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February 21, 2011 11:41 am

As Libyans Die, A New Jersey Town Subsidizes Gaddafi

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avatar by Shmuley Boteach

Muammar Gaddafi, famously referred to as 'the mad dog of the Middle East' by Ronald Reagan. Photo: Jesse B. Awalt.

As Libya burns and as the foundation of its brutal 40-year-old regime shakes and shudders, it is not just the thuggish family of tyrant Muammar Gaddafi  who should be worried. It is also the many Westerns who collaborated with the tyrant and helped to keep him in power.

There’s a rekonin’ a comin’. For all those who did deals with the Gaddafi regime or turned a blind-eye to his brutality. Whose morality vanished in the face of his black-gold billions. Who, in the words of Bob Dylan, closed their eyes and pretended not to see the brutality and oppression of one of the cruelest governments on earth.

Many are known to us already, like BP who four years ago signed a $900 million oil exploration deal with Gaddafi. Of course there are the British ministers who gave Gaddafi advice as to how to have the Lockerbie bomber, Al Megrahi, released, which was one of Gaddafi’s principal conditions in doing the oil deal, as he made clear when he publicly thanked Gordon Brown and Queen Elizabeth after the mass murderer’s release. “This step,” he said, “is in the interest of relations between the two countries… and of the personal friendship between me and them and will be positively reflected for sure in all areas of cooperation between the two countries.”

Most infamous of all is the Scottish government and its ‘Justice’ minister Kenny MacAskill who released Al Megrahi who continues to live peacefully in Tripoli, but perhaps not so peacefully now that his sponsor’s government is teetering.

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Others who have worked with Gaddafi are not as famous but have been mentioned in the media, like Matthew Beckerman, the Jewish head of production company Natural Selection who accepted a $100 million investment from the tyrant’s son.

And then there are those who stood by, and now continue to stand by, as Libya burns, like my own home town of Englewood, New Jersey, that was the site of a major battle in September 2009 when Gaddafi, who owns the home right next door to me, tried to pitch a tent and move in for a few weeks. Our community came together and pushed him out. But the house, an official residence of Libya’s Ambassador to the United Nations, remains. It is sovereign Libyan territory and the Ambassador, whose boss and patron reportedly stolen tens of billions of dollars from the Libyan people, lives there completely tax free. We the residents of Englewood pay for his trash removal, police protection, and other basic services.

My city allows this shameful state of affairs. There has not been a lawsuit to try and push the Libyans out or get them to at least pay taxes in almost thirty years. When after Gaddafi withdrew and I continued the fight against the Libyan mission to try and push it completely out of Englewood, Congressman Steve Rothman of New Jersey’s Ninth District, who has not had a serious challenger in 14 years, first told the media “I hope everyone will be appropriately good neighbors.” Later, on 4 January, 2010, he took the unbelievable step of issuing a three-page press release attacking me and defending the Libyans right to remain in Englewood based on agreements between the Libyans and the State department that were brokered by Rothman himself when he was Englewood’s mayor. I responded in print by reminding Rothman that he represents the hard-working citizens of New Jersey and not the oil-rich dictator in Tripoli.

Englewood garnered world acclaim when it pushed Gaddafi out. Now our community is utterly silent against Gaddafi as Libya burns. Brave Libyan citizens are being murdered in the streets with large-caliber weapons. The number of the dead is growing by the day. Habib al-Obaidi, head of the intensive care unit at the main Al-Jalae hospital, spoke of the bodies of 50 people, mostly killed by gunshots, being brought in on Sunday afternoon alone. “The problem is not the number of those killed,” he said, “but how they were killed. One of the victims was obliterated after being hit by an RPG to the abdomen,” he said.

That’s right. The people of New Jersey, who already saw 30 of its citizens murdered among the 270 who were on Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, are subsidizing the diplomatic mission of a government that fires Rocket Propelled Grenades against non-violent, defenseless protestors.

Snipers are picking them off from rooftops and Kaddafi’s goons are mowing them down in the streets. But in the city of Englewood the Libyan flag continues to fly high and proud. I see it every day right across my yard. It makes me sick to my stomach. What a disgrace to our city to see the flag of a tyrannical regime, currently decimating its citizens by the hundreds, flying in a free city in New Jersey. That our Mayor, City Council, and police allow it without even a single legal challenge is a disgrace to a once-proud city.

I launched a lawsuit against the Libyans in Federal court only to see it quashed due to the Libyans diplomatic immunity. Imagine that. A terrorist-funding state that blows up airliners and kills its people in front of the world’s cameras can live tax-free in an American suburb, where there is no diplomatic interest, because of diplomatic immunity.

I am writing this column from Boston where I am attending a family wedding. I took my children today to the site of the Boston Massacre, in front of the Old State House, where on 5 March, 1770 British soldiers fired into a crowd of a hundreds of colonists, killing five. The event was the spark that would eventually ignite the American Revolution. As it happens, we Americans could not have achieved our freedom entirely on our own. The French were instrumental in helping us defeat the British and it is a lesson we all ought to remember as Arabs throughout the Middle East rise with great courage to demand the simple freedoms for which the American patriots fought. They are our brothers and they require our assistance. And this is especially true of those who are fighting to defeat the man that Ronald Reagan famously and accurately called ‘the mad dog of the Middle East.’

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, is a writer and broadcaster who was the London Times Preacher of the Year. His newest book is ‘Honoring the Child Spirit: Inspiration and Learning from Our Children.’ Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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