Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, is finally roasting in hell after dying peacefully in his bed in Libya, surrounded by family and friends, rather than in the cell to which he was condemned for murdering 270 innocent people on Pan Am 103 in December, 1988. But even with the two principal murderers of these innocents – Kaddafi and Megrahi – now gone, what remains is a Lockerbie hall of shame of those who were either collaborators or looked the other way at Libyan tyranny. A day of reckoning awaits.
Foremost among them is the Scottish authorities who assured us three years ago that Megrahi was at death’s door but who ironically outlived Kaddafi himself. All documents detailing the secret deals that were done for the terrorist’s release must see the light of day so we can know whether the sacred memory of 270 victims was sold so that British oil companies like BP could benefit. We also need to know which British officials negotiated his release. Prime Minister David Cameron himself condemned “‘the appalling dodgy dealings with Libya under the last [British] government.”
In our own town of Englewood, New Jersey, where the Libyans own an official residence immediately next door to me and which has been tax-exempt for nearly three decades, millions were spent to ready the derelict embassy for Kaddafi’s use in the summer and autumn of 2009, just months after the tyrant accorded Megrahi a hero’s welcome in Tripoli. Were permits granted too readily to allow the construction at such a hasty pace?
I have a video of the time I confronted the contractors working on Kaddafi’s home, after they cut down my trees and removed my fence. City official Peter Abballe, who was in charge of Englewood’s Department of Building and Code Enforcement and was responsible for enforcing construction codes and inspecting residential and commercial properties and issuing certificates of occupancy, was present in the contractor’s trailer inside the Libyan compound. He intervenes and says the camera should be turned off. Abballe was later arrested in an FBI investigation on charges of official corruption having accepted payments in another case and was recently sentenced. Will the City of Englewood finally do an official investigation into its 2009 dealings with the Libyans?
The City of Englewood has played a particularly ignominious role in the Libyan affair. Even after I hosted a rally on my front lawn to ban Kaddafi from taking up residence in the home next door to me and even after Kaddafi began bombing his citizens in February, 2011, Englewood made absolutely no effort whatsoever to compel the Libyans to pay property taxes, thereby forcing the residents of Englewood to be complicit in supporting the evil regime by paying for things like the Libyan’s police protection and trash removal with local tax dollars. While previous mayor Michael Wildes joined me as an enthusiastic partner in opposing Kaddafi, his successor, Mayor Frank Huttle, broke repeated promises to challenge the Libyans and did nothing.
But while Mayor Huttle, who is now running for a second term unopposed, did not lift a finger against the Libyans, he did find cause, in the application my organization made to establish a Synagogue on my property in Englewood, to dismiss our right to be heard before Englewood’s Planning Board, which he chairs and whose members he appoints. Two days before our hearing this past January, our attorney received a bizarre phone call from Michael Kates — the Planning Board attorney hand-picked by Mayor Huttle — who told him that there would likely be a challenge to the jurisdiction of our application from a member of the board. He would give no further details of these behind-the-scenes maneuvers. Our attorney protested vigorously. The law was on our side. But sure enough on the night of the hearing — one that consumed thousands of dollars in preparation — Kates found a technicality so obtuse that arguably only he and our attorney could even understand it. Over a thirty-five year period no Englewood attorney could find a single technicality upon which to force Kaddafi to pay his taxes. But in a unanimous vote our Synagogue was denied even the right to be heard. Our stunned attorney told a local newspaper that the decision was political and “Where we go from here, I’m not sure.” You can watch the hearing, taped by one our congregants, and posted below.Rabbi Shmuley Boteach