Friday, August 07, 2009

Obama awards anti-Israel commissionner

From The LA Times, August 7, 2009, by Peter Wallsten:

Jewish congressional members and lobbying groups are protesting President Obama's decision to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former Irish leader Mary Robinson, who they say has a long record of harshly criticizing Israel.

... the Robinson award is the latest in a series of recent disagreements with Obama, and some Jewish leaders are growing skeptical of his commitment to Israel.

... several members of Congress -- including two Jewish Democrats -- had rebuked the decision to bestow the country's highest civilian honor on Robinson ....

Among their concerns was her role as the United Nations' high commissioner on human rights in the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. ...Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and a member of the Jewish caucus to the conference, said Thursday that Robinson "allowed the event to be hijacked by extremists who had no interest in peace."

The episode, Cooper said, "degraded" the global human rights effort, setting the stage for the second racism conference, held this spring, in which a keynote speaker was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad...

...Robinson "simply did not have the guts . . . to step into the fray and say it can't be this way," Cooper said. ...

...Rep. Shelley Berkley (D- Nev.) said Thursday that the "biased views expressed by Mary Robinson against the nation of Israel remain deeply troubling, and her tarnished record of actions on this issue cannot be erased with the awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom."

Berkley blamed Robinson for the "highly charged anti-Jewish attacks against Israel and its supporters" at the 2001 conference and said her actions "deserve to be condemned."

Another Jewish Democrat, Rep. Eliot L. Engel of New York, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Robinson was a "screw-up" and a "mistake." ...

...the controversy looked to be growing.

The World Jewish Congress on Thursday accused Robinson of an "endorsement of Palestinian violence as legitimate political activity, and the outrageous equating of the Holocaust to the suffering of the Palestinians," adding that Robinson's record "renders her unqualified to receive the nation's highest civilian honor."

...the late Rep. Tom Lantos of California, a Holocaust survivor and delegate to the Durban conference, ...said that Robinson's conduct "left our delegation deeply shocked and saddened" by her remarks about Israel.
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