Nobel Prize Commitee Member Explains His Resignation In Protest Of Crowning Arafat

A Nobel Prize For Terrorism?

By: Kaare Kristainsen Excerpt of a speech by Mr. Kaare Kristiansen of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee

Millions of people were in shock, and reacted strongly when they got the information that Yasser Arafat was one of the Nobel Peace Prize laureates. I think this reaction is gratifying, as a testimony of sound moral conscience in a people. It is still possible that the peace process will succeed.

My resignation from the Nobel Committee was not a protest against the peace process. Without doubt, positive results possibly may be obtained at the conference table, but it is also obvious that the violence has increased during the last months rather than diminished, and Arafat's authority is disputed, not least among the Palestinian Arabs themselves. The main questions were: Had the negotiations led to peace, and to which degree had the candidate in question contributed to its result?

But there also emerged a third question. Could the award of the prize in a decisive way stimulate the future peace process and make it succeed, in spite of the serious obstacles, that were only too obvious at that time? None of these .questions were, of course, new to the committee.

But the last one, which in other instances had been rather secondary.this time developed into perhaps the most predominant for awarding the prize to Arafat. When Mr. Alfred Nobel created the stipulations for the Nobel Peace Prize one of them was that the that the recipient must enhance or further "the fraternity among nations”

"The fraternity among nations" has been given an extensive interpretation. so that today it may comprise, for instance, activities in the social sector. fight against dictatorial regimes and ideologies, respect for human rights, etc. In 1974, the chairman at that time c1assified the laureates in the following groups:
"Statesmen, negotiating around conference tables, defenders of human rights. interpreters of international law, rebels, humanists. pragmatists and dreamers." Quote ends.

I hope that you noticed that even under such a vast definition, there were no groups for terrorists; until this year, I'm sorry to say. The main importance in judging the candidates is placed on their achievement for peace in the past. Even the most eager defenders will have difficulties in nominating Arafat for the prize on that criterion alone. Of course, we have been reminded of his newly acquired willingness to participate in the peace negotiations, as proof of a redeeming feature in him. Some people have even tried to excuse him on the grounds that one ought not to be a saint to be awarded the prize. But I have the feeling that even the majority in the committee and many other people have to admit that there is really a very long distance between the ruthless terrorist and the saint.

And I also think they have to admit that his enforced pilgrimage on the narrow path during the last years is not sufficient to erase his bloody tracks of more than thirty years.

The question of using the prize to stimulate and ensure the success of the negotiations in the future emerged and was upgraded in the argumentation for his candidacy. This argument is really, when you think it through, in a certain context, an insult against him, because it is an assumption that he must have a reward to stimulate him to dedicate himself to peace in the future. This is an assumption that is an excellent argument for not giving him the prize!

My personal assessment was that Yasser Arafat had decisively not earned an award of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize this year.

I did not get any support for this principal standpoint. In the end, the majority made the demand for Arafat an ultimatum. I was unable to accept that. In my opinion, that man's terrorism and violence during so many years totally overshadowed his verbal and compulsory gesture of reconciliation. Their arguments for giving him the prize accepts that his sole qualification was that at the moment he does not kill as many people as before.

But if that is a qualification, I think that at least hundreds of millions of people all over the world are qualified. In addition to his terrorist atrocities, his political conduct in other connections. has been 'far from having the hallmarks that qualify him for any peace prize. In 1974. in Rabat, Morocco, he intentionally destroyed an initiative by King Hussein of Jordan to create peace between Arabic. countries and Israel. When Saddam Hussein started the Gulf War against Kuwait, Arafat was the most upstanding and enthusiastic supporter of the aggressor. Shortly afterwards, he made a new, serious miscalculation when he imrnediately gave his verbal support to the so-called "Gang of Four," Communists in Russia that tried to force Gorbachev to change his democratic and relatively liberal politics. Did we, I asked myself and my colleagues, have any guarantee that his man, Arafat, will not in the future return to his evil conduct and thereby devalue and undermine the prize still more?

My answer to that question was an unwavering no. We have no such guarantee.
It is questionable whether Arafat, even if he really should want to, has the means and authority to guarantee, that the peace agreement would be anything other than a peace on paper. The future will judge, but nothing I have observed up to now has altered my opinion on this point. It was because of this disagreement that I had to leave the most interesting committee I have ever served on.

Some felt that my resignation was over reacting. As some of my friends argued; could you not content yourself with expressing your reservations and dissent concerning Arafat, and continue as a member of the committee? That is a dangerous idea because it has in it the notion that the best solution for us, in such cases is to be indifferent to what is happening, and indifference is the most dangerous attitude one can have in such a situation. Elie Wiesel said once, when he was in Oslo as laureate for the Nobel Peace Prize, that our most dangerous enemy in our struggle for humanity is not hate, but indifference. I think he is right. A German captive during the war under Hitler's reign in Germany, said it like this, regarding indifference in Germany in the thirties: "When they came to take the Jews, I didn't protest because I wasn't a Jew. When they took the union leaders, I didn't protest, because I was not a member of any union. When they took the religious leaders, I didn't protest, because I wasn't religious myself at all. And then when they came to take me, there was no one left to protest at all."

So abstaining from the vote, indifference, "no comment," I feel, is wrong in such a case. I therefore resigned from the committee on October 14th, 1994.

If I had chosen to subdue my own feelings of right and wrong, and voice an agreement that had no response in my heart and mind, I would have felt guilty towards my friends who shared my view, and would have strengthened those who are lacking courage and moral standards. And worse than anything else, I should have lost my self-respect, I would have had difficulty looking myself in the eye afterwards.

And if there is anything I have learned from my long life in religious, political and social activities, it is that no respect is as important as self-respect. If you don't possess that quality, you will sooner or later find out you have a serious defect in your honor, and no political insight, intellectual capacity, or economic strength can substitute for this moral basis.

Therefore, let me again underline: I really chose the most advantageous alternative for me. You may call it the most egoistic one because it preserved for me my peace of mind. Such egoistic behavior does not deserve the praise and the flattering characteristics so many of you have bestowed upon me. And I am so glad my wife hasn't been here and heard all you have said because she would have said, "They are spoiling you completely." And I would have to agree to that.

Some people have asked me why it was so important for me to eliminate Arafat and his PLO in this way when so many influential Israelis accept him as their counterpart in the peace negotiations. It is a good question, but let me point out that it is based upon a confusion of two different positions, namely that of a political negotiator and that of a rewarder for moral qualities. You may, namely, accept out of realistic considerations, to negotiate with a scoundrel. I don't say you should, but you may find it acceptable. But does that mean that he deserves to be rewarded for it? The Nobel Peace Prize is a prize, a reward! A similar mixture of concepts has emerged from people who maintain that my arguments against Arafat also should exclude other. both present and past laureates from being awarded the prize, since also, some of them have shed blood in former days, they tell me.

I think, however, that most people are able to discern between participation in a regular war, not to mention a war of self-defense, on the one side, and terrorism on the other. In 1970, the General Assembly of the United Nations debated a declaration on this subject, where it defined a terrorist according to the following description: A terrorist usually avoids a confrontation with military units. His hallmark is that he prefers to kill blindly innocent people. He kills people that have done no wrong, whether to him or his cause. His goal is not to win a battle but to create fear and terror, and in that way place himself and his organization in the focus of the public mind. To kill innocent civilians gives a better result for him than killing enemy soldiers.

Which consequences may result when a terrorist is awarded the world's most prestigious peace prize? And to put this question in the right perspective, let me remind you that he as laureate is placed in the same exclusive class as statesmen like Cornell Hal. Woodrow Wilson, Marshall, Ralph Banz, Elie Wiesel, General Marshal, Mother Teresa, Willy Brandt, etc, etc. Arafat does, in my opinion, not belong to this group.

Is it not likely that such an additional stimulant and gift to a terrorist will break still more barriers between good and evil, between vice and virtue, between morality and immorality?

A moral relativism that puts right and wrong on the same level will also in the long run undermine constitutional democratic governments. A philosopher has given an adequate description of this situation and I quote: "Morals today are growing better and better," and then he added, "The reason of course is that nothing seems to be immoral and sinful any longer."

And now, in conclusion. We had a writer in Norway some hundred years ago, and his name was Henry Verglam. He did more than anyone else to give Jews the opportunity to come to Norway. Until Verglam, it was forbidden. He tells a story which holds much meaning for non-Jews today.

There is a Norwegian farmer living up in the woodland, in a very secluded area, totally cut off from civilization. In order for this little boy to go to school, he brings him to his grandparents, the farmer's parents, who live on the other side of the forest. It was the day before X-mas. The boy decided he wanted, more than anything else, to spend this holiday with his parents. On his own, he set off through the forest, in order to be home in time for the eve of his holiday. It started snowing and the snow grew heavy and the winds were strong. The entire day passed and soon it became dark. The boy was completely lost and very, very cold.

His parents thought he was with his grandparents, so they didn't look for him. Nobody came looking for him. He was wandering in the snow, just wandering in circles, falling down often, and growing more exhausted, more cold with each passing minute. Suddenly, like an angel of mercy, there appears Yaakov, the Jewish peddler! A strong man, a grown-up. and someone who travels through these woods often, and knows his way! But by now the boy is lying unconscious in the snow. Wait! Yaakov sees him, and knows who he is!

It will be a long way out of his way to bring the boy home to his parents, but Yaakov decides he must do it. He buttons the boy into his own big, warm coat and struggles through the blizzard until he reaches the boy's doorstep. He pounds on the door. He has been carrying the boy inside his coat for hours.

The farmer's wife looks out to see who it is. And she is filled with rage. How dare he, that Jewish peddler, how dare he come here with his sack of wares, on the eve of our greatest holiday? Who does he think he is, on this of all nights? She ignores his pounding, and does not open the door, and goes back in to celebrate her holiday.

The day after, the farmer and his wife open the door and find Yaakov, on the stairs outside, dead. And inside his coat ... their own son, also dead.

What does this teach us? If we do not open our hearts to the Jews, we eventually harm ourselves too. If we do not let our souls absorb and respect the Jew's values and morals, we are destroying our own chance to truly live those G-d given morals and values.

May G-d grant us all the strength to resist evil ideas and evil people, and may He help us to open our hearts to good people and good things.

Thank you.

Reprinted from N'shei Chabad Magazine April 1995



December 10, 2004, marks the tenth anniversary of two remarkably contrasting but connected events. On December 10, 1994, in Oslo, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and foreign minister Shimon Peres, and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat. And on the same night, in Jerusalem, Kaare Kristiansen was honored for his decision to resign from the Nobel Committee in protest of its selection of Arafat.

Kaare Kristiansen, a Luthern Minister received worldwide prominence for his decision to resign from the Nobel Committee, is a distinguished Norwegian elder statesman. He has served as leader of Norway’s Christian Democratic Party, minister of Oil and Energy, speaker of the Odelsting, the Norwegian House of Commons, and chairman of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs.

Addressing an overflow crowd of thousands in a huge ballroom in Jerusalem’s Renaissance Hotel, Mr. Kristiansen explained that the decision of the Nobel Committee had to be viewed against the backdrop of the signing of the Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles on the White House lawn on Sept. 13, 1993. That agreement – also known as the Oslo Accords – had been negotiated in Norway between Israeli and Palestinian representatives during the preceding months. It constituted a source of pride for Norwegians and it was only natural for the panel, whose members are local political figures, to give preference in their selection process to Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

But the Nobel Committee’s five members, who represented a wide gamut of the political spectrum, faced a dilemma when confronted with the prospect of bestowing the honor of Nobel peace laureate upon Arafat in view of his terrorist record, which included among other things involvement in and incitement of airplane hijackings, the murder of the Israeli Olympic athletes in 1972, the slaying of schoolchildren in Maalot in 1974 and the massacre of Jewish worshippers in an Istanbul synagogue in 1986.

Even during the “Oslo peace process,” Palestinian terrorism continued. From September 13, 1993, through December 10, 1994, 92 people died in 47 separate Palestinian terrorist attacks, the most destructive of which was the suicide bombing attack on the No. 5 bus on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv in October, 1994, killing 21 Israelis and one Dutch national (Statistics supplied by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

He brought the house down with the observation that “even under such a vast definition, there was no room for terrorists…until now!”

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