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The Robinson "Medal of Freedom" Fiasco: When will the Democrats Speak Out?

 Robinson, responding to her critics, said in a widely reprinted quote, "There's a lot of bullying by certain elements of the Jewish community. They bully people who try to address the severe situation in Gaza and the West Bank. Archbishop Desmond Tutu gets the same criticism."  In other words---to make solid criticism of her irresponsibility is “bullying.” And to say that Archbisop Tutu also gets similar criticism hardly lets her off the hook.

Only Peretz so far as I can tell, has had the courage to point out that the fabled Archbishop has been for decades a fierce opponent of Israel. As Peretz puts it, “He is one of those many people who seems to have a tic about or a tic against the Jews.” I suspect this animosity came from the long years of the struggle against apartheid, when the ANC due to its alliance with the Communists in South Africa and the Soviet Union, took the line that Israel was an imperialist tool of the United States. But because Tutu’s reputation comes from his fight against apartheid- a justified stance- he has received no criticism for his virulent anti-Israel views. So he too will be a recipient of the Medal of Freedom.

That is why, as our colleague Jennifer Rubin pointed out, the response of Rep. Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York, is so unusual and heartening. In answer to Rubin’s question to Engel about his views on the award, he forthrightly said that it “was obviously a mistake.” She should not receive the award, he told Rubin, and he even equated her moral equivalence with the posturing of “the far Left.”

Up to now, Rep. Engel seems, among Democrats, to stand alone. Where is his colleague from New York, Anthony Weiner, whose press rep would not return my call. Where is New York’s Senator Charles Schumer? Both have been good on these issues. Recently, Weiner released a tough statement on the need of the Palestinians to end their anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda in their school textbooks. So why aren’t these pro-Israel New York members of Congress making a public statement about Mary Robinson?

 When will they and others have the courage to step forward and speak out? We are waiting for the answer.

addendum: August 5, 2009 -- Washington, D.C.)  Congresswoman Shelley Berkley today expressed her concern regarding past comments and biased actions directed at the State of Israel by Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Mary Robinson. Berkley said:  "The biased views expressed by Mary Robinson against the nation of Israel remain deeply troubling and her tarnished record of actions on this issue cannot be erased with the awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  This includes her role in the U.N.'s infamous Durban Conference, the scene of highly-charged anti-Jewish attacks against Israel and its supporters.  Mary Robinson's one-sided criticism of Israel and her actions while serving as a U.N. commissioner deserve to be condemned and I add my voice to those already expressing concern about her shameful record when it comes to this issue.  I respectfully request that the President of the United States reassess the awarding of this prestigious medal to a woman with such a blatant record of inappropriate and inexplicable bias against America's most reliable ally -- and the region's only democracy -- the State of Israel."