showed incredible courage in standing up to, and ultimately defeating, the terrible tyrant, and President Obama deserves to be applauded for America’s indispensable role in dispending with Gadhafi. Too bad that our local politicians here in Englewood, nearly all of whom are Democrats, did not follow the leader of the party’s example in taking related action against the Libyans living tax-free here in Englewood for nearly thirty years. Rarely in the field of peaceful protest has one municipality done so little to object to the presence of murderers in its midst.
Ever since Moammar Gadhafi made known his desire to take up residence and pitch a tent at the Libyan Embassy in our town, our local government has barely lifted a finger to make life uncomfortable for the terrorist government. It was the residents, rather than the government, that cared enough to protest Gadhafi’s arrival in the memorable summer of 2009. I remember having to go to City Hall, a few weeks into our fight against the tyrant’s impending arrival, and pressure the city manager and council to join the outraged citizens in taking some sort of action to stop the monster from defiling our town. That pressure led the city to go to court to stop the Libyans from renovating their mansion to make it fit for a king and, having found building code violations, a judge issued a stop-work order which was instrumental in purging our city of the mad dog of the Middle East.
And after that… nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Our city threw in the towel and capitulated to the Libyans utterly. The Libyan Ambassador to the United Nations, Muhammad Shalgham, who was Gadhafi’s right hand man and Foreign Minister for eight years, was allowed to become my next-door neighbor. The residents of Englewood were forced into the immorality of having to literally support the government of Libya financially by paying for the Libyan mission’s police protection and basic city-provided services. And amid the herculean pressure brought by me and a few other residents to compel the city to challenge the Libyan’s tax-exemption, the city refused to take the Libyans to court ever since an original suit was filed by the Libyans in 1982, granting them immunity. Of course, this was well before Gadhafi began blowing up airliners, murdering American servicemen in Europe, and funding international terror throughout the globe. Yet, the city could not be bothered in thirty years to even bring a lawsuit against these murderers to at least pay for the removal of their own garbage, even though the Libyan Ambassador already has one tax-exempt residence in Manhattan, near the UN.
But Lord help you if you are an Englewood resident who is late or delinquent on property taxes. The city will give you up to twelve months to catch up, all while you accrue exorbitant interest, and will then move rapidly against its own citizens to sell the debt to outside investors who can then charge a further 18 percent interest against the debt and put your home into foreclosure after twelve months of non-payment.
Now that Gadhafi is dead the city has lost the opportunity to inspire other municipalities throughout America where terror-sponsoring governments buy mansions to house their Ambassadors and heads of state, expecting American tax-payers to fund their presence.
There are two transgressions in life, since of commission and sins of omission; the bad things we do and the good things we fail to do. Of the two, the latter is by far the more severe. It is not the man who cheats on his wife who will destroy his marriage, even though that is of course a very grave sin. Rather, it is the man who has failed to show his wife any affection who will never be forgiven for an indiscretion by a wife who has fallen out of love with him due to his neglect.
Englewood has sins that are, unfortunately, common to many other New Jersey municipalities: sky-high taxes amid poor city services, an inadequate educational system that spends a fortune on students yet has an unacceptably high failure rate, and, worst of all, corruption, with its Construction Code Head recently pleading guilty to accepting bribes in an FBI sting operation. But its sin of omission in passively allowing a terrorist government to live in its midst is an international embarrassment that has humiliated every single one of our elected officials and bureaucrats.
Gadhafi was killed, ironically, on the most joyous day of the Hebrew Calendar, Shmini Atzeret. Because it is a Jewish holy day, I was offline and unavailable by phone, email, or any other electronic media for three days. But I knew in my bones that the media would be asking what would now become of Gadhafi’s New Jersey mansion. Sure enough, when the festival was over on Saturday night, I saw the Wall Street Journal’s major piece highlighting Gadhafi’s home in New Jersey. My voicemail and email mailboxes were full of press inquiries asking whether I will continue my campaign against the Libyan mission. You’re damned straight. The mission must be sold and the money returned to its rightful owners, the Libyan people, who need every penny to rebuild their broken country. The millions that Gadhafi poured into the home so that he and his Ambassador can live in luxury while his own people live in squalor must be put to building basic housing for the brave citizens of Libya who overthrew their tyrannical government.
But left out of any of this is the government of the City of Englewood who continue, as before, innocent bystanders to the last, embarrassed by their own inaction, even as the world celebrates the fall of a tyrant.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has just published “Ten Conversations You Need to Have with Yourself” (Wiley) and will shortly publish “Kosher Jesus” (Gefen). He is in the midst of creating the Global Institute for Values Education (GIVE). Follow him on his website www.shmuley.com and on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
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October 18, 2011 | 2:27 pm
Posted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
No Jew, and indeed no decent person in whom there beats a human heart, could fail to be moved to tears by the reunion of Gilad Shalit and his family in Israel. Looking pale from years of being held in a cell and deprived of sunlight, and extremely shy due to years of being denied virtually all human contact, Israel welcomed home a hero for whom they had traded one thousand murderers, terrorists, and criminals committed to its destruction to keep true to its promise, that no soldier is ever forgotten or left behind.
As Hamas and the Palestinians ululated and celebrated the return to their society of killers who had taken the lives of so many innocent men, women and children guilty of no other sin than going about their daily business, Israel cheered at the restoration of one of its sons who was kidnapped while trying to protect these innocent lives. The conflicting values systems of the two opposing camps – one dedicated to the life and the other, tragically, having been overtaken for decades by a culture of death – could not have been draw in more stark terms than watching our Palestinian brothers and sisters welcoming terrorists home with parades while Israel reembraced a soldier whose first words to the world media, after having been treated like a caged animal for five years, were his hopes for lasting peace. It also goes without saying that when Israel is prepared to trade a thousand predators for one lonely soldier it is because of Israel’s commitment to the infinite value of human life.
Still, the question remains whether the deal was worth it. Much comment has been made both pro and con, so I will here limit myself to a different angle of the story entirely, one that would obviate the need to trade killers for captured soldiers in the future. It is high time that Israel finally instituted a death penalty for terrorists. In the United States Timothy McVeigh, who murdered 160 people in Oklahoma in April, 1995, was dispatched after a fair trial and an appeal with no public outcry whatsoever. No man who takes that many lives may be permitted to live. So why would Israel lock up the most rancid, heartless, and cold-blooded mass murderers in its jails just so that they can serve as a lure for Israelis to be kidnapped in order that these killers be paroled?
A very partial of terrorists now released by Israel, and who were previously fed three warm meals a day in an Israeli prison for years, includes Ibrahim Jundiya, who was serving multiple life sentences for carrying out an attack that killed 12 people and wounded 50. There is Amina Mona, an accomplice to the murder of 16-year-old Ofir Rachum. She lured him over the internet to a meeting where terrorists were waiting to kill him. Jihad Yaghmur and Yehia Sanwar were involved in the abduction and murder of Nachshon Wachsman which also led to the murder of Matkal Unit member, Nir Poraz, head of the rescue mission sent to save him. I am an acquaintance of Nachson’s mother and can only imagine her pain at seeing her son’s killers celebrated as returning conquerors.
Also released are Ahlam Tamimi, the 20-year-old student accomplice to the Sbarros restaurant bombing in 2001 that left fifteen dead and 130 wounded, Aziz Salha who was famously photographed displaying his bloodied hands for the mob crowd below after beating an Israeli soldier to death, and Nasser Yataima who planned the 2002 Passover massacre that killed 30 and wounded 140.
The question this despicable list of the murderers being released begs is this: why were they still alive in the first place? Why were they not given fair and impartial trials and the right to appeal, and if found guilty of murder and especially mass murder, executed by the State?
Some will argue that this will only invite the Arab terror organizations to execute the Israeli prisoners they hold. It is therefore worth recalling that this is what the Palestinian terror organizations do overwhelmingly anyway and that Gilad Shalit is the first living soldier to be returned to Israel in more than a quarter century. In July, 2008, Israel arranged another prisoner exchange in order to obtain the release of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, captured two years earlier, sparking Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, only to tragically discover they had been dead all along.
Others, especially Europeans, will argue that the death penalty is cruel and Israel is more humane for banning it. I disagree. While there is a robust debate here in the United States related to the death penalty over individual acts of murder, there should be no such debate whatsoever when it comes to premeditated mass murder and terrorism. The Europeans powers like Britain and France participated in the execution of Nazi leaders in the Nuremberg trials of 1945-1946, with no compunction whatsoever in mandating state-sponsored executions of mass murderers. Indeed, I argue that it is cruel and unusual punishment against the families of Israel’s terror victims to leave these terrorists alive in Israeli prisons with the families not knowing day to day if they will even serve out their sentences should another Israeli soldier fall into captive hands. The families deserve closure.
For those who argue that if Israel puts its terrorists to death there will be nothing left to bargain with should an Israeli soldier or citizen become captive, I respond that other deals can always be made, be it with money, international pressure, or the exchange of Arab prisoners who are not guilty of terrorism.
And it’s not as if Israel has no precedent in taking the life of a mass murderer, having put to death one abominable soul, the architect of the holocaust itself, Adolph Eichmann, at midnight in a Ramla prison on May 31, 1962. Eichmann’s body was then cremated and his ashes polluting the Mediterranean a day later beyond Israel’s territorial waters. And the last words of one of the most wicked monsters of all time? “I die believing in God.” Let’s make sure that others like him whose crimes make a mockery of G-d meet the same end.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has just published “Ten Conversations You Need to Have with Yourself” (Wiley) and in December will publish “Kosher Jesus” (Gefen). He is in the midst of creating the Global Institute for Values Education (GIVE). Follow him on his website www.shmuley.com and on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
October 10, 2011 | 11:23 am
Posted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
This past Sunday night I conducted a conversation between Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader and highest -ranking Jewish elected official in American history Birthright Israel co-founder and Jewish mega-philanthropist Michael Steinhardt on how universal Jewish values can be used to renew America. It was a spirited and comprehensive discussion that elicited from two of the most powerful and influential Jews in the world their views on the state of America, Israel, and the Jewish people and their belief that a heightened Jewish voice in global affairs could bring healing to a fractured world.
Michael was founding chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council that instrumental in the elevation of Bill Clinton to national prominence and indeed it was once a given that nearly all Jews would vote Democrat. But times are changing as American Jewry witnesses the unshakable commitment of leaders like Eric on Israel versus President Obama’s much more tenuous record.
To be sure, the President deserves high marks for enhancing America’s military cooperation with Israel and especially his rejection of unilateral Palestinian statehood at the UN. Those who say that Obama is anti-Israel malign him against the facts and those who say he is anti-Semitic are guilty of character assassination. But what is undoubtedly true is that Obama cannot be trusted on Israel. Not because of any inner prejudice against the Jewish state but because of his belief that pressuring Israel is the royal road to Middle East peace. Whether calling in May, 2009 for a freeze on all settlement activity while making no reciprocal demands of the Palestinians, or disrespecting Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House in March 2010, or provocatively invoking Israel’s 1967 lines in his May 2011 speech that was supposed to be about the Arabs and their spring, the President has shown a resolute conviction that putting the screws on Israel will produce broader results for Middle East stability.
Cantor, the leader of the House Republicans, and I, see it differently. The only thing that will lead to peace is the Arabs foregoing their decades-long hatred of Israel and their belief that the Jewish State is a transient entity that can be overrun, either militarily, via a slow, grinding war of terror attrition that forces Israel to cede strategic lands that ultimately render its security untenable, or through the influx of millions of ‘refugees’ who flood the state, diluting it of its Jewishness. The war between the Palestinians and Jews is not one primarily of land but of values, with our brothers the Palestinians tragically embracing a culture of death that glorifies martyrdom and violence and with the State of Israel embracing a culture of life and being committed to democracy and the value of every citizen, be they women, Arab, gay, or anything else.
Yes, President Obama stood firmly with Israel at the UN. But is this change of heart sincere or the product of a devastating Democratic loss of the safest of seats in Queens, New York’s ninth congressional district, thereby betraying the fact that no place – solid-blue Jew Jersey where I reside included – is safe for the Democrats.
At Cairo in June, 2009 the President analogized the holocaust to Arab “dislocation” that resulted from Israel’s creation: “The Jewish people were persecuted. …anti-Semitism …culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust…. Six million Jews were killed…. On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland.” These are ignorant conclusions that not only equate two utterly incomparable tragedies but overlook the fact that Israel has absorbed millions of Jewish refugees while the Arab nations have used the Palestinians as pawns in their never-ending war of annihilation against Israel. And who is to say that once Obama wins reelection and is no longer dependent on Jewish money or votes, he will revert to policies based on these erroneous comparisons?
Last week I wrote about Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey’s blood libel against the Jewish state, claiming it has killed “hundreds of thousands of Palestinians,” and his never-ending campaign of defamation against what he labels Israeli barbarity and cruelty.
Turkey is a member of NATO and America is the very anchor of the NATO alliance. Yet President Obama has been silent while an ostensible ally daily demonizes Israel and accuses it of murder in genocidal proportions.
President Obama knows what if feels like to be defamed. Last week country music superstar Hank Williams, Jr. compared President Obama to Hitler, a disgusting and loathsome comment that was rightly condemned. Surely the President, in experiencing such vile attacks, knows what it’s like to see one’s name dragged through the mud and could stand up to protect America’s most trusted ally, whether there is an election coming or not.
In our public discussion I was given a written question by a participant asking Majority Leader Cantor if he foresaw more Jews becoming Republican, breaking a decades-old Democratic lock on the Jewish vote. Before Eric even had the opportunity to respond there was a sudden burst of thunderous applause from hundreds in the audience.
Time will tell if a red wave is about to wash over American Jewry, and for now Eric still remains the only Jewish member in the entire United States Congress. But unless President Obama stands up clearly and unequivocally to declare that the problems in the Middle East stem not from Binyamin Netanyahu – who was recently gratuitously and shamefully attacked by another Democratic president, Bill Clinton, as an obstacle to peace – but from parties like the Saudis, whose laws declare that women cannot drive and must be chaperoned in public, Bashar Assad, who continues to slaughter his people before the eyes of the world, and Hamas and Ahmadinejad, who remain committed to Israel’s annihilation, the Jewish vote might prove decisive for an Obama opponent in 2012.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, founder of GIVE, the Global Institute for Values Education, has just published “Ten Conversations You Need to Have with Yourself” (Wiley) and in December will publish “Kosher Jesus.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
October 4, 2011 | 11:32 am
Posted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
The Jewish debt to the Turks goes back centuries when the Ottomans took in thousands of Jewish refugees after the Spanish and Portuguese expulsions of 1492 and 1497. Moreover, when Israel was shunned for decades by nearly every Muslim country, it was Turkey that was Israel’s military ally, friend, and commercial trading partner. And even in the midst of growing Turkish hostility, it behooves the Jewish state not to forget this debt of gratitude.
I have personally visited Istanbul as a Yarmulke-wearing, tzitzis-flying, Jewish Rabbi, and was warmly welcomed by Muslims everywhere. On her way back from Israel last year, my wife went through Istanbul with five of our children, including our baby, and was amazed at how many Muslim merchants gave the baby presents. My family came away smitten with Turkey.
But my call for Jewish memory and gratitude is becoming increasingly strained by the mouth of Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has made himself into a living fountain spewing anti-Israel invective. His latest attack on the Jewish state on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria beggared belief. Israel, he said, “shows no mercy” and is “cruel” in its treatment of Palestinians. Not content to feed the worst anti-Semitic Shakespearean stereotypes of Jews being vindictive and heartless, he trivialized Jewish suffering at the hands of thousadns of rockets fired from Gaza by Hamas before offering an unbelievable blood libel claiming “hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were killed” as a result of military action by Israel. Earlier he had accused Israel of acting like “a spoiled boy” and described the flotilla raid as “savagery.”
Erdogan is claiming that Israeli actions border on genocide and that Israel indiscriminately kills Palestinians when the truth is that the Israeli military is, given the level of threat it faces, one of the most humane and restrained in the world. Even if it were true that Israel has killed anything near that number it would still have to be seen in the context of the Palestinian people declaring a non-stop war of annihilation against the Jewish state and Israel being forced to defend itself. Hamas’s 1988 charter, which calls for the complete obliteration and dissolution of Israel, captures the level of hatred the Palestinians have harbored against Israel. Some choice nuggets include:
“The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews; until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him… The Nazism of the Jews does not skip women and children, it scares everyone… Jews control the world media (and use their) wealth to stir revolutions … There was no war that broke out anywhere without their (Jews’) fingerprints on it.” Hamas Imam Sheik Yunus-al-Astal talked about a verse from Koran suggesting “suffering by fire is the Jews’ destiny in this world and the next.” And, “Therefore we are sure that the Holocaust is still to come upon the Jews.” (NYTimes.com, April 1, 2008)
That Erdogan would speak as if Israel callously attacks a group which has for years launched rocket attacks against Israeli hospitals, kindergartens, and family homes is an indication of a deep-seated hostility to the Jewish state which he spares no opportunity in maligning.
But Erdogan’s numbers are grotesque exaggerations designed to portray Israel as a genocidal power.
The exact number of Palestinians killed in the last two Intifadas, beginning in 1987, is difficult to glean, but the most accurate numbers as assembled in Wikipedia from the United Nations, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and assorted Human Rights groups put Palestinian casualties from the beginning of the First Intifada in 1987 until 1993 at 1,376 by Israeli security forces and 1,000 murdered by the Palestinians themselves..
The Second Intifada, from 2000 till the present, is said to have seen the death of 4,850 Palestinians who were killed by Israeli security forces and 594 Palestinians killed by Palestinians. It bears mentioning that during the Second Intifada 1,062 Israelis died at Palestinian terrorist hands.
It goes without saying that this is a far cry from Erdogan’s libel of hundreds of thousands of deaths and the attempt to decontextualize the deaths of even these thousands.
Starting in the 1960’s, the PLO made a global name for itself through international terror. In 1969 alone, the PLO hijacked 82 planes. In the 1972 Olympics it murdered 11 Israeli athletes in Munich. Since the Oslo Accords signed, Palestinians have killed 53 Americans and Injured 83 Americans. (Jewish Virtual Library)
But if Erdogan is truly concerned about Palestinian life, as indeed he and all of us ought to be, he would condemn the unbelievable Arab-on-Arab violence that has left far greater numbers dead. In the first Intifada, more than 1000 Palestinians were killed by the PLO for supposedly “informing” for Israel. (Christian Science Monitor, May 22, 2002)
As early as the 1930s revolts in Palestine, Arabs fought each other. During the Lebanese Civil War, two Palestinian movements battled one another, leaving thousands of Palestinians dead. (Federal Research Division, Middle East Contemporary Survey, Volume 11, Google Books)
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, in Gaza, Hamas has killed and tortured thousands of other Palestinians who oppose their rule. By 2007, More than 600 Palestinians died during the Struggle between Hamas and Fatah. (Ynetnews.com, June 6, 2007)
Between 1986 and 1989, the Al-Anfal Genocidal campaign in Iraq against the Kurdish People and others have Saddam Hussein’s army killing 200,000 of his own civilians in that period. (The Middle East: A History, 2004) And The NY Times has reported that Saddam Hussein has “murdered as many as a million of his people.” (Oct. 7, 2007) The vast majority of these people were, of course, Arabs.
I am religious Jews who believes that Arabs are my brothers and are, of course, equal children of G-d in every way. The death of even a single Palestinian is a tragedy. But what choice does Israel have when the Palestinians launch wave after wave of horrific terror against innocent Israeli men, women and children. Will Erdogan next condemn the United States for the thousands of Taliban fighters it has killed in Afghanistan? Will he deplore American Predator strikes against Al Qaida in Pakistan? Since when is there a moral equivalence between the taking of a life in self defense and the taking of a life in an act of cold-blooded murder?
Just as it is proper for Jews to try and overlook Turkey’s current leader and remember the age-old friendship between the two people’s, it behooves the Turks themselves to rein in their Prime Minister from his character assassination of the Jewish state.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, founder of the Global Institute for Values Education, has just published “Ten Conversations You Need to Have with Yourself (Wiley) and in December will publish “Kosher Jesus.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.