December 22, 2009
Kaddafi Back in My Backyard
Like many people these days, I am a busy man. But that did not stop me from taking off several weeks of my professional life to fight Muammar Kaddafi’s plan to take up residence directly next door to me this past August and September. Together with my friend and Mayor, Michael Wildes, and the support of the entire Englewood, New Jersey, community, we pushed Kaddafi out. Sad to say, it was a pyrrhic victory. Last month, with great stealth and with the cooperation of the State Department, our otherwise brilliant police force, and the silent acquiescence of our elected leaders, his Ambassador to the United Nations, Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, moved in and took up residence as my immediate next door neighbor. Every time my kids hit a baseball a bit too far, it goes into Libyan territory and on to the lawn of a man who last week disgraced the UN Security Council by showing a gruesome slide show featuring images of mutilated Palestinians with Israeli soldiers as the culprits. His condemnation of Israel in Gaza made no mention of the thousands of Hamas rockets that had been fired without provocation at Israeli children.
These are the same Libyans who in August welcomed a mass murderer – Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber – with great fanfare into Tripoli (Megrahi, who was released by Scottish authorities on humanitarian grounds because he only had three months to live, is miraculously still alive.). They are the same Libyans whose leader called in October for the Palestinians to be given nuclear weapons. And they are the same Libyans who have shown our city undisguised contempt by refusing over a quarter century to pay even a single dollar in taxes and who cut down my fence and trees that separate my property from theirs without so much as a courtesy phone call, thereby forcing me to sue them in Federal court.
From the age of sixteen all I ever wanted to be was a Rabbi, someone who brings healing to broken lives and values to a needy culture. But for the first time in my life I find myself contemplating a run for elective office. The reason is simple. The Talmud declares, “In a place where there are no men stand up and become one.” The fact that our elected officials allow the representative of state-sponsors of terrorism to live in our community is scandalous. When I read that my own Congressman and friend Steve Rothman, who fought so hard against Kaddafi, had now told the New Jersey Jewish Standard that an agreement had been reached 25 years ago allowing the Ambassador to take up residence and that therefore “I hope everyone will be appropriately good neighbors,” I was beside myself. Is he seriously asking me to borrow a cup of sugar from a man whose government murdered American servicemen while they danced at a disco?
Without sounding paranoid it’s time that we in the Jewish community face some facts. Across the globe it’s open season on the Jews. Few of us would have believed that a country like Britain that gave the world parliamentary democracy would be guilty of attempting to ban Israeli professors from academic conferences, would have a magistrate issue an arrest warrant against Israel’s former foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, would require a label on products from the West Bank as being made by Jewish settlers, and would have its Supreme Court dictate to the Jewish community who its members are.
Then came the news, reported in the New York Times, that Pope Benedict XVI is moving ahead with plans to canonize Piux XII, the man known as Hitler’s Pope who made a Concordat with the Fuhrer and who, as the world’s foremost spiritual figure refused even once to condemn the holocaust. This is the same infallible leader who on 16 October, 1943, watched quite literally as more than a thousand Jews of Rome were rounded up in trucks, within 300 feet of the his Vatican Window, to be deported to Auschwitz where they were gassed within a few days. Even then the Holy Father remained utterly silent. The Church’s allegations that Pius helped Jews in secret is as cowardly as Pius’s actions. When it comes to stopping abortion the Church blasts its global megaphone. But when it came to saving Jews it could only be done when noone was looking? Many righteous Catholics saved Jews in plane sight and were martyred for their courage. But Pius, who even after the war ordered the mass kidnapping of hundreds of thousands of Jewish children by refusing to hand them back to their rightful Jewish guardians, disgraced a great world religion.
Here in the United States we have had to contend with the Obama Administration’s canard that Israeli settlements, rather than Palestinian terrorism and Arab political oppression, are the main obstacles to Middle East peace. And it’s more than a little disappointing that the Netanyahu government has endorsed this fraud by instituting a ten month freeze on settlements, thereby unjustly identifying some of Israel’s most patriotic citizens as its most intransigent.
Why is all this happening? Some would say that antipathy toward Jews is a law of physics. I disagree. It is happening because we allow it. Can anyone imagine the same British Supreme Court dictating to the Anglo-Islamic community whom a Muslim is? President Obama received nearly eighty percent of the Jewish vote. When you have numbers that overwhelming, you can be forgiven if you take the constituency for granted.
Our community must make its voice heard. We are a powerful global economic market and we must seriously consider boycotting the products of countries whose shameful behavior mistreats Jews. Britain is out of control and a serious conversation about whether or not to vacation there or buy its products should now occur. And our community must make it clear to our Catholic brothers and sisters that calling a man who lost his voice while six million Jews died a saint will irreparably harm Catholic-Jewish relations.
More committed Jews must begin considering running for office. Rather than merely relying on friends to represent us, we must also begin representing ourselves. I wish to remain a Rabbi who informs and influences politics from the outside. But if Kaddafi’s envoy remains my next-door neighbor with the tacit blessing of my elected leaders, I will do my best to unseat them by every legal means necessary.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the founder of This World: The Values Network. His most recent book is ‘The Blessing of Enough’ and ‘The Michael Jackson Tapes.’ Follow him on Twitter (RabbiShmuley) and on his website Shmuley.com.