Pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC on Tuesday criticized President Barack Obama's decision to grant a top honor to ex-Irish president Mary Robinson, accusing her of bias towards Israel.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee criticized Obama's decision to award Robinson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor, citing her role at the United Nations' Durban Conference on Racism in 2001.
"AIPAC is deeply disappointed by the Obama administration's choice to award a presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson," AIPAC said in a press release.
"AIPAC respectfully calls on the administration to firmly, fully and publicly repudiate her views on Israel and her long public record of hostility and one-sided bias against the Jewish state."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that the move by Obama, who has been pressuring Israel to halt Jewish settlement construction on the West Bank as part of a Middle East peace push, did not mean he agreed with all of Robinson's views.
"Look, Mary Robinson was the first female president of Ireland, and she is somebody whom we are honoring as a prominent crusader of women's rights in Ireland and throughout the world," Gibbs said.
"There are statements that obviously she has made that the president doesn't agree with and that's probably true for a number of the people that the president is recognizing for their lifetime contributions."
'Deeply flawed tenure'
AIPAC was not the first Jewish organization to criticize Robinson's honor, and cited a list of instances in which it said she demonstrated her "dishonorable role in the Durban debacle."
The administration of former president George W. Bush walked out of the 2001 conference in Durban, complaining Israel was the target of abuse.
Robinson said in an interview with the BBC after the conference that it had produced a "remarkably good" outcome on issues including the Middle East.
But she said there had been "horrible" anti-Semitism at the meeting, particularly in some parallel non governmental organization discussions.
AIPAC also said Robinson's tenure at the UNHRC was "deeply flawed, and her conduct marred by extreme, one-sided anti-Israel sentiment."
Obama last week announced that he would recognize Robinson for her role as president of Ireland and as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Among other honorees this year are US Senator Edward Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, tennis great Billie Jean King and pathbreaking scientist Stephen Hawking.