Like many people these days, I am a busy man. But that did not stop me from taking off several weeks from my professional life to fight Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's plan to take up residence directly next door to me this past August and September during the U.N. General Assembly.
With my friend Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes — and the support of the Englewood, N.J., community — we pushed Gadhafi out.
Sad to say, it was a pyrrhic victory.
Last month, with the cooperation of the U.S. State Department and our otherwise brilliant police force, as well as the silent acquiescence of our elected leaders, Libya's ambassador to the United Nations, Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, stealthily moved in and took up residence as my immediate next-door neighbor.
Every time my kids hit a baseball a bit too far, it goes into Libyan territory — onto the lawn of a man who disgraced the U.N. Security Council by showing a gruesome slide show featuring images of mutilated Palestinians with Israeli soldiers as the culprits. His condemnation of Israel's actions in Gaza made no mention of the Hamas rockets that have been fired without provocation at Israeli children.
These are the same Libyans who in August welcomed a mass murderer — Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber — with great fanfare into Tripoli (released by Scottish authorities on humanitarian grounds because he only had three months to live, he is miraculously still alive). They are the same Libyans whose leader called in October for the Palestinians to be given nuclear weapons. And they are the same Libyans who have shown our city undisguised contempt by refusing for more than 25 years to pay even a single dollar in taxes.
They also cut down my fence and trees, which separate my property from theirs, prompting me to sue them in federal court.
From the age of 16, all I ever wanted to be was a rabbi — someone who helps bring healing and values to the lives of others. But for the first time in my life, I find myself contemplating a run for office.
The reason is simple: The Talmud declares: "In a place where there are no men, stand up and become one."
The fact that our elected officials allow the representative of a state that sponsors terrorism to live here is scandalous. When I read that my own congressman, Steve Rothman, who fought so hard against Gadhafi, had told The New Jersey Jewish Standard that an agreement had been reached 25 years ago allowing the ambassador to take up residence and that, therefore, "I hope everyone will be appropriately good neighbors," I was beside myself.
Is he seriously asking me to borrow a cup of sugar from a man whose government murdered U.S. servicemen while they danced at a disco?
Without sounding paranoid, it's time that we face some facts. Across the globe, it's open season on Israel and the Jews. Why? Some would say that antipathy toward Jews is a law of physics. I disagree. It is happening because we allow it.
We are a powerful global economic market, and we must seriously consider boycotting the products of nations whose shameful behavior mistreats Jews. For example, the situation in Britain is out of control: There have been attempts to ban Israeli professors from academic conferences; a magistrate issued an arrest warrant against Israel's former foreign minister, Tzipi Livni; and the government issued an advisory allowing retailers to label products from the West Bank as being produced in Israeli settlements or by Palestinians. A serious conversation about whether or not to vacation in Britain or buy its products should now occur.
Here in the United States, we have had to contend with the canard put forward by the Barack Obama administration that Israeli settlements are a major obstacle to Middle East peace. And it's more than a little disappointing that the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has endorsed this fraud by instituting a 10-month freeze on settlements, thereby unjustly identifying some of Israel's most patriotic citizens as its most intransigent.
In the face of such developments, more committed Jews must begin considering running for office. Rather than merely relying on friends to represent us, we must also begin representing ourselves.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is founder of This World: The Values Network. His most recent books are The Blessing of Enough and The Michael Jackson Tapes. He can be followed on Twitter at RabbiShmuley or on the Web at: Shmuley.com.