But one of the most egregious offenders in the matter of the Libyans was Congressman Steve Rothman who originally joined me on my front lawn in strongly opposing Kaddafi’s stay in Englewood but later, when Kaddafi’s confidant and UN Ambassador, Mohamed Shalgham, moved in to the property, gave me and the Libyan’s other neighbors in his district the appalling public advice, via the New Jersey Jewish Standard, “I hope everyone will be appropriately good neighbors.” That a United States Congressman would advocate to his constituents that they maintain friendly relations with the personal representative of a murderer who blows up airlines and American soldiers in disco-techs is outrageous enough. What made it worse was a January 4th, 2010 press release where Rothman spent three full pages attacking me and defending the “rights” of the Libyan Ambassador reside next door to me. Rothman based his opinion on agreements between the Libyans and the State department in 1982 — agreements brokered by none other than… Steve Rothman.
Was Rothman seriously suggesting that I had to abide by a 27-year-old deal that was struck behind close doors and without the consent of the people of Englewood? Later, in March 2012, the Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister, Mohammed Abdel-Aziz, would reveal that the Kaddafi regime had been running a secret program hiding weapons inside Libyan embassies around the world, thereby making Rothman’s deal something that endangered the residents of Englewood in general, and my family in particular, albeit unwittingly.
Did Rothman seriously believe that the honest, hard-working residents of this city, who came out so forcefully to oppose Kaddafi in September 2009, wanted to see his Ambassador move in with his Libyan security force and intelligence personnel? What was his purpose in defending the right of an envoy of a terror-sponsoring government to live in our midst, spending millions of dollars on his home while refusing for more than a quarter of a century to pay even one dollar in taxes, even though he already had a tax-exempt UN residence in Manhattan?
Shalgham was the same Ambassador who disgraced himself before the UN Security Council by bringing in a slide show in 2009 that showed Israeli soldiers purportedly mutilating Palestinian civilians. He ran a UN mission that in the same year trivialized the holocaust and created a grotesque blood libel against Israel by comparing Gaza to a concentration camp. And he remained Kaddafi’s Ambassador even when in October 2009 his madman master said that the Palestinians should be given nuclear weapons.
It was when Congressman Rothman defended the rights of Kaddafi’s personal envoy to live peacefully and tax-free next to me that I first thought of running against him, as the press reported at the time (http://www.jta.org/news/article/2009/12/30/1009965/op-ed-gadhafi-back-in-my-backyard). Aside from a Rabbi having to suffer the Libyan killers living as neighbors, Rothman also seemed oblivious to the fact that that the Libyan property abuts one of New Jersey’s leading Jewish day schools, Moriah. Why would he push his 1982 agreement with the Libyans on hundreds of unsuspecting Jewish children from our neighborhood.
To be sure, the Libyan regime has since thankfully changed. Kaddafi met summary justice, Megrahi is dead, and the new regime says they’re committed to democratic government. But that does not change the painful story of one of the most notorious terror attacks of modern times and the people who released its perpetrator or gave his government and terrorist masterminds a pass.
Written in memory of Machla Dabakarov, the mother of Rabbi Shmuley’s close friend, who recently passed away.