As Libyans die, a New Jersey town subsidizes Gaddafi

Snipers are picking protesters off from rooftops, and goons are mowing them down in the streets. But in Englewood, the Libyan flag continues to fly high.

As Libya burns and as the foundation of its brutal 40- year-old regime shakes and shudders, it is not just the thuggish family of tyrant Muammar Gaddafi who should be worried. It is also the many Westerners who collaborated to keep him in power.
There’s a rekonin’ a comin’ for all those who did deals with the Gaddafi regime, whose morality vanished in the face of his black-gold billions, who – in the words of Bob Dylan – closed their eyes and pretended not to see the brutality of one of the cruelest governments on earth.

Many are known to us already, like BP which four years ago signed a $900 million oil exploration deal with Gaddafi. There are the British ministers who gave Gaddafi advice as to how to have the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, freed as he made clear when he publicly thanked Gordon Brown and Queen Elizabeth after the mass murderer’s release. “This step,” he said, “is in the interest of relations between the two countries... and of the personal friendship between me and them, and will be positively reflected for sure in all areas of cooperation between the two countries.”
Most infamous is the Scottish government and its justice minister Kenny MacAskill, who released Megrahi (who continues to live in Tripoli, but perhaps not so peacefully now that his sponsor’s government is teetering).
Others who have worked with Gaddafi are not as famous but have been mentioned in the media, like Matthew Beckerman, the Jewish head of Natural Selection, who accepted a $100 million investment from the tyrant’s son.
AND THEN there are those who stood by, and now continue to stand by, as Libya burns, like my own home town of Englewood, New Jersey, which was the site of a major battle in September 2009 when Gaddafi, who owns the home next door to mine, tried to pitch a tent and move in for a few weeks. Our community came together and pushed him out. But the house, an official residence of Libya’s ambassador to the UN, remains. It is sovereign Libyan territory and the ambassador, whose boss reportedly stole tens of billions of dollars from the Libyan people, lives there tax free.
We, the residents of Englewood, pay for his trash removal, police protection and other basic services.
My city allows this shameful state of affairs. There has not been a lawsuit to try to push the Libyans out, or get them to at least pay taxes in almost 30 years! When Gaddafi withdrew and I continued the fight against the Libyan mission, Congressman Steve Rothman, who has not had a serious challenger in 14 years, first told the media: “I hope everyone will be appropriately good neighbors.”
Later, he took the unbelievable step of issuing a threepage press release attacking me and defending the Libyans’ right to remain in Englewood based on agreements between them and the State Department that were brokered by Rothman himself when he was Englewood’s mayor. I responded in print by reminding Rothman that he represents the hard-working citizens of New Jersey, and not the oil-rich dictator in Tripoli.
Englewood garnered world acclaim when it pushed Gaddafi out. Now our community is utterly silent as Libya burns. Brave Libyan citizens are being murdered in the streets. The number of dead is growing by the day. Habib al-Obaidi, head of the intensive care unit at the main Al- Jalae hospital, spoke of the bodies of 50 people, most killed by gunshots, being brought in on Sunday afternoon alone. “The problem is not the number of those killed,” he said, “but how they were killed. One of the victims was obliterated – after being hit by an RPG to the abdomen.”
That’s right. The people of New Jersey, which already saw 30 of its citizens murdered among the 270 who were on Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, are subsidizing the diplomatic mission of a government that fires rocket propelled grenades against nonviolent protesters.
Snipers are picking them off from rooftops, and Gaddafi’s goons are mowing them down in the streets. But in Englewood the Libyan flag continues to fly high. I see it every day right across my yard. It makes me sick to my stomach. That our mayor, city council and police allow it without a single legal challenge is a disgrace to a onceproud city.
I launched a lawsuit against the Libyans in federal court, only to see it quashed due to their diplomatic immunity.
Imagine that. A terrorist-funding state that blows up airliners and kills its people in front of the world’s cameras can live tax-free in an American suburb, where there it has no diplomatic interest, because of diplomatic immunity.
I am writing this column from Boston, where I am attending a family wedding. I took my children to the site of the Boston Massacre, where on March 5, 1770 British soldiers fired into a crowd of a hundreds of colonists, killing five.
The event was the spark that would ignite the American revolution.
As it happens, we Americans could not have achieved our freedom entirely on our own. The French were instrumental in helping us defeat the British, and it is a lesson we all ought to remember as Arabs throughout the Middle East rise with great courage to demand the same simple freedoms for which the American patriots fought. They are our brothers, and require our assistance. And this is especially true of those who are fighting to defeat the man Ronald Reagan accurately called “the mad dog of the Middle East.”
The writer was The Times of London’s Preacher of the Year.
His newest book is Honoring the Child Spirit: Inspiration and Learning from Our Children. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.