|More than 100 people showed up at Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s Englewood home Sunday to protest Libyan leader Muammar Kaddafi and the Libyan mission next door.|
Despite reports late last week that Libyan dictator Muammar Kaddafi would not pitch his tent – literally or otherwise – in Englewood, the city filed an injunction in State Superior Court on Monday to stop renovations at a Libyan-owned site while the compound’s neighbor filed suit alleging damages to his property.
About three months ago the Libyan mission began renovations to its property it on Palisades Avenue. On Monday, New Jersey Superior Court Assignment Judge Peter. E. Doyne ruled that Quattro Construction Management LLC could continue its renovations of the inside of the Libyan mansion but must halt other work on the property’s exterior and grounds. The judge further ordered Englewood officials to clarify the regulations the contractor must comply with.
“As in the biblical days of Solomon, he split the baby in half,” the city’s mayor, Michael Wildes, told The Jewish Standard on Wednesday, “allowing [the Libyans] to continue renovations inside but stopping renovations outside.”
The judge ordered the parties to return on Sept. 18 for an update.
Wildes said he was pleased by the decision and he praised Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) for laying the groundwork when he was mayor in 1983.
“When he sat in my seat as mayor he had the prescience to see that Kaddafi might want to use this site,” Wildes said. “Were it not for his efforts years ago we might not have had this conclusion to this matter.”
Attorney Joseph Elhilow represented the Libyans in court.
Earlier on Monday, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who lives next door to the Libyan residence, appeared in court to file a complaint, alleging the destruction of trees and his chain-link fence by Libyan employees.
Also, the Libyans had erected their own fence, without consultation with their neighbors.
Eric Herschmann of the law firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman has taken on Boteach’s case pro bono. In a complaint filed in the court on Monday, Herschmann called for unspecified damages from the Libyans for the removal of at least 10 of Boteach’s trees and his fence. Boteach announced during an anti-Kaddafi rally at his home on Sunday that he would like the Libyans to sell the mansion and move out of Englewood altogether. Hershmann told the Standard on Wednesday that the courts could order to have the property liquidated in order to pay damages.
“We’d be very happy if Libya decided to sell the property and leave Englewood,” Herschmann said, echoing Boteach. “There’s really no reason that the Libyans need to have that property.”
Whether the trees were in fact on Boteach’s property remains in dispute, but removing them would require permits that city officials said the Libyans did not obtain. In addition, the fence the Libyans erected does not fit in with the character of Englewood, Herschmann said.
“I haven’t seen another fence like that in Englewood and I live in Englewood,” he said, describing the 6-foot high black metal fence with spiked tips. “In my experience this is not the norm by any stretch.”
Herschmann could not estimate a timeline for the case, although he suggested it could move quickly because of the publicity surrounding it.
State Department officials announced late last week that despite rumors that Kaddafi would stay in the Englewood residence during this month’s meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, the Libyan leader would not take up residence in New Jersey. More than 100 people gathered at Boteach’s home on Sunday to protest against the Libyan leader for his country’s sponsorship of terrorism. Gov. Jon Corzine, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, and Rep. Steve Rothman joined Boteach and Wildes in calling for Kaddafi’s movements to be restricted to within a few miles of the United Nations compound in Manhattan.
|Speakers at Sunday’s rally included, from left, Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes; Rep. Steve Rothman; Kathleen and Jack Flynn, parents of Lockerbie victim John Patrick Flynn; and Rabbi Shmuel Goldin of Englewood’s Cong. Ahavath Torah.|
Boteach opens his home to guests every Friday night for meals and prayer, he told the crowd, stemming from the Abrahamic tradition that Judaism shares with Islam.
“But whereas the tent of Abraham welcomes the weary with warm food, Kaddafi’s tent targets the innocent with incendiary bombs,” he said. “Whereas the tent of Abraham invites in widows and orphans, Kaddafi’s tent creates widows and orphans. Whereas the tent of Abraham was illuminated by the fire of human compassion, Kaddafi’s tent is illuminated by the infernal fireball of an airplane detonated in the clear blue sky. Abraham pitched a tent of brotherhood but Kaddafi pitches the terror tent of shame.”
Boteach continued to call Kaddafi “a pious fraud” and “religious charlatan” who has failed to repent of his terrorist ways.
“There is no way,” Corzine said, “in light of 270 human beings – 38 New Jerseyans lost their lives – in a community that is still tormented with the aftermath of 9/11; with the darkness of ongoing terrorism in the Middle East against our greatest ally, Israel; in a community that still has members who suffer unbelievably from the Holocaust, there is no way that we should not say no to those who embrace terrorism and that is exactly what we are going to do.”
“Mr. Kaddafi is not welcome in New Jersey,” he said to wild applause.
Relatives of victims of Pan Am Flight 103, which was destroyed by a bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, joined Rothman and Sen. Frank Lautenberg on the speakers’ platform.
“Following his Bedouin customs,” said Libyan ex-pat Mohamed Eljahmi during the rally, “Kaddafi paid blood money for his past terror acts. But money can’t replace the love of a lost spouse, a child, or a friend.”
Eljahmi accused Kaddafi of murdering his brother, Fathi Eljahmi, a political prisoner who advocated for the families of the victims of Lockerbie.
“I appeal to the compassion of Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton and President Obama,” he said. “For the memory of every victim of Mr. Kaddafi, please restrict the Libyan despot’s visa to the island of Manhattan.”
Lautenberg told the Standard after the rally that Libya is “still considered a terrorist organization.”
“The American government wants to establish normal relations and I protest against it -and I’m going to continue to protest against it,” he added.
Rothman, who as mayor of Englewood led the fight 26 years ago to restrict Libya’s use of its Palisades Avenue property, pointed to the 1982 Foreign Missions Act, which grants the United States certain rights and abilities to condition the use of property in United States owned by foreign nationals. The ability of a small city to host such high-level dignitaries is limited, he said, and that is reason enough to restrict Kaddafi to New York.
“There are simply not the resources and personnel in a typical single-family residential neighborhood outside of Manhattan to protect a head of state, who would invite potential for violence and endanger the local residents,” he said. “It applies to virtually every head of state and certainly applies then to Muammar Kaddafi.”