Few are unaware of the fact that my next-door neighbor in Englewood, New Jersey, is the Libyan Ambassador to the United Nations, Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, who also served as Gaddafi's Foreign Minister for eight years. The Ambassador has now become a Gaddafi turncoat, having publicly repudiated the tyrant and labeled him a butcher of his own people.
A cynic could argue that Shalgham is simply saving his own skin. Where was his protest for the past few decades as Gaddafi blew up planes and discotheques? Where was his voice as he profited mightily from being one of the closest people to Gaddafi? Yet, I have been told by reliable officials in the Obama administration that without Shalgham's personal denunciation of Gaddafi at an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council on February 25, the Chinese and the Russians would have vetoed the Security Council's Resolution that was passed unanimously the very next day, imposing military and financial sanctions against Gaddafi and his inner circle. So it's a case of having to overlook Shalgham's complicity with evil in order to neutralize the very same evil.
But there is something Shalgham can do now to prove he means it. He can sell his Englewood, New Jersey mansion -- the cause of so much righteous indignation among the residents of our state when Gaddafi tried to move in and pitch a tent in September 2009 -- and allow us to turn into a home for the National Institute of American Values. It was an idea that I pitched back then when our community led the fight against Gaddafi and it's one that has become far more plausible now, now that Shalgham has himself seen the light.
The Libyan Embassy next door to me is now flying the Libyan rebel flag, having removed the Green official flag of Gaddafi's government. This action raises several important questions. First, if the Ambassador is repudiating Gaddafi's ownership of the property, then who now is the rightful owner? Second, now that the Ambassador is admitting that the home is no longer an official embassy of the Libyan government, by what right is it still tax-exempt? Remember, residents of our city have been complaining repeatedly that the idea of us paying for Gaddafi's police protection and trash removal while he finances terror around the world is ridiculous. Third, if indeed the home now belongs to the rebels, rather than Gaddafi, is it not the proper action to immediately sell the home in order to channel the money to the rebel's much-needed war effort against Libya's brutal dictator? After all, how does a multi-million dollar mansion in Englewood benefit the rebels? Ambassador Shalgham already has a residence in New York and presumably can live without a huge weekend retreat for the time being.
The Obama administration recently announced that they would be liquidating Libyan assets and giving the money to the rebels to support their campaign against Gaddafi. Rather than seeing the home forcibly sold, Ambassador Shalgham can demonstrate his true affinity with the rebels by selling this home of his own volition and supporting the war effort against his people's murderer. I am prepared to put together a group of donors who want to see Gaddafi's presence in our community utterly gone and would invite the transformation of the property from something that housed a terror government into something that promotes life-affirming values that bring healing to society, families, and individuals.
The National Institute of American Values, which we are working hard to launch, will be a place for scholars to research, teach, publish, and broadcast the universal values that unite all humankind and whose earliest articulation goes back to the time of Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai. We recently held our first event to benefit the Institute and our guest of honor was House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia. Our culture is sorely in need of a reaffirmation of values that dismisses materialism, repudiates militarism, and establishes the infinite dignity of every person. How unique it would be to transform a home that was built to house a cold-blooded killer into a center that promotes the infinite value of every human life.
And we need to move on this quickly because Gaddafi is now trying to withdraw Shalgham's credentials and replace him as Libya's UN Ambassador with his henchmen Ali Abdussalam Treki, who served in the post before and who, in 1983, urged member states in a speech at the UN to "look around New York. Who are the owners of pornographic film operations and houses? Is it not the Jews who are exploiting the American people and trying to debase them? If we succeed in eliminating that entity, we shall by the same token save the American and European peoples."
The last thing we need is another Libyan criminal moving into our neighborhood. Let's act expeditiously to enhance America not by 'eliminating' the Jewish people who have brought so many gifts to humankind but by bringing some of the universal values with which our people were entrusted by the Almighty to enrich all life on G-d's green earth.
Ambassador Shalgham, I eagerly await your response.
Shmuley Boteach, 'America's Rabbi,' is the Founder of This World: The Values Network and has just published "Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life." Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.