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The Treason of the Nobels

Elie Wiesel modestly calls his benevolent foundation the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.  Under its flag he has gathered the signatures of 43 Nobel laureates in support of the resistance inside Iran (New York Times, February 7, 2010, p. 19).   Although Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace (1986), his appeal is anything but a call for a peaceful and negotiated resolution of the “Iranian problem” in West Asia.

May I remind the Nobel laureates who have signed this appeal of one of Jean-Paul Sartre’s main reasons for voluntarily declining the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964:  “It is not the same thing if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre or if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prize winner.  A writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution, even if it takes place in the most honorable form.”

Apart from his support for its dissidents Wiesel is a long-standing super-hawk on Iran, which he confirmed immediately following the publication of his appeal.  In a quasi-postscript in the form of an interview he avowed that he would not shed a tear “if he heard that Ahmadinejad was assassinated” and, calling him “a pathological danger to world peace,” he averred that Iran’s President “intends to destroy Israel and bring disaster to the entire world.”  Wiesel also seized the occasion to blast the Goldstone Report as “a crime against the Jewish people.”

Concerning Iran Wiesel is patently in complete harmony with Shimon Peres, the hard-line President of Israel who incongruously shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat (1994).

We can only hope (against hope?) that President Barack Obama, the latest Nobel Peace Laureate, will turn out to merit the honor conferred on him prematurely (which in the spirit of Sartre he might have considered refusing).   America’s Imperial President could help rehabilitate the letter and spirit of Alfred Nobel’s wish that the yearly prize reward “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

Arno J Mayer is emeritus professor of history at Princeton University. He is the author of The Furies: Violence and Terror in the French and Russian Revolutions.and Plowshares Into Swords: From Zionism to Israel (Verso).

 

 

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Arno Mayer is the Dayton-Stockton Professor of History, Emeritus, at Princeton. He can be reached at mayer@princeton.edu.

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