Rabbi Shmuley Boteach took to The Jerusalem Post and The Jewish Standard last week to rail at “the many Westerners who collaborated to keep” Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in power.
He rightfully takes to task those people and companies that helped finance and bolster Gaddafi’s thuggish regime (among them the oil company BP, which reportedly signed a $900 million oil exploration deal with the despot several years ago).
Boteach, though, also falls back on a tired meme that he’s been pushing for years: That Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) is a Gaddafi sympathizer who consistently kowtows to the despot.
Boteach sums up his gripe: “My own home town of Englewood, 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.”
Rothman, the accusation goes, was overly sympathetic to Gaddafi throughout the Englewood episode, allegedly arguing that there’s no reason Gaddafi shouldn’t be allowed to camp in Jersey.
The congressman “took the unbelievable step of issuing a three-page 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,” Boteach gripes.
The assertion that Rothman hearts Gaddafi, however, is completely shattered by a recent TPM piece.
Former Rep. Robert Livingston, whose lobbying firm once did PR for Gaddafi, recalls that during the Englewood campsite escapade, Rothman phoned him in state of utter distress.
“Steve Rothman went ballistic, and he called me and we had a lot of dialogue,” Livingston told TPM, which goes on to report, “at that point, Livingston said he pulled the plug on the contract.”
This revelation is uber behind-the-scenes, portraying a taste of the Beltway wheeling and dealing that takes place. It also doesn’t appear to have been pushed by Rothman’s camp (though it’s unclear). Most important, if true, the report destroys Boteach’s argument.