Obama at AIPAC conference
Obama at AIPAC conferenceIsrael news photo

Two pro-Israel American organizations and the Republican Jewish Coalition lashed out at U.S. President Barack Obama for awarding a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) called 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.” 

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) also condemned the decision to award former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The ZOA pointed out that both Tutu and Robinson “have made statements and presided over organizations and conferences that were viciously critical of Israel.” ZOA’s National President Morton A. Klein said, “It is deplorable that President Obama should have honored two such utterly partisan, vociferously anti-Israel figures like Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu.”

It is deplorable that President Obama should have honored two such utterly partisan, vociferously anti-Israel figures.

Klein noted that human rights groups are continuously being controlled by figures that are anti-Israel. He added, "Neither Robinson nor Tutu ever resigned in protest at the direction these bodies have taken, or took anything that could be called a courageous stand in favor of truth. Rather, both have lent their reputations to travesties of the truth and given the bodies on which they served an aura of undeserved legitimacy. By awarding them the Medal of Freedom, President Obama compounds their offense by lending them further underserved legitimacy.”

Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "Mary Robinson, who was one of the people responsible for the 2001 Durban conference against racism descending into an anti-Israel propaganda forum, is not an appropriate recipient for one of our nation's highest honors. In fact, awarding the Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson does great dishonor to the many outstanding men and women who have received it in the past."

Robinson is widely known for the high-profile role she played in leading in what AIPAC calls “the deeply flawed” U.N. Human Rights Commission and for presiding over the U.N.’s Durban Conference on Racism, which the United States boycotted for “its unprecedented hostility to Israel” and its final outcome document that equated Zionism with racism.

In a BBC interview following the passage of the “Zionism = Racism” Durban text, Robinson described the outcome as “remarkably good, including on the issues of the Middle East.”

In April 2002, Robinson’s Human Rights Commission voted on a decision that condoned suicide bombings as a legitimate means to establish Palestinian statehood after Robinson initiated a drive to become a fact finder to investigate the fictitious massacre in Jenin.

Desmond Tutu has claimed that Zionism has “very many parallels with racism” and has called Jews “arrogant." Tutu accused Jews of exhibiting “an arrogance – the arrogance of power because Jews are a powerful lobby in this land and all kinds of people woo their support.”

White House Responds

In response to AIPAC’s criticism, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told the press on Tuesday that Robinson was being honored due to her being the first female President of Ireland and as a prominent crusader of women's rights in Ireland and throughout the world.

Nevertheless, Gibbs asserted, “There are statements that obviously 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.”