The Ignoble and the Noble

Every once in a while, a flicker of light does shine forth from the North and the academic world gets it right.

Ellen W. Horowitz

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Arutz 7
"He [Hillel] also saw a skull floating on the water; he said to it: 'Because you drowned others, they drowned you; and ultimately those who drowned you will themselves be drowned.' " (Pirkei Avot 2:6)

I don't know what it is about northern Europe, but when it comes to the meshing of noble minds, ludicrous leaders, perfidious politicians, monsters, morality and medallions; nobody does it better than Oslo, Norway - via the prestigious and paradoxical Nobel Peace Prize.

Unlike the other Nobel prizes for literature, economics and science - which are usually based on a well-established and proven history of concrete and lasting achievements - the peace prize has taken quite a beating in recent years. It seems to have fallen victim to the shifting mores and whims of a modern, ever-changing world of temporary glory and devastating, long-term mistakes. Nowadays, the prize seems more cursed than coveted and has been bestowed upon a number of problematic personalities by a morally perplexed committee of five - appointed by the Norwegian parliament.

Meanwhile, the nominators have a field day as a values-confused world readily accepts a peace prize nomination for a convicted murderer as easily as they embraced the father of Arab terrorism, Yasser Arafat, when he received his prize just over a decade ago. Just this week, four year's worth of nominations for the Nobel Peace and Literature prizes were used as part of a last minute attempt by lawmakers, clergy, celebrities and activists to try and gain clemency for notorious gang leader Stanley "Tookie" Williams. Williams was put to death by lethal injection for the cold-blooded murder of four innocent people (for the record, Williams maintained his innocence, renounced his admittedly violent past, and engaged in anti-gang activities, including the writing of several children's books).

The accumulated tarnish on the Nobel peace medallions may be a direct reflection of the Nobel committee's need to keep pace with the overall deterioration of human values. Or, perhaps, in a world desperately seeking redemption and redeemers, we grasp at straws, strawmen and villains, with the anticipation of finding hope and heroes in supposedly penitent or powerful individuals of questionable character. Or maybe there's something a little more sinister going on.

Although unofficial, it seems that, along with the coveted medallion, certificate and prize money awarded to the recipients, comes a bona fide license to trash or endanger Israel.

Some of the laureates can't contain themselves and actually use their acceptance speech in Oslo to pummel the Jewish State. In 2003, Iranian recipient Shirin Ebaldi stated in her address before the Nobel Committee: "Why is it that in the past 35 years, dozens of UN resolutions concerning the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the state of Israel have not been implemented promptly?"

Others, like Kofi Anan, Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, Jody Willams, Doctors Without Borders, John Hume, et al, use a variety of international venues and channels when bashing Israel on issues ranging from non-adherence to the Road Map to Mordechai Vanunu's special needs.

This year's peace prize recipient, Dr. Mohamed El-Baradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), received his award for efforts "to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way." But the Egyptian national is more worthy of the booby prize for failing to do his job, as a post-Cold War world stands closer than ever to the brink of nuclear holocaust. It was difficult to hear El-Baradei's acceptance speech over the din of unprecedented and increasing saber rattling from a nearly-nuclear Iran.

Dr. El-Baradei should have used his noble opportunity and moment of glory to publicly call Iran to order. A man of integrity would have renounced his prize in protest. He, above all people, should be attuned to the dangers of the type of rhetoric coming out of Iran. After all, Dr. El-Baradei started his illustrious diplomatic career in 1964 under the administration of then-Egyptian President Gamal Abdel-Nasser.

It was during El-Baradei's two tenures in the Permanent Missions of Egypt to the United Nations in New York and Geneva that Nasser effectively used chemical warfare against Yemen. It was also during El-Baradei's tenure that Nasser pursued a crash missile production program with German assistance. By the way, at the time, El-Baradei's responsibility was to take charge of Egypt's political, legal and arms control issues. And lest we forget, El-Baradei was on the Egyptian scene when Nasser mobilized his army, as well as that of Syria and Jordan, and called for the Jews to be thrown into the sea.

El-Baradei's been there and done that. He knows that Iran, like Egypt, means business when its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calls for Israel to be wiped off the map, and when its ruling cleric, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, openly encourages a nuclear attack against the Jewish State.

And yet, on December 6th, Dr. Mohamed El-Baradei, the director-general of the IAEA, told the Jerusalem Post that the International Atomic Energy Agency has found no "smoking gun" in Iran that would indicate a nuclear weapons program.

But who wants to wait for a smoking gun? So much for the efforts of our Egyptian "friend", Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. El-Baradei.

But, every once in a while, a flicker of light does shine forth from the North and the academic world gets it right.

A few nights ago, the people of Israel had a rare, but welcome reprieve. We had the pleasure of seeing Torah-observant Hebrew University Professor Israel Aumann receive the Nobel Prize for Economics, in recognition of his work on Game Theory. But, as we Jews know, there is no such thing as pure joy in this world. The following morning, Israel National informed us: "Almost 1,000 intellectuals and academics submitted to the Royal Swedish Academy of Science a petition to protest the 'monstrous' act of awarding the prize to Prof. Israel Aumann."

Professor Aumann was referred to as a "warmonger" in that petition. But he's done us Israelis proud by having enough honesty and integrity to stand up to the international press and state the truth. Indeed, the Guardian reported that the professor said that Israel made a mistake in expelling Jewish residents from the Gaza and northern Samaria regions.

A top honor for integrity, morality, clarity and courage in this world and the next will most certainly go to a very Righteous Gentile by the name of Kaare Kristiansen.

Mr. Kristiansen was a member of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in 1994, but resigned in protest against the decision to award the prize that year to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.

Mr. Kristiansen, who served in the Norwegian parliament for 12 years and was minister of oil and energy from 1983 to 1986, accused the Palestinian leader of being "tainted with violence, terrorism and bloodshed." Arafat's legacy seems so obvious to many of us now. But back in 1994, one man saw things very clearly and took decisive action. Kaare Kristiansen was unique in that he was a man intimately involved with power, politics, oil economics, and with prestigious awards and important personalities; and yet, he remained unspoiled and true to himself. He was a staunch supporter of Israel and the Jewish people.

I rarely go to crowded events and lectures, but on the night that Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzchak Rabin received their Nobel Peace Prizes in Oslo in 1994, I went to hear Kaare Kristainsen address a large gathering in Jerusalem.

I'm glad I was there.

Our very good friend Kaare Kristiansen passed away December 3rd. He was 85 years old. All of Israel will miss him.