There are more than 300 nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize. They include heads of state, leaders of movements, medical teams, and some people you have never heard of. To my knowledge there is only one who has released the news of his nomination to the press.
As someone who walked the hall in Oslo to receive the award in 1996, I have had the opportunity to come to know most of my fellow laureates, and many nominees who I have felt deserved the prize but have not yet received it. The overriding qualities I have seen in these peacemakers is a deep-seated passion for peace and justice, an optimism about the better nature of man, and humility. They share a knowledge that confronting and taming the more violent nature of man is a job bigger than any one person. It is a rare acceptance speech that does not include an acknowledgement of the shoulders one has stood on to arrive at that majestic ceremony.
Donald Trump has equated all protesters with “violent mobs” and “anarchists,” and has celebrated those who brandish weapons against peaceful protesters. The language he uses toward any who oppose him is mockery, denigration, and at times, twisted facts and falsehoods uttered to ignite the baser and even violent natures of his audience. He gives thinly veiled support to violent White Supremacy extremists. As for humility, he states that he has accomplished more than any other President in the history of his nation.
When the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded for peace accords, it has been for bringing peace between countries or parties at war. A trade deal between Serbia and Kosovo, for which he received one nomination, is a plus, but it is just that, a trade deal. The armed conflict between these nations ended in 1999 when Bill Clinton was President.
The second nomination was for an “historic peace deal” in which the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain formally recognized Israel. While this is certainly a plus for Israel, neither the UAE nor Bahrain has ever been at war with Israel. Rather than a peace deal, it is a realignment of Sunni Arab leaders, standing with Israel against the Shia leadership of Iran. The “deal” has been preceded by the doubling of arms sales to the Middle East in 2019 alone, including the sale of Patriot missile systems to both Bahrain and the UAE, and the sharing of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, heightening the potential for catastrophic military conflict in the region, in the longer view placing the lives of all in the Middle East, including Israeli citizens, at heightened risk.
It ignores entirely the plight of the Palestinians, who have had their land encroached upon and divided, their private land simply confiscated and reassigned to Israeli settlers. The United States and Israel have literally killed the internationally supported Two State solution.
If the new alliances were to revive the dialogue and move such a solution forward, it could bring hope of real peace building in the Middle East. From the actions of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Yemen, this is sadly unlikely.
The civil war in Yemen is an increasingly complex conflict that cries out for a political solution. Instead, in 2015, the United States threw its weight and arms behind one side, aligning with Saudi Arabia in a nine-nation coalition that included the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain against the Houthi. The sheer might against them has led the Houthi deeper into the arms of Iran and Hezbollah.
Since that time more than 112,000 Yemeni have died as a direct result of the violence; more than 85,000 children have died of starvation as a result of aerial and naval blockades by the Saudi coalition and blockages by the Houthis. UNICEF estimates that 25 million more are at risk of starvation. 12,600 civilians have been killed in targeted attacks by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, including bombings of markets, residential areas, schools, hospitals and wedding parties. One of the primary tools for these bombings has been laser-guided bombs produced by Lockheed Martin and sold by the thousands to Saudi Arabia.
In March 2019, both houses of the United States Congress voted to pass a resolution to end U.S. support to the Saudi Arabia war effort. It was vetoed by President Donald Trump.
Arms deals and military alliances against neighboring nations, while protective of American interests in the region, are not the stuff of peace. They are the material of death, lost limbs, lost children, destroyed families and neighborhoods, and increased hatred of America. Arriving at political solutions to Yemen, a laying down of arms by all parties and the restoration of democracy to the citizenry would be worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize. Even more so would be the advancement of a nuclear-weapons free zone in the Middle East, an effort pursued by the UN General Assembly since 1974 which is sadly lacking support from the United States.
President Trump seems to be missing the point that the Nobel Peace Prize is not just something you hang on your wall. It is an award for builders of peace and democracy, not merchants of violence and war.
José Ramos-Horta is the former President of Timor-Leste and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.