The 'Ig-Nobel' Peace Prize

When Words Lose Their Meaning

On the same day that Hamas terrorists murdered Nachshon Waxman, a joint American and Israeli citizen, a committee in Sweden announced its decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chair Yasaer Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. In so doing the committee reinforced and validated a dangerous misconception about the meaning of the word "peace."

At its most fundamental level, peace is the absence of violence. When such peace is achieved by opposing sides in a conflict, it is forged from two separate and distinct elements: rights and responsibilities. Each side has a right to be free from disturbance and disorder, and a responsibility not to violate the other's right.

This concept of peace has been perverted and replaced by a counterfeit definition. While it speaks in the flowery terms of peace, the Nobel Prize committee has forgotten that that signing a peace treaty must involve not only mutual rights, but also mutual responsibilities.

In the current peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, Arafat promised peace. In return, the Palestinians received the right to self-rule and, with time, the inevitable right to their own state. So far, Arafat and the Palestinians have been given their rights but have been delinquent in fulfilling their corresponding responsibilities.

If Arafat and the Palestinians cannot ensure Israel's right to the absence of violence--and last week's terrorist attacks on Israeli soldiers and citizens suggest that they cannot--then Arafat's words of peace are without substance.

The Nobel Peace Prize ought to be awarded to those who bring about peace, not to those who pay lip service to it. Arafat's supporters claim that his intentions are good. His intentions, whether good or bad, however, are irrelevant. The prize ought not to be given for intentions but for actual peace. Intentions are not enough to stop the killings. In Arafat's case, the Nobel Peace Prize will not be awarded for peace but simply for words, and words without action do not constitute "peace."

Rabin and Peres, the other recipients, are equally undeserving. They will be awarded the prize for an act of pacifism--giving up force as a means of achieving peace without ensuring responsibility in return. In today's world, this display of pacifism is heralded as noble, even heroic. But pacifism is not peace.

In yielding to pacifism, Rabin and Peres went so far as to give weapons to the Palestinians, some of whom openly declared that they will use them against Israel. Again, what they and the Nobel Committee ignore is the full meaning of the word "peace".

The United States is currently "calling the shots" in the Middle East peace process. It should reassess its foreign policy and take a closer look at that which it is supporting. What looks good for the President's record does not necessarily amount to peace. In terms of foreign policy, the U.S. will reap what it sown. If the standard of peace is compromised for the sake of public relations, real peace will be elusive.

The Nobel Peace Prize will be given to Arafat, Rabin and Peres for words and not substance, for pacifism, not peace. It is high time for our leaders, both here and abroad, to understand--and act upon--the true meaning of "peace"

Tel Ben-Shacher '96 is Israeli citizen. He served in the Israel Army from 1989 until 1992.