Tevi Troy is troubled by the Obama Administration’s decision to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson, given her work on behalf of the 2001 Durban Conference, in which anti-Semitism appeared to be the order of the day. Troy’s post deserves mention, notice, and an intelligent reply from the White House, and from all those who believe that Mary Robinson deserves the honor President Obama plans to give her.
In fairness to Robinson, I will link to this:
Waving a book of anti-Semitic cartoons distributed at the anti-racism conference in Durban, UN High Commissioner Mary Robinson – in a dramatic act of identification with the Jews vilified in the pamphlet – declared “I am a Jew” at an NGO dinner there Wednesday night.
Shimon Samuels, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Paris, said that after he showed Robinson the booklet, she stood up, waved it and said, “This conference is aimed at achieving human dignity. My husband is a cartoonist, I love political cartoons, but when I see the racism in this cartoon booklet, of the Arab Lawyers’ Union, I must say that I am a Jew – for those victims are hurting. I know that you people will not understand easily, but you are my friends, so I tell you that I am a Jew, and I will not accept this fractiousness to torpedo the conference.”
Samuels, head of the Jewish caucus at the anti-racism conference, said that the booklet, which he said contained vile anti-Semitic cartoons, was handed out at registration, and that several of the Jewish groups in Durban had complained about it.
I am prepared to believe that Mary Robinson is not an anti-Semite. I am also prepared to believe that her handling of the Durban conference set back the cause of philo-Semitism, or at the very least, the acceptance of Jewish existence. There is nothing that can be done concerning her receipt of the Medal of Freedom. But hopefully, the award will inspire her to be more forceful in her work against anti-Semitism than she may have been in the past.
Of course, the fear is that the reward may instead cause Robinson to believe that she has done enough against anti-Semitism, and not bestir herself to do more.