By Bridget Johnson - 08/05/09 01:09 PM EDT
In a statement, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee criticized the administration for naming former Irish President Mary Robinson as one of the 16 recipients of the presidential medal.
"Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way," Obama said in a statement announcing the awards.
AIPAC contends that Robinson's "dishonorable" role in the infamous Durban racism conference and leadership of the U.N. Human Rights Commission — which was dissolved in controversy in 2006 and replaced with the current Human Rights Council — call the choice of the former Irish president into question.
"AIPAC is deeply disappointed by the Obama administration's choice to award a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson," the group said in its statement. "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."
The Anti-Defamation League also condemned Robinson's medal, saying "she is not an 'agent of change' and is undeserving of America's highest civilian honor."
"She issued distorted and detrimental reports on the conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and blamed Israel for the outbreak of Palestinian violence – the Second Intifada," ADL director Abraham H. Foxman said in a statement. "As the convener of the 2001 U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, she allowed the process to be hijacked to promote the delegitimizing of Israel and pronouncements of hateful anti-Jewish canards, such as 'Zionism is racism.' She failed miserably in her leadership role, opting to join the anti-Israel forces rather than temper them."
The Zionist Organization of America criticized Obama for the honors granted to Robinson and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, saying, "both have made statements and presided over organizations and conferences that were viciously critical of Israel."
"We are aware that, while other Jewish organizations have criticized the award to Mary Robinson, none appear to have taken issue with the same award being made to Desmond Tutu," ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said in a statement.
“We also note that President Obama recently met with Jewish leaders to reassure them about his policies to Israel, something words alone cannot do when so much else in the words and deeds of the Obama Administration gives genuine cause for concern," Klein said.
Robinson's tenure as U.N. commissioner on human rights ended in 2002 under pressure from the U.S.
"She continues to bring attention to international issues as Honorary President of Oxfam International, and Chairs the Board of Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI Alliance)," the White House said in the award announcement. "Since 2002 she has been President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative, based in New York, which is an organization she founded to make human rights the compass which charts a course for globalization that is fair, just and benefits all."