What Do Obama and Arafat Have in Common?

Von mb

bo There was a huge outcry not long ago: US president Barak Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize!

Some called in scandalous. Others called it great. In my personal opinion, it is a rather positive development. One question, however, has been haunting me ever since I read the announcement: what is it that Barak Obama and the Palestinian freedom fighter Jassir Arafat have in common?

How the question comes up?

ja Well, in the year 2000, it was Jassir Arafat who, along with Shimon Peres and Jitzhak Rabin received the Nobel Prize for Peace. Many of you probably remember how the reactions both from the press and news often were very astonished. And I am sure some or other of us, too, were surprised. How was it possible that persons who had been fighting wars and conflicts galore and basically were known to be everything but peace-loving, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? Let Jassir Arafat serve as an example for this triad now.

Nine years later, many similar questions arise, even if less vehemently. The Afghan war, in particular, is mentioned. To be sure, at least according to what he says and promises, Obama is extremely enthusiastic about world peace. Neither does he define it like his predecessor, who saw it more like a “Pax Americana”.

So where are the similarities between Obama and the ex-president of the Palestinians? There must be something they have in common – after all, they were awarded the same prize.

Skin colour, religion, and nationality cannot be the common denominator. Likewise, it is now also clear that someone receiving the Nobel Peace Prize does not necessarily have to have never acted war-like. Evil tongues even state that some Nobel Peace Prize winners were directly or indirectly involved in killing. So it seems that the criteria for awarding the Prize are not based on morals.
Let us inspect it more closely. In a nutshell, the criteria are about promoting peace. The exact wording is: the prize should be awarded to “who took most and best efforts to bring about a fraternizing of peoples and abolition or decrease of standing armies and who worked towards peace conferences being held and promoted”, thereby “most significantly contributing to the well-being of mankind during the last year”.

So this is where the secret must lie: working towards the peace between peoples. Even though peace begins at home, the mechanisms seem to be totally different. We all sometimes work towards peace: some with their spouse, some with the children, some inside the families and some among friends. Less often, we work towards peace among strangers. Moral courage plays a huge part in this. But some even manage that.

Peace on a huge scale plays with other mechanisms. If I work towards peace as a statesman, I also work towards an end to fighting and conflicts. The soldier is also a stranger. I am working towards making him and his colleagues redundant in the country where a conflict has arisen. And that is something I will be decorated for, rather than criticized. It sometimes happens that the small-size venture mechanisms are exactly the opposite. Mind you, this was just one example. Is it possible that maybe there is a tendency in huge-scale ventures; like that the criteria for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize do not seem immediately to make sense to us?

Well, that, too, cannot be it. After all, awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Mother Theresa makes sense to all of us. In fact, examples like these are exactly why many people see the original value of the Prize.

So what about Obama and Arafat? It seems like the moral level is negligible and the political level is marginal with respect to the Prize. Is it possible that the mere reduction of a conflict and the declaration of intent are enough?

I rather believe that the prize is meant to have a symbolic value. Even though the Prize itself is based on actions and words of the past (i.e. it is given in retrospect), it seems to me that awarding it is oriented towards the future: it is meant as a symbol of peace. We do not want Palestine and Israel to further wage war against each other. We do not want the USA to continue warring. And we do not want conflicts to further spread and escalate.

As I see it, this is in essence of what it is all about. And to me it also looks like this is what Obama and Arafat have in common: they represent characters. They are the agents sending the message into the world that more peaceful times are to be expected. And that is basically a good thing.

(Translated by EG)


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