US decision to honor Robinson slammed

Ex-UN rights commissioner: There's a lot of bullying by certain elements of the Jewish community.

August 6, 2009 01:06
4 minute read.
US decision to honor Robinson slammed

mary robinson 248 88. (photo credit: )


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Days after the White House defended its decision to honor a former UN official who ran the 2001 Durban conference, a growing chorus of Jewish voices is berating the "ill-advised" and "troubling" award. In addition to Durban, Jewish groups are citing a long history of misguided criticism of Israel by Mary Robinson, an ex-UN high commissioner for human rights and a former president of Ireland. Robinson was among 16 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, announced on July 30. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee said it was deeply disappointed by the award to Robinson, and urged President Barack Obama to "repudiate" her views on Israel. "AIPAC respectfully calls on the administration to firmly, fully and publicly repudiate her views on Israel and her long public record of hostility and one-sided bias against the Jewish state," it said in a statement. "Robinson is widely known for the high-profile role she played in leading the deeply flawed UN Human Rights Commission and for presiding over the UN's Durban Conference on Racism, which the Untied States boycotted for its unprecedented hostility to Israel and its final outcome document that equated Zionism with racism." White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in response to the AIPAC statement: "Mary Robinson was the first female president of Ireland, and she is somebody whom we are honoring as a prominent crusader of women's rights in Ireland and throughout the world. There are statements that obviously that she has made that the president doesn't agree with, and that's probably true for a number of the people that the president is recognizing for their lifetime contributions." But Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said in a statement that the White House was minimizing a "very real" controversy, adding that President Obama's decision was "profoundly troubling" and a "dishonor" to those who received the award in the past. "The choice of Mary Robinson for this award calls into serious question the White House vetting process," Brooks said. "If the White House staff passed on Robinson's name knowing how controversial and troubling the choice would be, that's wrong in and of itself. If Robinson's name made it onto the Medal of Freedom list because the White House staff was unaware of how controversial she was, that's even worse." Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, sharply criticized the decision to honor Robinson, calling it "ill-advised" given her track record and apparent "animus" toward Israel. As the UN high commissioner for human rights, "she issued distorted and detrimental reports on the conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip," he said. He described her role in Durban as letting the conference be "hijacked to promote the delegitimizing of Israel and pronouncements of hateful anti-Jewish canards." "She failed miserably in her leadership role, opting to join the anti-Israel forces rather than temper them," Foxman said. Indeed, Robinson's critics largely point to her role at Durban, which came to symbolize the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic views espoused there. "To many of us present at the events at Durban, it is clear that much of the responsibility for the debacle rests on the shoulders of UN high commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson, who, in her role as secretary-general of the conference, failed to provide the leadership needed to keep the conference on track," wrote the late Rep. Tom Lantos in the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs in 2002. "Instead of condemning the attempt to usurp the conference, she legitimized it," he wrote. Robinson said the allegations against her are "totally without foundation." "There's a lot of bullying by certain elements of the Jewish community," she said, in an interview with RTE Radio One on Sunday. Critics have cited troubling aspects about Robinson's actions vis-a-vis the Middle East before and after the Durban conference. A 2002 article in the National Review by Michael Rubin cited her tenure as president of Ireland, during which time millions of euros in European Union foreign aid was used by the Palestinian Authority to pay the salaries of those organizing terrorist attacks. Robinson apparently looked the other way, Rubin wrote. "The problem was not just Durban," Hillel Neuer, executive director of United Nations Watch, told The Jerusalem Post. In an e-mail message, Neuer said his organization closely monitored Robinson during her tenure as UN rights chief. "Despite her accomplishments, Robinson consistently displayed one-sided criticism of Israel matched with indifference to Palestinian terrorism," he said. Indeed, in an opinion piece published in Tuesday's New York Post, Gil Troy, a professor at McGill University and a Jerusalem Post contributor, and Tevi Troy, a former senior White House aide under president George W. Bush, bluntly labeled the honor a "bad choice." "Robinson's views are well out of the American foreign-policy mainstream," they wrote, questioning what message Obama possibly could hope to send by awarding Robinson the high honor. "If President Obama believed he could honor Robinson without harming himself politically, he's taking for granted the votes of both American Jews and more traditionally hawkish moderate Democrats," they wrote. "Worse, it seems Obama doesn't mind celebrating a symbol of Western weakness and appeasement of anti-Semitism at a time when the world's dictators and terrorists are deciding what to think of him."

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