Remarks by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach at the Rally at his home, immediately adjacent to the Libyan Compound in Englewood, NJ
It's a great pleasure for our family to be hosting you all here today, from dignitaries like our esteemed governor Jon Corzine and our beloved Senator Frank Lautenberg to our Congressman Steve Rothman and our tireless mayor, Michael Wildes.
Together with the elected officials I have just mentioned -- and, most importantly, the grassroots campaign of ordinary Englewood citizens -- we have achieved a great victory with the announcement by the Libyans, confirmed by our State Department, that Kaddafi has withdrawn his request to pitch his tent in Englewood. We have made our town a terrorist-free zone. Proverbs 24:17 declares, "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles." Unlike Kaddafi's welcome of the Lockerbie bomber, we are not here to party. How could we, when even as Kaddafi departs from our midst, his embassy, official Libyan territory, remains as my immediate next door neighbor? How can we rejoice when the 270 innocent people of Pan Am 103, including 180 Americans and 38 residents of New Jersey, remain dead? And how can we rejoice when so many American soldiers remain murdered and maimed by the Libyan 1986 bombing of a Berlin Discothèque?
But it is not only for demonstrations against Middle Eastern dictators that we invite in the community. Our home is open to large numbers of people every Friday night, the Jewish Sabbath. We try to emulate our patriarch Abraham whom the Bible relates pitched a tent for all, welcoming in the hungry and offering rest to the weary. Til today Jews get married under a canopy, a tent with no walls, signifying that the couple should build a home that is closed to none.
But whereas the tent of Abraham welcomes the weary with warm food, Kaddafi's tent targets the innocent with incendiary bombs. Where the tent of Abraham invites widows and orphans, Kaddafi's tent creates widows and orphans. And whereas Abraham's tent was illuminated by the glow of the human heart, Kaddafi's tent is illuminated by the infernal fireballs of airplanes detonated in the sky. Abraham pitched a tent of universal brotherhood while Kaddafi's is a terror tent of shame.
Some say that Kaddafi has done penance. Why should we Jews reject him when our High Holy Day period, just a few weeks away, is all about the human ability to turn away from sin? But what kind of penitent sends his private jumbo jet to bring home a cowardly killer of 270 people and then throws a Mardis-Gras-style reception to receive him? Such a man is not a penitent but is a pious fraud, a religious charlatan, and an international menace.
The campaign of our little New Jersey town has provoked a response from Kaddafi's son in an op-ed in today's New York Times. Saif Kaddafi writes, "Contrary to reports in the Western press, there was no "hero's welcome" for Abdel al-Megrahi when he returned to Libya earlier this month. There was not in fact any official reception for the return of Mr. Megrahi....The strong reactions to these misperceptions must not be allowed to impair the improvements in a mutually beneficial relationship between Libya and the West."
Not only would the Libyans kill our citizens, they would insult our intelligence.
It is also particularly shameful to now see that the London Times is today reporting that evidence has now emerged that letters were sent two years ago by Jack Straw, the British Justice Minister to Kenny MacAskill, his Scottish Counterpart, to free the Lockerbie bomber. "The British government decided it was "in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom" to make al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, eligible for return to Libya." It is surely befitting that MacAskill, who has disgraced himself as well as the Scottish government, resign immediately.
Our ongoing battle to remove the Libyan compound from our community and my personal battle to evict them as my direct next-door neighbor is a David-and-Goliath struggle, a small New Jersey town and a father of nine against an oil-rich Middle East dictator who is currently being courted by Western leaders. And yet, even standing outside this Libyan mission we are not afraid. Yes, we are aware that in 1984 female British constable, Yvonne Fletcher, was assassinated with a burst of machine-gun fire from the Libyan Embassy. Still we are courageous because we Americans know that the only thing to ever fear is our own cowardice in the face of tyranny and terror. From the time that Thomas Jefferson, at the risk of his own life as a British subject, classified George III as a tyrant in our Declaration of Independence Americans have never cowered before tin-pot dictators like Kaddafi. Colonel Kaddafi, you are no match for the inheritors of General Washington. To paraphrase William Jennings Bryan's famous statement, "You shall not crucify mankind on a cross of gold," Mr. Kaddafi, "You shall not drown the morals of the American people in a barrel of oil."
We don't have oil wells in Englewood, only beautiful trees, even as your Embassy cuts them down with impunity in order to give your security personnel a clearer line of site into my residence. We will defeat you because righteousness is on our side. As Martin Luther King said, "The arc of history is long but it bends toward justice."
To my brothers and sisters in Libya whose per capita annual income is $14,000, I say that we appreciate your suffering. We understand how in Libya you cannot read the truth in a newspaper and cannot choose your own elected officials. We have no gripe with you, only with your leaders who live off the sweat of your backs to enrich themselves and live in extravagant opulence, as the Kaddafi's home behind me amply demonstrates.
In my country we require sex offenders to register so as not to harm their neighbors. Will my government, then, allow a terror-supporting government to reside next door to me? Will President Obama, the leader of the free world, not lead by denying Kaddafi a visa to the United States? Will my President, a devoted and loving family man, place me in a position where my nine children need to be under the scrutiny of Libyan intelligence?
And what message is our President sending to our brave troops fighting overseas by allowing a man who just last week glorified a heartless killer onto American soil?
Susan Cohen, whose only child, Theodora, aged, 20, died on Pan Am 103, told me, "It hurts so bad to see how Kaddafi has won, how all the Western leaders are now running to kiss a terrorist's feet." Well Susan, here in little old Englewood, NJ, we didn't kiss his feet. Unlike Megrahi, we didn't even kiss his hands. Rather, we told him to kiss a part of our bold New Jersey anatomy.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the founder of This World: The Values Network. His upcoming book is The Blessing of Enough. www.shmuley.com.