The Obama administration recently announced it would award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson for their work on behalf of human rights. Tutu was one of the spiritual leaders of the anti-apartheid movement and has also opposes the Israeli Occupation. Mary Robinson, though lesser known, is a former Irish president and UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Part of her latter role was to operate UNWRA, the major Gaza agency aiding the tens of thousands of refugees there.
Though pro-Israel advocates like Mort Klein and Abe Foxman equally detest Tutu and Robinson, perhaps as a Nobel laureate they felt the former’s position was less assailable. Robinson however has no such protection. Therefore, they’ve gone after her hammer and tong. And the pro-Israel necons have joined in: John Bolton wrote the usual detritus in today’s Wall Street Journal attacking her not only for being anti-Israel, but for being anti-American, which is rather remarkable considering that she now lives and works in New York City. Here is one of the proofs that Bolton adduces for her anti-Americanism:
In particular, she objected to the Bush administration’s “war paradigm” for dealing with terrorism, saying we actually “need to reinforce the criminal justice system.”
Yes, it certainly is pro-American to argue that the only way of dealing with acts of terror is waging merciless war And it certainly is anti-American to advocate arresting and prosecuting those guilty of plotting violence against this country..
As in the Chas. Freeman affair, there are many other considerations contributing to the storm over Robinson’s award. First, the pro-Israel advocacy community is tremendously exercised by Obama’s alleged hard-nosed position toward Israel. Raising a ruckus over Robinson, they hope, takes the president off his game and derails his policy goals. The administration’s current attempt to engineer a settlement freeze can only be damaged if pro-Israel groups can stir up a full-fledged scandal. So far, in this case they haven’t dragged out any supposedly embarrassing quotations from Robinson, though Lord knows they’ve tried.
Into the breach sail seven courageous Israeli human rights NGOs (among them Yesh Din, B’Tselem, Gisha, Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Physicians for Human Rights), who write to the president congratulating him for nominating the former UN official for her award. They write:
We…support your choice of Mrs. Mary Robinson to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom award. Mrs. Robinson deserves this
honor for a lifetime of unflagging support to the cause of human rights in its many dimensions.
We are greatly saddened by the media furor that has been generated by statements from AIPAC and the ADL, who have referred to Mrs. Robinson’s “long public record of hostility and one-sided bias against the Jewish state,” and “animus” towards Israel, respectively. These statements contain factual errors and are misleading…Such rhetoric distracts attention from the real issues that need to be addressed to foster peace and security for Israel and its neighbors.
…We…met with Mary Robinso…when she visited Israel in 2008 as head of a delegation of eminent women leaders. We saw firsthand her genuine commitment to human rights principles. During her 2008 visit, we understand that Mrs. Robinson met with a broad spectrum of Israelis including officials like Mayor of Sderot Eli Moyal, Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, as well as members of the Peace and Security Council, a group of retired senior military officials who provide expert opinions on security matters, and with human rights activists.
We urge those who voice this unwarranted criticism to turn their attention to finding constructive solutions to the challenges that stand in the way of peace and acknowledge Mary Robinson – who has worked diligently for the promotion of human rights and conflict resolution – as the deserving recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Let everyone who reads of these attacks understand that they are the product of the pro-Israel lobby desperate to change the subject. For them, the news is all bad and anything they can do to change the subject gives Israel a welcome (for them) respite.
In their rush to demonize the Irish human rights advocate, the pro-Israel crowd should remember that Robinson is one of the world’s foremost proponents of women’s rights. Coincidentally, one wedge Israel is using in the propaganda war with the Arab states is their rather dismal record regarding gay and women’s rights. Israel supposedly is a veritable bastion of such rights. So let the Foxmans and Kleins remember that if they want to attack a women’s rights advocate they’re damaging their credibility when it comes to questioning these rights in the Arab world. Progressives will be only too happy to point out when they do so that the emperor’s wearing no clothes.
Robinson was and is a tireless advocate for human rights. Her critic, John Bolton, is a tireless advocate for John Bolton. The former is an admired and respected champion for women, throughout the world. The latter, a man who failed to get where he so desperately wanted to go and is now reduced to denigrating those who did. Perhaps such failures should be tied up in a plastic bag and hung from the Statue of Liberty to remind us that we have only a finite time here on earth and those who use theirs to merely to enhance themselves are just that – a white mustache hiding a right-wing, empty space.
Mazeltov Mary Robinson! You earned your honor.
Marvin Lewis says
I wish that there was an open debate with facts given by both sides. regarding whether Robinson is a hero or a dangerous supporter of terrorism. Allegedly Robinson has made anti-semitic remarks, according to some, yet the quotes are never seen. Allegedly she has contributed to money that has gone to terroristic groups, which is frightening, but it is never substantiated. On the other hand, it was never explained what Mary Robinson did to earn the medal. I know, I should find Obama’s speech which would enlighten me. Still, just hearing conclusionary comments by both sides is frustrated to someone who wants to be spoon fed.
Richard Silverstein says
Mary Robinson was the first woman president of Ireland. She was a senior UN official whose job was to protect the interests of refugees around the world. She is a brave and noble woman. I have never read a single anti-Semitic or anti-Israel word out of her. Has she been critical of Israeli policies? Yes. Does that make her a Jew-hater or even anti-Israel? No.