What is the state of the Nobel Peace Prize?*
By: Gideon Spiro
The Nobel Prize for Peace is the most problematic of all the Nobel prizes. Regarding the exact sciences, like chemistry, physics or medicine, there can be disagreements about the categorization of the importance of scientific achievements and discoveries. But as regards the winners it is not difficult to focus with precision on the scientific achievements for which they deserve the prize. The Nobel Prize for Peace is the least scientific, and the decision on the winner involves more than one political consideration. Besides the non-controversial winners like Martin Luther King, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, Nelson Mandela, Doctors Against Nuclear Arms, Prof. Joseph Rothblatt, Mairead McGuire from Northern Ireland, and many others, there have been over the years Prize winners whose winning elicited raised eyebrows at least.
For example, the Nobel for peace that was given to Henry Kissinger met with serious criticism in view of his very active involvement in many serious war crimes that the [ US] Americans carried out during the Vietnam war, when he was serving as the US Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor of President Nixon.
Another Nobel laureate, Elie Wiesel, who has acquired wealth from being a Holocaust survivor, constitutes to this day an enigma for many: why, and for what did he win the prize? What activities for peace distinguished the man? It is known that behind the scenes in the halls of the Committee an energetic Holocaust lobby acted with the goal of giving the prize to Weisel, and the pressure helped. Moreover, after he won the prize he did not do anything to justify it. When Elie Wiesel was asked (including by the writer of these lines) to speak out in condemnation of Israel 's bombardment of civilian targets in the Lebanon war that produced thousands of casualties, including children, women and old people, he refused, on the extortive and cynical pretext that as a Holocaust survivor he is not entitled to criticize Israel.
Today there is nearly no disagreement that Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat were not worthy of the prize. The Nobel Committee was excessively impressed by the ceremonies at the White House, and paid no heed to those who even then warned that the Oslo Accords were not heralding peace but constituted a formula for the perpetuation of the conflict because they bypassed the main issues.
The late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin were definitely worthy of the prize because of the peace agreement between the two states, but Begin spoiled his reputation as a Nobel laureate when he initiated the Lebanon war. If there had been a procedure to withdraw the prize in the wake of warlike activity and the committing of war crimes, there is no doubt that Begin would have been a candidate.
Every year, with the approach of the awarding of the Prize, there is a surge in the exchange of appraisals and rumours about the winner or winners. Sometimes the evaluations turn out to be completely incorrect and the Prize laureates are a surprise (like last year when the prize was given to Wangari Maathai of Kenya, the deputy Environment Minister) and sometimes the calculations are on target. This year the calculations were that the prize would be related to the nuclear issue, because of the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and they turned out to be correct.
Now we have been told that the prize was given to Muhammad al-Baradei, the Chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency. To me that was a disappointment. True, not a fiasco on the scale of Kissinger, but where the struggle against nuclear arms is concerned, my expectations and hopes were different.
Al-Baradei is a loyal servant of the Agency.
In a situation in which he could have exhibited initiative and demonstrated a position that departed slightly from diplomatic protocol (but was not forbidden to him), he was a disappointment.
When he visited Israel last year, we, the members of the Israeli Committee for a Middle East Free of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons, approached him and asked him to meet with us and with Mordechai Vanunu, and thereby to express his appreciation for Vanunu 's struggle and his suffering; but he did not respond.
Al-Baradei acted in accordance with the Agency' s decisions to tighten the supervision of Iran in order to ensure that it not develop nuclear weapons. We have no disagreement with that. But the litmus test for the struggle for a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East is in the demand not to discriminate in Israel's favour as opposed to Iran. True, Israel is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but there is nothing that bars al-Baradei from initiating international pressure on Israel to enter into a regime of disarmament and inspection. He knows that Israel is a nuclear power with an arsenal of hundreds of atomic and hydrogen bombs, and that as long as that is the case, a struggle that focuses only on Iran, while ignoring Israel, will miss the mark.
Moreover, al-Baradei does not struggle for the dismantling of the nuclear arsenals of the USA, Russia, England, France and China . That is the policy of the Atomic Energy Agency, and he implements it faithfully. That in itself casts a shadow on the award of the Nobel Peace Prize, which is dedicated to the struggle against nuclear weapons.
Before the invasion of Iraq there was a period of tension between al-Baradei and the USA due view of the Agency 's position that it had not discovered weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The USA even tried to prevent his re-appointment. Europe opposed this and the USA accepted the verdict. Since then the difficulties have been straightened out and President W. Bush, as well as the Deputy Prime Minister - and creator of the Dimona reactor - Shimon Peres congratulated al-Baradei on his winning.
There was and still is another candidate vastly more worthy than al-Baradei. Mordechai Vanunu. He was one of the nominees for the prize, but to my dismay the committee overlooked Vanunu this year as well. If there is a person who is deserving of the Nobel Prize for Peace for his struggle against nuclear weapons, Mordechai Vanunu is the man. For that noble idea he paid a great price, 18 years in prison, of which nearly 12 were in complete isolation. The intention of Israeli governments and their security services was to deprive Vanunu of his mental equilibrium. They failed. The man came out of 18 years in prison just as determined in his opposition to nuclear weapons as when went in, at peace with himself and not regretting his noble act of exposing to the press what was being done behind the walls of the Dimona reactor. Thus acts a person who is faithful to the democratic principle of the right of the public to know.
By now the Nobel Peace Prize Committee should have recognized Mordechai Vanunu as the ultimate candidate for the prize, especially in a year in which we mark 60 years since the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan.
There is no doubt that the government of Israel, together with groups that it operates in the world (including but not only Jews) applied strong pressure on the Norwegian Committee not to give the Nobel Peace Prize to Vanunu. To my dismay they succeeded.
Nevertheless, we are not broken. Mordechai Vanunu will be a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize next year too, and the following year - until he gets it. I hope that in the end he will win the prize in spite of Israel's wrath.