When I first heard that Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize I laughed out loud. How can someone who is the commander-in-chief of military actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the leader of a country who donates $3.8 billion dollars a year to the occupation of Palestine by Israel deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize? The Nobel Committee’s chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said that “We simply disagree that he has done nothing. He got the prize for what he has done.” But what is that exactly? According to the committee, Obama’s speech at Cairo was a high distinction, bridging the West and the Muslim world (two, apparently, non-congruous entities.)
According to Obama, not much. He said: “I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.”
Who are these nations of people looking toward U.S. leadership? Are they people of the Phillipines who were slaughtered by Nobel Laureate and President Teddy Roosevelt. Perhaps they are the millions of indo-chinese slaughtered in Viet Nam under the direction of Henry Kissinger.
President Obama certainly is not referring to the Palestinians. At least not the folks in Bil’in. I got an e-mail from Iyad Burnat, Head of the Popular Committee in Bil’in. For the last 4 years they’ve been demonstrating nonviolently every Friday against the Apartheid Wall. The government of Israel has even ruled the wall there illegal. They’ve been visited by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, and more of the Elders. There, nonviolent activists from the community, from Israel, and from the international community demonstrate against the illegal wall. Yet, every Friday, they are greeted by cannons that shoot 30 tear gas canisters in one go, horrible stink bombs, and bullets coated in rubber. In between Fridays, members of the IDF raid their homes at midnight to abuse and arrest them, using sound bombs, and pure physical force.
Burnat’s take on the Prize is very different: “Bush had a good speech about the establishment of a Palestinian state in the year of 2005. …[A]fter the speech … Sharon invaded Al Aqsa mosque, and the American army invaded Iraq. Why didn't you give the prize to this man at that time, and he got shoes instead? This is injustice!”
To contrast, on October 29th, Burnat’s committee will host members of the Shministim, an Israeli organization of teenagers who refuse to join the military and accept sentences in prison for their dissent.
Who more deserves a prize? Politicians that give speeches, or everyday people working on the ground to literally tear down the walls that divide?