On August 12, 2009, US President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson, the controversial former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who presided over the 2001 Durban Conference. The antisemitic and anti-Israel agenda of the conference, led by the Islamic bloc (established at a pre-conference meeting in Tehran, Iran) and NGOs (at the official NGO Forum) resulted in the formulation of the “Durban Strategy” – “a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state.”
Robinson failed to prevent the racism and antisemitism of the Tehran meeting (Jews and Israeli were barred from attending), and commended the delegates afterward. She also encouraged NGO participants to focus on “the situation of the Palestinians,” who had suffered “the accumulated wounds of displacement and military occupation.” As opposed to promoting universal human rights, her comments bolstered the anti-Israel elements. While Robinson belatedly rejected the virulent Final Declaration of the NGO Forum, she could not undo the damage caused by her prior inaction.
Seven NIF- and European-funded Israeli NGOs – B´Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I), Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Bimkom, Gisha, HaMoked, and Yesh Din — expressed “public support” for the choice. Their letter to Obama, however, erased Robinson’s role in the Durban Conference, demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of the Durban process, in which some of these NGOs are active.