In 1993, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two African leaders: Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk. The award went to them for bringing to an end the apartheid regime in South Africa by peaceful means. These two leaders were certainly deserving of the prestigious prize. A year later, in 1994, apparently because of the inertia in the committee in charge of the “peace” department, the prize was awarded to three leaders from the Middle East: Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat, on account of the accords between them, named after the Norwegian capital of Oslo.
The fundamentalist right in Israel has coined the phrase “the criminals of Oslo” and attached that name to the Israeli leaders who supposedly tried to promote an Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Benjamin Netanyahu, the orator, was also there when the campaign of incitement against the “Oslo criminals” was taking place. I was reminded of those “criminals” this week because I happened to have been at the Grand Hotel in the heart of Oslo, and I learned that the Nobel Peace Prize laureates stay there when they come for the award ceremony.
It is worth recalling that the Oslo Accords that were signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Israeli government were not the result of a true and earnest desire on the part of the leaders for peace. The two leaderships of the two conflicted nations sought, each in its own way, a means of escape from the imbroglio in which they found themselves following several decades of mutual lack of recognition. The Oslo Accords were merely a trick, a deception. The Israeli government was looking for a way to continue the occupation, and thought that calming down the area, which had flared up during the first intifada, would help. The Palestinian leadership was seeking a way to regain legitimacy after the political defeat it suffered when Arafat embraced Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.
Netanyahu, who took every opportunity to publicly speak out against the “Oslo criminals,” has become prime minister for the second time. As a student of Yitzhak Shamir, Netanyahu continues to earn his living from doing nothing. A short while ago, he even repeated the mantra of his teacher and guru about “the same sea and the same Arabs.” But it turns out the situation is actually the opposite of the one he spoke about: The sea is the same sea, the Israeli government is the same government, and what was then is what is now.
Nobel laureate Shimon Peres, who was responsible for preparing the ground for the settlements in the 1970s, is now, many years later, continuing to hand out kashrut certificates for all the evils of the Israeli right. From time to time, he serves as the glowing showcase for the Israeli government, with its plethora of members that at no time ever intended to promote any kind of peace process.
The Oslo saga has not ended. A few years ago, when Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, before he had done anything whatsoever toward the objective of the prize, the members of the committee hastened to grant him the Nobel Peace Prize. Among the reasons cited for the honor was the objective of strengthening the cooperation between the nations. But now, four years later and in retrospect, the prize that was awarded to Obama can also be seen as ridiculous.
If the committee continues in this fashion, if there are more peace prize laureates of this kind, we shall be lost. Compared with Mandela, the prize winners from the Middle East look like dwarfs. That being the case, the time has come to speak about the real Oslo criminals. These are in fact the members of the selection committee for the prize, who make a mockery of the dream of peace and trample uncaringly on the principles of the prize when they award it to those people that have not done a thing to earn it.