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AIPAC Blasts Robinson Pick

3:12 PM, Aug 4, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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The Obama administration's decision to award a Freedom Medal, the nation's highest civilian honor, to former Irish PM and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson has left many in the Jewish community dumb-founded. How could the administration honor someone whose signal achievement at the UN was the Durban Conference on Racism, which produced an infamous document equating Zionism with racism? ZOA went nuts. So did the RJC. Jen Rubin was the first (to my knowledge) to make a lot of noise about the pick. And we chimed in as well. But there's no real surprise there. But then ABC picked up the story. And now AIPAC has blasted the pick, sparking its first public confrontation with this administration:

AIPAC DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED IN CHOICE OF ROBINSON AS FREEDOM MEDAL NOMINEE

AIPAC is deeply disappointed by the Obama administration's choice to award a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson. AIPAC respectfully calls 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.

AIPAC rarely goes on record to object to any specific administration decision or policy -- regardless of the party in power. Its strength comes in no small part from the fact that it throws its weight only behind those issues in which there is a consensus in the Jewish community and also a bipartisan consensus in Congress. AIPAC argues in favor of this or that policy course, but the group only rarely objects publicly to a policy that has already been announced. Now we will see Joe Klein and Andrew Sullivan and Stephen Walt squeal in horror that an organization should dare publicly oppose a decision by this administration. But this is what AIPAC's critics have always wanted -- transparency. The selection of Robinson only lends credence to the view that Obama is no friend of Israel -- a view that AIPAC has been battling against, and on behalf of this administration, since Obama first announced his candidacy. For AIPAC to come out and publicly blast the administration like this -- clearly there is a high level of frustration. The selection of Robinson was, in this administration's parlance, unhelpful.

And it's not just Zionists who see Robinson as a controversial figure. When Robinson was replaced by Sergio Vieira Demello at the UN, Richard Holbrooke was quoted as saying, "I think Sergio is much better than Mary Robinson. I think she overly politicized the job." The Obama administration has now overly politicized the Freedom Medal. It's another big, unforced error.

Full statement after the jump. AIPAC DEEPLY DISSAPOINTED IN CHOICE OF ROBINSON AS FREEDOM MEDAL NOMINEE

AIPAC is deeply disappointed by the Obama administration's choice to award a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson. AIPAC respectfully calls 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.

Robinson is widely known for the high-profile role she played in leading the deeply flawed U.N. Human Rights Commission and for presiding over the U.N.'s Durban Conference on Racism, which the Untied 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."

As one of America's greatest statesman, the late Tom Lantos - a former Congressman, Holocaust survivor, global champion of human rights and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - observed, "Much of the responsibility for the debacle [at Durban] rests on the shoulders of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson."