Born on May 21, 1944 in Ballina, Ireland, Mary Robinson, an architect of the 2001 U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, which was boycotted by Secretary of State Powell because the Bush administration deemed it too hostile to Israel, was hired in 2004 as a professor in the Department of International and Public Affairs by Columbia University. Other prominent antagonists of Israel on the Columbia faculty include Rashid Khalidi and Joseph Massad, who has declared Israel illegitimate as a Jewish state. Columbia has “become a hotbed of Israel haters,” notes the president of the Zionist Organization of America, Morton Klein.
As the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights (a position she held from 1997-2002), Ms. Robinson rejected many American demands to remove anti-Israel language from final conference documents. “Under Mary Robinson’s leadership, the Human Rights Commission was one-sided and extremist,” said James Tisch, the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “In her tenure at the HRC, she lacked fairness in her approach to the Israeli/Palestinian issue. I am hopeful – for the sake of her students and the reputation of Columbia – that as she enters the world of academia she will demonstrate more balance in her views.”
To her admirers, Ms. Robinson, who served as Ireland’s first female president from 1990 to 1997, is seen as one of the most important figures in the global human rights movement, drawing attention to civil conflicts in Sierra Leone, Chechnya, and the former Yugoslavia.
When Ms. Robinson’s tenure as the U.N.’s human rights commissioner was finished, Sergio Vieria de Mello replaced her in that post, a transition that was applauded by Richard Holbrooke, an American ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton administration.”I think Sergio is much better than Mary Robinson,” Holbrooke told the Washington Post. I think she overly politicized the job.” (De Mello was subsequently killed by terrorists in Iraq.)
Rep. Tom Lantos, a Democrat from California, in a 2002 article in the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, blasted Ms. Robinson for not doing more to prevent anti-Israeli rhetoric from taking over the Durban conference. “Mary Robinson’s lack of leadership was a major contributing factor to the debacle in Durban, ” said Lantos. “Her yearning to have a ‘dialogue among civilizations’ blinded her to the reality that the noble goals of her conference had been usurped by some of the world’s least tolerant and most repressive states, wielding human rights claims as a weapon in a political dispute.”
This profile is adapted from the article “Columbia U’s Newest Anti-Zionist,” written by Jacob Gershman and published by FrontPageMagazine.com on February 3, 2004.