Controversial Nobel Peace Prize Winners

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2007

Since the Nobel Peace prizes are awarded to people and accomplishments that even laymen have opinions about, they are creating more controversies than most other prizes.

The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the most impressive awards around. When the Swedish chemist and engineer Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite, died in 1986 he bequeathed about USD260 million to create prizes to reward various scientific and cultural advances produced by people or organizations around the world.

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The Nobel Prizes are chosen in five categories: Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace.

According to Alfred Nobel’s will “the Peace Prize is to be awarded to individuals and institutions that “have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

Alfred Nobel
Alfred Nobel

Since the late 1800s the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to scientists, writers and peace and political activists. Not everyone has agreed on who is or isn’t worthy of the $1.2 million prize.

Alfred Nobel stated in his will that the recipients of the Nobel Peace Price should be selected by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, a five member committee appointed by the Parliament of Norway.

Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo
Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo

Since 1990, the prize has been awarded on 10 December in Oslo City Hall each year. Formerly the prize was awarded in the Parliament (1901-04), the Norwegian Nobel Institute (1905-46) and the Atrium of the University of Oslo Faculty of Law (1947-89).

On rare occasions the committee’s choices may have been short-sighted or naïve, and a number of poor decisions have been made. Here are some of them.

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Carl von Ossietzky (1936)
The journalist, anti-Nazi and camp prisoner Carl von Ossietzky was awarded the Peace Prize in 1936, when he revealed that the German authorities were secretly engagement in rearmament contrary to the Versailles Treaty. For this he was found guilty and imprisoned. After the seizure of power by the Nazis in 1933 he was arrested again and sent to a concentration camp.

An international campaign was organized to have Ossietzky released. As one step in this campaign, he was nominated for the Peace Prize. It attracted attention that the Norwegian Royal Family stayed away from the award ceremony in December 1936, probably prompted by the Government, which feared German reactions.

Hitler reacted to the news of Ossietzky’s Peace Prize with fury, and prohibited all Germans for ever from receiving Nobel prizes. The seriously ill Laureate was refused permission to leave for Norway to accept the distinction. He died in a prison hospital in May 1938.

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Cordell Hull (1945)
Cordell Hull was given the prize for his role in establishing the United Nations. He is considered a controversial winner due to an incident in 1939 when he was President Roosevelt’s Secretary of State.

The President was amenable to helping 950 Jewish refugees aboard a ship called the SS St Louis settle in America. But Hull and a group of Democrats from the American South voiced “strong opposition”, threatening to withdraw support for Roosevelt if he let the ship dock.
The president buckled, the SS St Louis was turned around and many of its passengers became victims of the Holocaust.

Henry A. Kissinger, author of his new book World Order.
Henry A Kissinger (1973)
The former US Secretary of State was awarded the prize together with Vietnamese leader Le Duc Tho for their efforts in bringing peace. The latter did not want to share the prize with Kissinger and rejected the award as he did not feel peace had been achieved.

Kissinger was also accused of playing a role in America’s secret bombing of Cambodia in 1969 and 1975.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Menchu attends a meeting of indigenous communities in Caracas
Rigoberta Menchú (1992)

Rigoberta Menchú won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her autobiography  I, Rigoberta Menchú, first published in 1982. The book was translated into 12 different languages, making people aware of the genocide of the indigenous Guatemalan people in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Later the American anthropologist David Stoll discovered that Menchú had stretched the truth to make her story more emotionally persuasive. She did not witness the torture and murder of her brother, and her historical portrayals were not accurate.

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Yasser Arafat (1994)
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat shared the prize with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres for their work on the Oslo Peace Accord, a document meant to create “opportunities for a new development toward fraternity in the Middle East.”

The committee has been criticized not only because of the failure of the Oslo accords, but for giving the prize to Arafat, who has been called “the worst man to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize”. The author Jay Nordlinger described Arafat in The Times of Israel as an “unrepentant terrorist with a long legacy of promoting violence” for terrorist campaigns against Israel.

The long list of Arafat’s numerous crimes has spurned many to call the Palestinian leader “the father of modern terrorism”.

THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE LAUREATES FOR 1994 IN OSLO. (FROM RIGHT TO LEFT): PRIME MINISTER YITZHAK RABIN, FOREIGN MINISTER SHIMON PERES AND PLO CHAIRMAN YASSER ARAFAT שלושת חתני פרס נובל לשלום לשנת 1994 באוסלו שבנורבגיה. (מימין לשמאל): ראש הממשלה יצחק רבין, שר החוץ שמעון פרס ויו"ר אש"ף יאסר עראפת.
From right to left: Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, Foreign minister Shimon Peres and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat

One member of the Nobel Commission, Kaare Kristiansen, also resigned to show his opposition to this award, also calling Arafat a terrorist. In 2002, several members of the Committee suggested Peres’ award should be withdrawn after the Israeli politician was named Foreign Minister of Ariel Sharon’s government.

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Jimmy Carter (2002)
Jimmy Carter was awarded the Peace Prize “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development”.

It was very controversial because it was awarded right after the US senate authorized use of military force against Iraq to enforce UN resolutions.

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Wangari Maathai (2004)

The first African woman to win a Nobel Peace prize died in 2011 at the age of 71. The New York Times has described her as an  “environmentalist, feminist, politician, professor, rabble-rouser and human rights advocate” who created jobs for women and an organization that planted trees across Kenya in a bid to fight erosion.

The day before she was due to collect the peace prize in Oslo an African newspaper claimed she had likened Aids to a “biological weapon” and told participants in an Aids workshop that the disease was “a tool” to control Africans “designed by some evil-minded scientists.”

Maathai confronted the storm of controversy by insisting her comments had been taken out of context. “I neither say nor believe that the virus was developed by white people or white powers in order to destroy the African people,” she said in a statement released by the Nobel Peace committee. “Such views are wicked and destructive.”

Al Gore
Al Gore (2007)
The committee claimed that “Al Gore is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted” regarding climate change and global warming.

Many felt, however, that Gore was undeserving of the award since he hardly practiced what he preached.  Shocking electric and gas bills from the Gore household in 2006 showed that his 20-room home and “pool house” were eating up over 20 times the national average electricity usage.

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Barack Obama (2009)
Barack Obama received the prestigious Norwegian award the same year he became president of the United States for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” and, especially for his “vision of a world with no nuclear weapons.”

The award was heavily criticized as undeserved, premature and politically motivated. Obama himself said that he felt “surprised” to receive the prize and did not consider himself worthy of it. Nonetheless he accepted it.

Even if many consider Obama as an anti-war president, he has increased the US military presence in Afghanistan, ordered the military involvement in Libya in opposition to Muammar Gaddafi, and also ordered military intervention in Iraq in response to gains made by the Islamic State after the 2011 withdrawal from that country.

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European Union (2012)
The Peace committee claimed EU deserved the award “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”

The award was widely criticized because it came at a time when social rights were suffering greatly due to discord between member states resulting from economic crisis.

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The prize never awarded
The fact that Mahatma Gandhi never got the Nobel Peace Prize is considered one of the great blunders in the history of the Nobel Peace Prizes.

It’s hard to think of anyone in modern history who symbolizes non-violent struggle better than the Indian independence leader.

Gandhi was nominated five times but never won.

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The Nobel committee later admitted that this was an omission, and in 1989 the chairman of the Nobel committee paid tribute to Gandhi as he presented that year’s award to the Dalai Lama.

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The prize never to be awarded
The list of official nominees for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize is a tightly guarded secret, the award required to be posted to Nobel Institute in Norway by February 1.

The director of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, Kristian Berg Harpviken, reveals however that U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump has been nominated for the prestigious prize.

Harpviken said he had received a copy of a nomination letter for Trump – whose proposal to ban Muslim immigration to the United States has attracted international condemnation – that claims he deserves the Nobel prize for “his vigorous peace through strength ideology, used as a threat weapon of deterrence against radical Islam, ISIS, nuclear Iran and Communist China.”
Controversial Nobel Peace Prize Winners, compiled by Tor Kjolberg