And Senator Edward Kennedy is also on the list of 16 recipients named by President Obama as winners of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom.
But the decision to honor Robinson has prompted protest from U.S. Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League.
In a statement, Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the ADL, said that the awarding of the Medal of Freedom to Robinson was ill-advised.
“While Mary Robinson may have accomplishments to her credit, she also, unfortunately, has an animus toward Israel as evidenced by her tenure as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Rather than be constructive and act objectively on Middle East issues, she became a lead cheerleader for the Palestinian narrative,” Foxman said.
“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.
“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 de-legitimizing 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.
“Because she has not moved away from her anti-Israel bias, she is not an ‘agent of change’ and is undeserving of America’s highest civilian honor,” Foxman stated.
According to a White House statement, the Medal of Freedom is awarded “to individuals who make an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
“This year’s awardees were chosen for their work as agents of change,” the statement added.
“These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of backgrounds. Their tremendous accomplishments span fields from science to sports, from fine arts to foreign affairs. Yet they share one overarching trait: Each has been an agent of change. Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way.
“Their relentless devotion to breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens sets a standard to which we all should strive. It is my great honor to award them the Medal of Freedom,” President Obama, who will present the medals at a ceremony on August 12, said.
Of Robinson the statement said in part: “Mary Robinson was the first female President of Ireland and a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, a post that required her to end her presidency four months early.
“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. 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.”
Of Kennedy it stated in part: “Senator Edward M. Kennedy has served in the United States Senate for forty-six years, and has been one of the greatest lawmakers – and leaders – of our time.”
Other winners for this year include physicist Stephen Hawking, the late former congressman and cabinet member, Jack Kemp, tennis star Billie Jean King, Bishop Desmond Tutu, the late Harvey Milk, actor Sidney Poitier, and retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor.