Gadhafi camping in New Jersey?
The authoritarian ruler of Libya is rumored to be planning to stay in an air-conditioned tent on the front lawn of a house owned by the Libyan Mission when he attends the U.N. General Assembly meeting in September.
Members of the predominately Orthodox Jewish Englewood community are less than enthused about a visit from a leader who has made anti-Zionist statements in the past. The recent release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber to Libya has heightened the animosity.
On Monday, Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, called for the U.S. Department of State to restrict Gadhafi’s travel to the area around U.N.headquarters in New York City, saying in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton he “was particularly concerned by news reports indicating that [Gadhafi] plans to stay in New Jersey, where the families of many Pan Am 103 victims reside.”
A representative from the Libyan Mission in New York would not confirm Gadhafi will stay in Englewood, only that he is scheduled to come to New York.
Gadhafi has a history of setting up his extensive tent when visiting other countries, including Russia and France. Media reports have said that his request to pitch his tent in Central Park had been denied, and the New Jersey property was a likely second choice.
Boteach said he had previously been willing to approach Gadhafi’s rumored visit with an open mind, but he backtracked after the Lockerbie bomber’s release.
“Judging by his actions, he hasn’t changed one iota,” Boteach said. “He loves terrorists and welcomes them as heroes and speaks with a forked tongue. As soon as he had the opportunity he lionized people who committed murderous acts. Gadhafi is a fraud. I don’t want him or his security team near my home.”
Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes said he was not informed of plans to erect a tent on the property, and no special permissions were requested from the zoning department. Only through neighborhood residents and media coverage was he alerted to construction on the house that, according to Boteach, began around three months ago.
The mayor said he was “mortified as a Jew and embarrassed as an American that a financier of terrorism is on U.S. soil. [Gadhafi] is someone who has embraced terrorism and has not changed his spots.”
Wildes said the Libyan Mission has “not paid a nickel” on taxes for the property, and said he would only be “willing to sit down with him if he brings a check to cover years of back taxes and overtime pay for the additional police forces needed for his stay, and apologizes to the Jewish residents and the Lockerbie victims’ families of New Jersey.”
Boteach, in a piece posted Thursday on The Huffington Post, where he is a regular contributor, said the residence had been left “derelict and neglected” for many years until the recent construction.
In opposition to Gadhafi’s possible visit to Englewood, Boteach said he plans several steps, including legal action, which he said would be in response to construction workers knocking down his fence and cutting down his trees.
“My plan is to sue them, extract as much money as possible and use Libyan money for planting trees instead of buying bombs,” he wrote in another Huffington Post piece Monday.
Boteach and Wildes also are planning a protest at the construction site on Sunday.