ZOA Criticizes President Obama’s Awarding Medal Of Freedom To Virulent Anti-Israel Figures Mary Robinson & Desmond Tutu
August 3, 2009


The Zionist Organization (ZOA) has criticized President Barack Obama for awarding America’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, to two virulent critics of Israel, former Irish President and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson and former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Both have made statements and presided over organizations and conferences that were viciously critical of Israel.


Mary Robinson’s record on Israel:


·         Robinson was the driving force behind the ‘World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance’ (the Durban I Conference) in September 2001 that was in fact an anti-Semitic hate carnival. “She said nothing when the preliminary Asian Regional Conference in Tehran (from which Israel was excluded) inserted blatantly racist statements into the conference agenda. She failed to speak out when, on the grounds of the U.N. conference itself, the Arab Lawyers Union distributed pamphlets depicting hook-nosed Jews as Nazis spearing Palestinian children. In the same tent where nongovernmental organizations depicted Israel as a “racist, apartheid state,” were distributed fliers entitled, “What if Hitler had won?” The answer: “There would be no Israel, and no Palestinian bloodshed.”  Nor did she protest when the South African hosts denied visas to European anti-slavery activists critical of human rights in Sudan and other Muslim states (Michael Rubin, ‘Mary Robinson: War Criminal?’ National Review Online, May 20, 2002).


·         In April 2002, Robinson’s Human Rights Commission voted on a decision that condoned suicide bombings as a legitimate means to establish Palestinian statehood after Robinson initiated a drive to become a fact finder to investigate the now-famous fictitious massacre in Jenin.


·         In June 1999, when the Geneva Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, a body that had never been convened in its history gathered to condemn the Israeli construction of apartment blocks on empty, Jewish-owned land in eastern Jerusalem, Robinson insisted that the Fourth Geneva convention applies to the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” and that “legal and diplomatic mechanisms under the United Nations Charter” and the Convention “remain an option for serious consideration” against Israel. These options include trials for war crimes and crimes against humanity. So extreme were Robinson’s words at this conference (which was curtailed when its Convener, Switzerland’s Walter Gyger, counseled restraint and adherence to non-politicized terms of reference) that she was censured for them.


·         During the so-called Naqba riots in May 1998, when Jews were assaulted at prayer by rioting Palestinians, Robinson spoke only of the rioters who were killed and injured by Israeli police as victims and called upon Israel to “respect the right of peaceful assembly, to avoid the excessive use of force.”


·         In November 2000, when she visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA)-controlled areas, Robinson said she came to “hear” the Palestinians but to “put points to [the Israelis],” indicating she was taking the Palestinian side even before arrival. She subsequently surrendered to PA demands that she cancel meetings with Israel’s democratically-elected opposition figures. Acting Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami (Labor) saw this as so blatantly biased that he declined to meet with her. Her subsequent report on her visit consisted largely of regurgitating Palestinian claims, no matter how subjective, including anger at those who had dared to (correctly) allege that Palestinian children were deliberately dispatched to scenes of violence. The stoning of Jewish worshippers at Jerusalem’s Western Wall and the destruction of Joseph’s Tomb and a Jericho Synagogue received barely a reference, but after meeting with Muslim and Christian clerics, she called on Israel to respect and protect religious sites.


·         In 2000, when the Iranian government arrested and convicted a number of Jews on trumped-up charges of espionage for Israel in an in camera trial, utilizing forced confessions as evidence, Robinson accepted the Iranian position that it was an internal Iranian matter and did not send observers to the appeal trial.


·         In 2000, Robinson appointed Mona Rishmawi to a senior position within her Commissariat. Rishmawi has likened Israeli practices in the territories to those of Nazis and is a long time activist of al-Haq, the Palestinian advocacy organization promoting a Palestinian agenda couched in terms of human rights.


·         As UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), Robinson took a discriminatory line against Israel as soon as she took that post. She discontinued the practice of her predecessor, Ecuador’s José Ayala-Lasso, of meeting with both the UN regional groups and the Israeli ambassador to discuss human rights matters. (As the only member-state not a member of any regional group, Israelis could only obtain information from the HCHR on this basis). Only later did she reluctantly resume the practice of inviting the Israeli ambassador.


·         During the last four years of Robinson’s term as Irish president and at a time that Ireland held the EU presidency (second half of 1996), EU aid money to Yasser Arafat went to terrorism. PA documents seized by Israel in 2002 from Arafat’s Muqata compound in Ramallah show that the PA spent approximately $9 million of EU aid monthly on the salaries of those organizing terror attacks against civilians. “While European officials like Robinson looked the other way, the Palestinian Authority regularly converted millions of dollars of aid money into shekels at rates about 20 percent below normal, allowing the Palestinian chairman to divert millions of dollars worth of aid into his personal slush fund  … European funds enabled Arafat to purchase $50 million worth of sophisticated Iranian weaponry for use against civilians” (Michael Rubin, ‘Mary Robinson: War Criminal?’ National Review Online, May 20, 2002).



Desmond Tutu’s record on Israel:



·         Smears Zionism as being racist: Tutu has claimed that Zionism has “very many parallels with racism.” (American Jewish Year Book, 1988, p.50).


·         Calls Jews arrogant: Tutu accused Jews of exhibiting “an arrogance–the arrogance of power because Jews are a powerful lobby in this land and all kinds of people woo their support,”(Jewish Telegraphic Agency Daily News Bulletin, Nov. 29, 1984).


·         In a speech delivered to a two-day conference titled, ‘The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel,’ Tutu was reported to have cited passages from the Bible to argue that the God worshiped by Jews would champion the cause of Palestinians, “Remembering what happened to you in Egypt and much more recently in Germany — remember, and act appropriately … If you reject your calling, you may survive for a long time, but you will find it is all corrosive inside, and one day you will implode” (‘Tutu urges Jews to challenge oppression of Palestinians,’ Boston Globe, October 28, 2007).


·         Compares Israel to Hitler, Stalin and apartheid: “I have been very deeply distressed in all my visits to the Holy Land, how so much of what was taking place there reminded me so much of what used to happen to us Blacks in Apartheid South Africa … The Apartheid government was very powerful, but we said to them: Watch it! If you flout the laws of this universe, you’re going to bite the dust! (applause) Hitler was powerful. Mussolini was powerful. Stalin was powerful. Idi Amin was powerful. Pinochet was powerful. The Apartheid government were powerful. Milosevic was powerful. But, this is God’s world. A lie, injustice, oppression, those will never prevail in the world of this God. That is what we told our people. And we used to say: those ones, they have already lost, they are, they are going to bite the dust one day. We may not be around. An unjust Israeli government, however powerful, will fall in the world of this kind of God” (Tutu in an address delivered at Old South Church, Boston to the Friends of Sabeel North America’s conference, (a body whose leaders say that Israelis are “crucifying” Arabs like the Jews did Jesus), April 13, 2002). [ZOA: The full text of this address was once available on-line at  http://media.startribune.com/smedia/2007/10/03/19/Archbishop_Tutu_Transcript.source.prod_affiliate.2.doc, but disappeared sometime after ZOA cited it at length in a press release of October 12, 2007].


·         Refuses to call Israel by name: In conversations during the 1980s with the Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Eliahu Lankin, Tutu “refused to call Israel by its name, he kept referring to it as Palestine.” (Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Response magazine, January 1990).


·         In November 2006, Tutu was appointed by the same UN Human Rights Commission previously headed by Mary Robinson to head its “investigative commission” to the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun to investigate “human rights violations” by Israel” which Tutu had already condemned as “an outrage that cries out to heaven and we must condemn it unequivocally.” The commission never investigated Sudan, or other scenes of genuine, massive human rights abuses.


·         Falsely claims Jews create refugees: Asked about the Zionism-is-racism resolution, Tutu complained that “the Jewish people with their traditions, religion and long history of persecution sometimes appear to have caused a refugee problem among others.” (South African Zionist Record, July 26, 1985).


·         Urged Jews to forgive Nazis: During his 1989 visit to Israel, Tutu “urged Israelis to forgive the Nazis for the Holocaust” (Jerusalem Post, December 31, 1989), a statement which the Simon Wiesenthal Center called “a gratuitous insult to Jews and victims of Nazism everywhere” (Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Response magazine, January 1990).


·         Claims Jews monopolize victimhood: Jewish Monopoly of the Holocaust: Tutu complained about “the Jewish monopoly of the Holocaust.” (Jerusalem Post, July 26, 1985).


·         Depicts the Jewish lobby as malignly powerful: “People are scared in this country [the U.S.], to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful–very powerful.”


·         Claims critics of Israel are smeared: “You know as well as I do that, somehow, the Israeli government is placed on a pedestal [in the U.S.] and to criticize it is to be immediately dubbed anti-Semitic, as if Palestinians were not Semitic.”


·         During the 1989 visit to Israel, Tutu remarked “If I’m accused of being anti-Semitic, tough luck,” and in response to questions about his anti-Jewish bias, Tutu replied, “My dentist’s name is Dr. Cohen.” (Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Response magazine, January 1990)


·         Claims Judaism tries to monopolize G-d: Speaking in a Connecticut church in 1984, Tutu said that “the Jews thought they had a monopoly on God; Jesus was angry that they could shut out other human beings.” In the same speech, he compared the features of the ancient Holy Temple in Jerusalem to the features of the apartheid system in South Africa. (Hartford Courant, October 29, 1984).

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “It is deplorable that President Obama should have honored two such utterly partisan, vociferously anti-Israel figures like Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu.


“Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu’s records of defaming Israel, as we have shown above, stand for themselves. Both figures have shown a propensity to pervert and disserve the cause of human rights in the course of heading committees and organizations designed to defend them. That tells us something about the state of human rights organizations and their internal perversion by anti-Israel activists and the repressive and corrupt regimes which tend to control these bodies. But it also tells us something about Robinson and Tutu. Neither Robinson nor Tutu ever resigned in protest at the direction these bodies have taken, or took anything that could be called a courageous stand in favor of truth. Rather, both have lent their reputations to travesties of the truth and given the bodies on which they served an aura of undeserved legitimacy. By awarding them the Medal of Freedom, President Obama compounds their offense by lending them further underserved legitimacy.


“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. It would appear that there is reluctance to criticize an African figure who had some prominence in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. Yet participation in a just cause does not, and should not, provide immunity from criticism for other words and deeds defaming Zionism and Israel while aiding the eliminationist Palestinian cause.


“We also note that President Obama recently meet 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. At a time when President Obama is being severely criticized by Jewish leaders for bias against Israel and in favor of Arabs, and has only 6% of Israelis call him pro-Israel, one would have expected him to be especially careful not to offend pro-Israel sensibilities by honoring two of Israel’s most severe critics. How little President Obama seems to regard Jewish sensitivities can be seen by these awards to Robinson and Tutu only weeks after that meeting.”

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