Posted by Niall O'Dowd at 8/5/2009 8:08 AM EDT

The statements criticizing President Obama for honoring former Irish president Mary Robinson by the Israeli lobby in America are outrageous.

Obama announced that Robinson would be among the recipients of the American Medal of Freedom, the highest honor this country can bestow on a foreign-born person. Previous recipients have included Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu.This year's recipients also include Senator Edward Kennedy and the late Congressman Jack Kemp.

Robinson, an incredible trailblazer, was the first woman president of Ireland and did an incredible job rebooting the country into the modern era.

After that, she was an impassioned head of human rights for the United Nations and did incredible lifesaving work in Somalia and elsewhere in Africa during her time there.

She was fearless in speaking out against human rights abuses wherever she saw them, and did not shirk her duty in the Middle East, where she called it as she saw it.

If my memory is correct she often attacked Arab regimes as well as Israel for their many human rights transgressions.

Nowadays, she is one of the most respected and sought after human rights spokespersons in the world - perhaps a future candidate for a Nobel Prize.

None of this matters to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the powerful Israeli lobby who, along with several other groups, have attacked President Obama for his decision to honor her.

The Israelis need to get used to the fact that there are vast swathes of the world where there is strong disagreement with how they have treated the Palestinians in the past few decades.

Mary Robinson has been outspoken on that as she has been on many other issues of human rights abuses across the world.

By showing their anger, the AIPAC and others are trying once again to cow American public opinion on the extent of what is permissible when it comes to criticism of Israel and its human rights record.

Israeli supporters should know better. The facts are that Mary Robinson is a respected figure worldwide who deeply deserves this major American honor, and Barack Obama is correct to bestow it.

Trying to censor the president of the United States and mute the voice of one of the world's great human rights workers is not very smart policy for AIPAC on this occasion. This is not Israel's finest hour.