Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson has probably done more harm to Israel than any other Irish citizen. She was United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002 and was the architect of the Durban I anti-racism conference in 2001. Last year pro-Israel groups expressed concerns when she was going to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the top US honour for civilians) by Barack Obama. She said “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.”
How legitimate were the concerns of these Jewish bullies? Durban I was probably the most serious anti-Semitic event in decades. Although the UN has long been anti-Israel and the Internet has also been a significant contributor, Durban I can be seen as the singular event that turned anti-Semitic Israeli bashing into the zeitgeist of our times. The Durban I conference composed of UN groups and NGOs, developed several strategies to demonise Israel. It would be described as an apartheid state which could be undermined through isolation akin to South Africa. They emphasised calling Israeli actions in response to Palestinian terror “war crimes,” in breach of international law, etc.
Robinson was the principal organiser of the event. Robinson was criticised by Tom Lantos (a member of the U.S. delegation) who said there were obvious signs the conference was headed for trouble months before. At preliminary meetings in Tehran, Israelis and pro-Israel states and NGOs were at first prevented entering Iran, and later, effectively excluded from participating in the meetings. The delegates present declared the intention of using the conference as a propaganda weapon to harm Israel. Robinson condoned their behaviour in a statement where she congratulated the Tehran delegates on their productive work. Her stance encouraged the hijacking of the event. In effect, it became as a weapon against Israel.
Jews were openly discriminated against at the conference itself. Pro-Palestinian extremists were allowed to incite hatred of Israel on an international stage and legitimise the Second Intifada which had resulted in a massive loss of Israeli lives at the time. Resolutions were passed accusing Israel of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The American delegation headed by Colin Powell tried to remedy the situation by using diplomacy to isolate hard-line states and NGOs but Lantos stated that Robinson actually undermined these efforts which shocked their delegation. She would not reject the concept that the horrors of the Holocaust are equivalent to the suffering of the Palestinians – in fact, she legitimised it by describing them as opposing issues. She knowingly allowed the hate filled conference to take its course and the issues for which Durban I was intended to be were largely ignored. Powell announced that the US would withdraw from Durban I, stating,
I know that you do not combat racism by conferences that produce declarations containing hateful language, some of which is a throwback to the days of ‘Zionism equals racism’; or supports the idea that we have made too much of the Holocaust; or suggests that apartheid exists in Israel; or that singles out only one country in the world, Israel, for censure and abuse.
Robinson latterly condemned the extreme anti-Semitism at the events, but by that stage, it was akin to sprinkling water on an inferno after having built it up with petrol. She erased most of the objectionable content in the final document. However, the document was almost meaningless, as the conference throughout was the scene of extreme hostility toward Jews and Israel, which helped legitimise such conduct under the guise of human rights. This was a devastating propaganda victory, the consequences of which could well lead to the destruction of the Israeli State. Has Robinson come to regret her conduct and come to the aid of Israel? Not even a little. Although she expressed upset at the events of the time, she stated last year “I am extremely proud [of the conference.] It was the third attempt to have the conference and was the first to be successful. In the final document there was not one word of anti-semitism.”
If Durban I was an anomaly in an otherwise good record, Robinson’s behaviour could be put down to stupidity, but she has consistently adopted an anti-Israeli stance which at times could be described as destructive. The so called “massacre” in Jenin in 2002, where the Palestinians hugely exaggerated the death toll of Palestinian civilians, was used by the United Nations as an excuse to attack Israel in an extremely hostile fashion without being in possession of the facts. They jumped to serious conclusions as they have done repeatedly since, and equated the military action in response to the death of over 100 Israeli civilians with that of the terrorists without addressing the reasons for those actions. Robinson pre-judged the situation: “It cannot be right to wage war on civilian populations.”
A resolution by Robinson’s Human Rights commission that condoned terrorism generally (unspecified forms) as a means to resist occupation and achieve independence was passed. There was no real condemnation of 100+ Israeli civilian deaths. The death of seven Palestinian civilians and 47 Palestinian militants was of greater consequence. To quote a 2002 report by the Anti-Defamation League:
“Question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine” Resolution 2002⁄8, adopted by the Commission on Human Rights, April 15, 2002 (‘France, Belgium, and four other EU countries yesterday supported a UN Commission on Human Rights resolution that includes a thinly veiled endorsement of Palestinian terrorism,’ The Jerusalem Post, April 16, 2002; notably, this resolution endorsed a 1982 U.N. resolution that ‘reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity, and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle’).”
Robinson was offered the job of investigating Israeli “war crimes” in Gaza by the UN. She rejected the biased terms of the UN mandate that singled out Israel. This may have been due to prior criticism of her very oppositional stance toward the Jewish State. Justice Richard Goldstone, head of the UN Gaza fact-finding mission, had the terms changed informally. This had no authoritative standing at the UN since it was not voted on. Thus the original terms of the mandate stood as it turned out. This did not stop her voicing support for the anti-Israel Goldstone Report when it was being voted on. She is now part of an NGO group comically entitled “The Elders,” which includes other anti-Israeli luminaries such as Jimmy “Israeli apartheid” Carter.