Why did Yasser Arafat get the Nobel Peace Prize?
Yasser Arafat received the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 1994. The ceremony which was held in Oslo, Norway, also saw Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres joining in the prize. The three men were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East”. It turned out that these men were awarded a little too soon for their respective roles in the historic agreement, Oslo Accords, which was signed a year before. As conceived by the Accords, it seemed that their commitment to the ‘peace process’ will finally pay off in the form of peace after years of feuds and terrorism.
However, the situation took a complicated turn as Israel failed to make good its promises made in return for recognizing their rule over the Palestinian territory. Agreements in the Oslo Accords consisted of Israel giving over the occupied land having the Palestinian Muslim majority. Israel continued to inflict oppression over Palestinian Muslims and continued encroaching upon the Muslim territories.
Arafat abdicated from the terrorist activities and became a sincere contributor to ‘peace process’ and it led basis to the decision of awarding him with the prestigious Peace Prize. Making good the agreements signed in Oslo Accords and other pacts, Arafat and his organization PLO, accepted the Israeli supremacy over Palestinian territory and agreed to coordinate and cooperate for any successor negotiations towards resolving the remaining issues.
However, there was another side to Arafat receiving the Peace Prize. People and parties who failed to recognize the services of Arafat raised objections at him on receiving the prestigious award. Kaare Kristiansen, who was the Nobel committee member, quitted the ceremony terming Arafat as a ‘terrorist’. Other critics regarded Arafat as an “unrepentant terrorist with a long legacy of promoting violence.” His supporters, however, contemplated this award as another such appreciable incident as giving the Nobel Prize to Nelson Mandela. Meanwhile Edward Said, a notable Palestinian, highly criticized the announcement of award for Peres and Rabin.
If we look back today, the Nobel Prize for Arafat was justified for more than one reason. It was hard but formative on the part of the leader of an armed group to give up his stance of using force and take the route of peace talks and negotiations. Secondly, Arafat kept an active relation with major powers like the US and Israel just to bring peace to his homeland. His relations earned him some criticism from his own people but still his supporters remained far more loyal to him and his cause. In him, Palestinians found a revolutionary leader. Perhaps the biggest achievement of Arafat is that he managed to keep the identity of Palestinian Muslims intact as a nation even without an independent state. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "to honor a political act which called for great courage on both sides, and which has opened up opportunities for a new development towards fraternity in the Middle East." The Peace Prize given to him was not due to him being an avid member of ‘peace process’ but also because of his exceptional political standings, his concern and farsightedness for the Middle East issues, and his genuine efforts to give an independent land to the entire Palestinian Muslim nation.
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