Jewish Groups Say Obama's Pick for Medal Has Anti-Israel Bias

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President Obama’s decision to bestow one of the nation’s highest honors on Mary Robinson, the first woman to serve as Ireland’s president, has touched off protests by Jewish groups and lawmakers, who claim she has shown a persistent anti-Israel bias in her work as a human rights advocate.

Mr. Obama plans to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, to Mrs. Robinson and 15 others at a ceremony next week at the White House.

In recent days, Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York, Representative Shelley Berkley, Democrat of Nevada, and other lawmakers have criticized Mr. Obama’s choice. They say that in her role as the United Nations human rights commissioner, Mrs. Robinson was one-sided in her criticism of Israel and allowed hostility toward it to infect the global debate on human rights.

Much of the criticism centers on Mrs. Robinson’s leadership of an antiracism conference in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. The delegations from the United States and Israel walked out in the middle to protest a torrent of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements, which critics say Mrs. Robinson did little to stop.

The White House has defended the decision to grant her the honor, saying it also recognizes her role as a crusader for women’s rights. Mrs. Robinson, a lawyer, was elected in 1990 as Ireland’s first female president.

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David Hastings - 8/13/2009

Ms. Robinson broke the 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not criticize Israel.