Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Nobel Peace Laureates to U.S.: Stop War Mongering!

Every year in Denver, CO, the program PeaceJam brings youth together to learn about peacemaking from winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. This year 10 Nobel Laureates showed up. Their message to the U.S.: Stop war mongering, use your wealth to help developing nations, quit violating international law and human rights, quit treating other nations and international institutions like the United Nations as servants for the U.S. instead of equal partners deserving of respect. I hope someone in Washington is listening; I am glad the youth of America are.

The 10 participating Nobel Laureates are:

  • Archbishop Desmond Tutu (South Africa, 1984), retired Anglican archbishop of Capetown who was awarded the prize for his role in the nonviolent wing of the struggle against apartheid.
  • The Honorable Oscar Arias, currently president of Costa Rica (again, after being out of office for some time) who was awarded the prize in 1987 for the Arias peace plan which ended years of fighting in Central America.
  • Rigoberta Menchu Tum (Guatemala, 1992), for her work with indigenous peoples and women for human rights.
  • The Dalai Lama (Tibet, 1989) who won for his role in working peacefully to secure Tibet’s independence from China and for his role in promoting global peace.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi (Burma, 1991) is still under house arrest and spoke to the group via video. She nonviolently led a movement against the military government in Burma and succeeded in getting elections in which her pro-democracy party won by a landslide. Instead of seating her as Prime Minister, the military government has arrested her and brutally suppressed the pro-democracy movement.
  • Mairead Corrigan Maguire and Betty Williams (Northern Ireland, 1977) began the Irish peace movement.
  • Jody Williams (USA, 1997), leader of the global movement against landmines–a movement which has even enlisted many high ranking military officers in several nations to call for a complete ban on landmines–which kill more civilians than soldiers and continue to kill long after a war is over.
  • Adolfo Perez Esquivel (Argentina, 1980), almost single handedly creating the movement for democracy, human rights, and nonviolence throughout Latin America. A sculptor by trade.
  • Jose Ramos-Horta (East Timor, 1996), recently elected president of E. Timor, he worked nonviolently to end the occupation of E. Timor by Indonesia.
  • Sherin Ebadi (Iran, 2003), attorney and (formerly) first woman judge in Iran, Ms. Ebadi won for her persistant work for human rights, especially the rights of women and children, in Iran.

September 18, 2006 - Posted by | peacemaking


  1. Where’s Elie Weisel? Oh yeah, that Nobel Peace laureate supported the Iraq war.

    Just being a smart alec.

    By the way, see you often at Chance’s site, I’ll be swinging by more often.

    Comment by Lee | September 18, 2006

  2. Welcome anytime.

    I never thought Weisel deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. (Literature, yes. Peace, no.)

    Of course, Nobel’s will was vague in spelling out criteria and there have been those far less deserving than Weisel. But the fact remains that Weisel didn’t DO anything for peace.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | September 18, 2006

  3. Didn’t Bush get nominated for the Nobel Peace prize at one point, too?

    Comment by Wasp Jerky | September 18, 2006

  4. Yes, WJ that’s the story. The Nobel committee never reveals the nominees–just the winners. However, sometimes those who nominate folks make this public as a way of “campaigning” for a particular person. A rightwing member of the Norwegian parliament (Storting) nominated Bush in 2002. He did not get it and the next year the Nobel Committee awarded the prize to Jimmy Carter–and specifically said they preferred that kind of American president!

    The prize has always been political and probably every winner has been controversial to someone, but there have also been some notorious “what were they thinking” awards: Kissinger, Yassar Arafat & Yitzak Rabin, Teddy Roosevelt. It’s also scandalous that although Gandhi was nominated repeatedly, he was never given the award!

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | September 19, 2006

  5. Gertrude Stein in the mid-30’s actually nominated and pushed for Hitler. This was of course pre-Poland, but still…

    That would have easily been the worst ever.

    Comment by Lee | September 19, 2006

  6. Thanks. I thought he got a nomination early on in his presidency. I guess any prize named after the inventor of dynamite is going to be a study in irony

    Comment by Wasp Jerky | September 19, 2006

  7. Yeah. The Nobel is the most prestigious of Peace Prizes for the same reason as its prestige for the sciences and literature: The amount of monetary award–now the equivalent of a million U.S. dollars.

    The problem is that Nobel’s will was precise about WHO would award the prize–an independent committee selected by the Norwegian Storting (Parliament) but not including any current Storting members; and equally precise about who could nominate for the prize: 1)Members of national assemblies (parliaments, congresses, etc.); 2) University professors in philosophy, history, sociology, or related disciplines; 3) Previous winners of the Peace Prize.

    But his will is extraordinarily vague about criteria for choosing the prize winner.

    In my view, the times when the Nobel has gone to someone whom history would judge undeserving has been when the Nobel Committee has selected a party or parties in a conflict where peace has not been won, but where the committee wants to encourage the peace process. This has seldom, if ever, worked well.

    Kissinger was selected, along with North Vietnamese negotiator Lu Doc Thu (the only person to ever decline a Nobel Peace Prize) in an effort to make peace in the Vietnam War. It didn’t happen and Kissinger’s anti-peace work is well known. (He’s also one of the few people to just pocket the prize money instead of setting up an organization or contributing to existing organizations to work for peace and justice.) Yasser Arafat and Yitzak Rabin, and Shmon Peres, all of whom had terrorist pasts (Rabin and Peres during their early days helping to found the State of Israel; Arafat during the time the PLO was a guerilla terrorist movement), because the Nobel Committee wanted the Oslo Accords to result in Middle East peace. They didn’t.

    The only truly unbiased thing about the Nobel Committee’s selection is that no one can accuse it of being biased in favor of Norway itself–only one Norwegian has ever won the Nobel Peace Prize.

    There have been many alternative peace prizes set up with more exact criteria, but, because none of them had the financial backing of the Nobel, none have ever developed the prestige of the earlier. The Nobel does often focus the world’s eyes on a regional conflict.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | September 19, 2006

  8. U2 has a song about Aung San Suu Kyi (Gesundheit!) called “Walk On.” It’s a great song.

    Comment by Chance | September 22, 2006

  9. Nobel Peace Prize for Hitler?
    Scholars of the life of Gertrude Stein were recently startled to learn that in 1938 the prominent Jewish-American writer had spearheaded a campaign urging the Nobel committee to award its Peace Prize to Adolf Hitler. This was disclosed by Gustav Hendrikksen, a former member of the Nobel committee and now professor emeritus of Bible studies at Sweden’s Uppsala University, in Nativ, a political magazine published in Israel. (Reports about this appeared in the New York Jewish community weekly Forward, Feb. 2, June 14, and Oct. 25, 1996.)
    Hendrikksen, an avowed friend of Israel who is now in his late 80s, recalled that the Nobel committee rejected Stein’s proposal “politely but firmly, citing among their reasons the attitude of the Nazi regime toward the Jews.”
    In the decades before her death in 1946, Stein was a widely acclaimed literary icon. As monarch of the “lost generation” of American expatriates in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s, she cultivated and influenced such literary figures as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, as well as such artists as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Her Paris home was a mecca for writers and artists. Stein’s own “modernist” novels, memoirs, lectures and plays — once celebrated as stylishly avant garde — have not aged well. Today she is remembered almost as much for who she was as for what she wrote.
    Born in Pennsylvania of a wealthy German-Jewish family, she was raised in the United States, and attended Radcliffe and Johns Hopkins universities. But it was during her years of expatriate living in France that she made her lasting mark.
    ‘Hitler Ought to Have the Peace Prize’
    Stein’s seemingly paradoxical views about Hitler and fascism have never been a secret. As early as 1934, she told a reporter that Hitler should be awarded the Nobel peace prize. “I say that Hitler ought to have the peace prize, because he is removing all the elements of contest and of struggle from Germany. By driving out the Jews and the democratic and Left element, he is driving out everything that conduces to activity. That means peace … By suppressing Jews … he was ending struggle in Germany” (New York Times Magazine, May 6, 1934).
    As astonishing at it may seem today, in 1938 many credited Hitler for his numerous efforts to secure lasting peace in Europe on the basis of equal rights of nations. After assuming power in 1933, he succeeded in quickly establishing friendly relations with Poland, Italy, Hungary and several other European nations. Among his numerous initiatives to lessen tensions in Europe, the German leader offered detailed proposals for mutual reductions of armaments by the major powers.
    In a 1940 essay, Stein wrote positively of the appointment of “collaborationist” Henri Philippe Petain as France’s Chief of State, comparing him to George Washington. As late as 1941, she was urging the Atlantic Monthly to publish speeches by Marshal Petain, which she had translated into English. In spite of her background, Stein continued to live and write in France during the years of German occupation (1940-1944).
    She also maintained a friendship with Bernard Fay, who headed France’s national library, the Bibliotheque Nationale, during the Petain era. According to a new biography of Stein, Favored Strangers: Gertrude Stein and Her Family, by Linda Wagner-Martin, Fay and Stein often discussed “the Führer’s qualities of greatness” in the years before the outbreak of war in 1939. Even after the war, when he was convicted as a collaborationist, Stein and her close companion Alice Toklas remained good friends with Fay and lobbied to free him from prison.
    Conflicted Sense of Jewishness
    Like many of this century’s Jewish American intellectuals, Stein’s relationship to her own Jewishness was complex and conflicted. She was sensitive to anti-Jewish sentiment, and sometimes expressed criticism of Hitler. In 1936 she wrote: “There is too much fathering going on just now and there is no doubt about it fathers are depressing. Everybody now-a-days is a father, there is father Mussolini and father Hitler and father Roosevelt and father Stalin and father Trotzky …”
    Estranged from the organized Jewish community, in part because of her eccentricity and lesbianism, she nevertheless retained an acute and proud sense of her Jewishness. According to Wagner-Martin, Stein once said, “all men of genius had Jewish blood,” and even developed a theory that Abraham Lincoln was part Jewish.
    During the first decade of this century, Stein became enamored of Austrian-Jewish psychologist and philosopher Otto Weininger, whose major work, Geschlecht und Charakter (“Sex and Character”), had tremendous influence on European thinking. Following its first publication in 1903, the book was quickly translated into various languages, and went through 30 editions. Weininger contrasted the masculine “Being” of Aryanism and Christianity with the feminine “non-Being” of Judaism. Jesus was the only Jew to overcome Judaism, he argued. Zionism, in Weininger’s view, is the negation of Judaism, because it seeks to ennoble what cannot be ennobled. Whereas Judaism stands for the world dispersion of Jews, Zionism strives for their ingathering.

    Comment by Leonardo de la Paor | August 26, 2009

  10. Since the Nobel Committee did not act on her recommendation, I’m not sure of your point.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | August 26, 2009

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