12 August 2009

Mary Robinson’s Presidential Medal of Freedom

Later today former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, who went on to become the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner from 1997-2002, will officially receive the highest honour a United States President can bestow on anyone, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

This has driven the pro-Israel crowd nuts, on the grounds of her alleged anti-Semitism: apparently no reasonable person could entertain sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians – you would have to be anti-Semitic to do that. The charge is led by John Bolton in the Wall Street Journal here; Bolton writes of Robinson’s “anti-Israel history”, not to mention “her hostility toward America’s role in promoting international peace and security”.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee put out a statement on 4 August referring to her “extreme, one-sided anti-Israel sentiment” and to her “dishonourable role” in presiding over the U.N.’s 2001 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”.

I think we can forgive Ms Robinson for any scepticism she might entertain about John Bolton-style promotion of international peace and security. And as George W. Bush awarded the medal to John Howard for his efforts “to promote democracy, human rights and peace abroad”, I would be relaxed and comfortable about Mary Robinson receiving it.

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