Has Congressman Steve Rothman forgotten whom he works for?
In a January 4th press release he spends three full pages attacking me and defending the "rights" of the Libyan Ambassador to the United Nations, Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, to reside next door to me in the New Jersey suburb of Englewood. Rothman bases this opinion on agreements between the Libyans and the State department in 1982 -- agreements brokered by none other than... Steve Rothman.
Is my Congressman seriously suggesting that I have to abide by a 27-year-old deal that was struck behind close doors and without the consent of the people of Englewood? Does he seriously believe that the honest, hard-working residents of this city, who came out so forcefully to oppose Kaddafi moving in last September, want to see his Ambassador move in with his Libyan security force and intelligence personnel? Will he really defend 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? And would he have me tolerate a neighbor who cut down my trees and removed my fence but has refused to respond to a single call?
Congressman, it's time to stop living in the past. In the 27 years since you made this arrangement quite a lot has transpired, including a little thing called 9/11. The representatives of terror-sponsoring states have no business living away from the United Nations and here in New Jersey.
Shalgham is the same Ambassador who recently disgraced the UN Security Council by spontaneously bringing in a slide show that showed Israeli soldiers purportedly mutilating Palestinian civilians. He runs a mission that last year trivialized the holocaust and created a grotesque blood libel against Israel by comparing Gaza to a concentration camp. He is the foremost representative of a government that just threw a Mardi Gras-style celebration on international TV honoring the cold-blooded Lockerbie bomber, and is the personal representative of a terror-funding dictator who has bombed American servicemen and said in October that the Palestinians should be given nuclear weapons.
Is it fair that Congressman Rothman would inflict this man upon me and my nine children? Is the Congressman serious when he tells the press, "I hope everyone will be appropriately good neighbors"? Is he not aware that the Libyan property also 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 who, along with my children, are now at risk? Perhaps Congressman Rothman ought to amend the agreement so that the homeless Libyan Ambassador can move next door to him.
Rothman's statement that I, and presumably Moriah, always knew that the Libyans lived next door is a travesty of the facts. As everyone who resides in Englewood knows, the property was a derelict, communal eyesore for years. Being vacant, no one feared it. But now that the Libyans have, over the last few months, deployed an army of workers to upgrade the property to palatial standards, tried to move Kaddafi in, and moved in its Ambassador as a permanent resident, you bet we're concerned. I now have the Libyan flag flying ten feet from my property and can shortly look forward to my children negotiating with Libyan security personnel every time they hit a baseball over the fence.
Earth to Congressman Rothman, you represent the concerned citizens of Englewood, not the oil-rich dictatorship of Libya. Kaddafi's stolen billions have given him plenty of people to defend him. But we the residents of Englewood have only you and our other elected officials. Please try and remember that you're not in Tripoli but among the constituents of New Jersey's ninth district which sent you to Washington to fight for our interests.
Finally, it would behoove our Congressman to be more gracious toward his brave constituents in giving them their due credit for having pushed Kaddafi out. The movement to bar Kaddafi from our city garnered international headlines precisely because of the broad coalition that came together to keep him out. Everyone from our Mayor to local Rabbis and pastors to ordinary citizens to our Congressman to our Senators and Governor created such a public furor in the media and in public demonstrations outside the Libyan mission that its government had no choice but to capitulate to the will of the people. This was a victory of the people. It is my fervent hope that Englewood's noble citizens continue the fight against Kaddafi's personal Ambassador even if our elected officials do not.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the founder of This World: The Values Network, which works to heal families in need and bring values to the media and culture. He is the author of many books including his most recent 'The Blessing of Enough: Rejecting Material Greed, Embracing Spiritual Hunger.' www.shmuley.com