UN Watch, the Geneva-based affiliate of the American Jewish Committee, has a helpful summary of Mary Robinson’s problematic career. It begins:
Should Mary Robinson be awarded the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom for being an “agent of change”?
In March 2004, we noted that, “Whatever her accomplishments, Mary Robinson’s legacy will be forever entwined with Durban’s racism-turned-racist conference that disgraced the UN.”
In the words of the late Tom Lantos, U.S. delegate to the conference and founder of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus: “To many of us present at the events at Durban, it is clear that much of the responsibility for the debacle rests on the shoulders of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, who, in her role as secretary-general of the conference, failed to provide the leadership needed to keep the conference on track.”
Lantos thoroughly documented her counter-productive acts of omission and commission in the vital lead-up process.
UN Watch then reminds us: “But problems with Robinson preceded Durban. UN Watch closely monitored her 1997-2002 tenure as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. We gave her credit on various occasions for speaking out on human rights issues. But in several key instances her moral megaphone was selective, nowhere more than in the case of Israel.” UN Watch then lists 10 separate instances in which the group documented Robinson’s bias and predilection to inflame events and distort facts — always to favor the Palestinian-propaganda line and to indict Israel.
In a separate post, UN Watch concludes:
The evidence is clear. As described by the late Tom Lantos, throughout the lead-up to the 2001 Durban conference Mary Robinson was part of the problem, not the solution. At preparatory sessions in Tehran and Geneva she consistently justified and encouraged a selective focus on Israel. While she did make statements against anti-Semitic manifestations at the conference itself, these were too little and too late. Robinson may not have been the chief culprit of the Durban debacle, but she is its preeminent symbol.
The problem was not just Durban. UN Watch interacted with Robinson when she was U.N. rights chief in Geneva from 1997 to 2002 and closely monitored her tenure. Though she did speak out aptly in various instances, Robinson consistently displayed one-sided criticism of Israel matched with indifference to Palestinian terrorism.
The U.S. government rightly stood up for principle in April when it opposed any reaffirmation of the flawed 2001 Durban declaration. Whatever her other accomplishments, Robinson’s actions in the Durban process and the bias she displayed throughout her tenure as UN human rights chief were not worthy of this award.
The question remains: what was the Obama administration thinking? One can guess at who might have suggested this awful pick (I think we can assume Richard Holbrooke is off the hook), but the responsibility remains with the president. He will present the honors, and he should explain why he thinks Robinson is deserving of our country’s highest civilian award.