August 4, 2009 | 11:52 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
James Besser has a good blog post for The Jewish Week about the mixed messages President Obama has sent about his support for Israel, with his decision to award Mary Robinson the Medal of Freedom being the most disconcerting so far. Besser writes:
Being president is all about sending messages. When it comes to the Middle East, everybody knows that indirect messages can carry at least much weight as the direct ones.
So it’s not surprising a whole lot of people are trying to figure out just what President Obama meant by selecting Mary Robinson, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as one of 16 recipients of the Medal of Freedom. And others think they know and are trying to spin the rest of us.
For many pro-Israel activists, the selection was loaded down with unwelcome significance.
It’s not just that Robinson is seen as biased against Israel; what has made her name a lightning rod is her personal identification with a 2001 UN conference on racism in Durban, South Africa that was hijacked and turned into a grotesque festival of overt anti-Semitism, right down to the distribution of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Robinson didn’t support the anti-Semitic outbursts at Durban, but a credible case can be made that she didn’t do enough to prevent them – or speak up loudly enough after the debacle.
She has spoken out extensively against anti-Semitism, but was also part of a UN human rights hierarchy that demonized, and didn’t just criticize, Israel.
So was there a message implicit in her selection, or was it just a misstep by administration officials who thought nobody would care too much about honoring Robinson among 15 other recipients, including the actress Chita Rivera and tennis player Billie Jean King?
The dumb move theory isn’t exactly a slam dunk.
This administration has had plenty of time to learn the ins and outs of vetting, and top officials at the White House have accumulated lots of experience in dealing with the special sensitivities of the Jewish community. It’s hard to swallow the idea that they didn’t expect Jewish groups to react negatively (on Monday, the ADL did; here’s a link to their press release).
But if it was a message, what was its meaning?
Read the rest here.
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