OSLO, Norway (AP) — In a ceremony last night, the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Barack Obama, John Kerry, Mohammed Zarif, and Hassan Rouhani. The event, held in the Oslo city hall, marked the first time the prize has been shared by four winners. It was given in recognition of these men’s roles in crafting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Vienna Protocols.
The citation was read by peace-prize committee chairperson Karin Cecilie “Kaci” Kullmann Five. It pays tribute to the laureates for “their indefatigable and ultimately successful labors in forging a new era of peaceful coexistence in the Middle East and indeed the world.” Five added that “without all four the Protocols would have miscarried,” and this was the reason why, for the first time in the history of the prizes, the usual mid-February deadline for nominations was extended to mid-July. “Special accomplishments require special adjustments,” she explained.
It will be remembered that just days before the announcement of the prize in October, the Ladbrokes betting and gaming company had German Chancellor Angela Merkel at 2-to-1. Following her was the Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege and the priest Mussie Serai at 5-to-1 and 6-to-1. Rouhani and Kerry were quoted at 16-to-1 and Obama at 25-to-1, while Zarif was considered impossible. Those putting their money on Rouhani, Kerry, or Obama struck it rich.
For the U.S. president, this was his second peace prize. According to Lars Larsson, archivist of the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, only four persons have won more than one Nobel prize of any kind. Nobody before Obama had won more than one peace prize. In his acceptance speech Obama drew a chuckle from Norway’s King Harald V when he said, “This time I earned it.” He was referring to his prize in 2009, labeled aspirational by some.
“There were those,” he went on, “who cast doubt on the possibility of resolving our differences. Some folks even attempted to sabotage our work. But in the end diplomacy triumphed.”
Attending the ceremony were King Harald, Queen Sonja, Prime Minister Erna Solberg, members of the Norwegian parliament, and most although not all of the entire diplomatic corps. The ambassadors of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and Palestine turned up, but those of the rest of the Arab nations, as well as Poland, the Czech Republic, and Israel, were absent. Officials at the Arab League and in Warsaw and Prague would not discuss the matter. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu tweeted: “Alfred #Nobel spinning in grave like centrifuge.”
The former U.S. president and peace laureate Jimmy Carter sat in the front row. There was also a Hollywood contingent among the more than 900 invitees. Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob led a delegation of stars slated to appear in a forthcoming Miramax blockbuster tracing the making of the Protocols. They included Denzel Washington (Obama), Ted Davison (Secretary of State Kerry), Javier Bardem (U.S. physicist Ernest Moniz), Meryl Streep (former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman), Kirsten Dunst (State Department Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications Marie Harf), and Richard Dreyfus (Netanyahu).
Casting for the parts of Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and President Rouhani is ongoing.
The prize was given on December 10 as usual, the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel (1833-1896). Nobel was the Swedish inventor of dynamite who bequeathed most of his fortune to prizes in literature, physics, chemistry, physiology, economics, and peace. Each prize involves a gold-silver medallion and a check for the kroner equivalent of $1.2 million. This year’s winners received $300,000 apiece.
White House press secretary Joshua “Josh” Earnest said Obama will donate his portion to the United Negro College Fund, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the American Indian College Fund, and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, as in 2009. Harf revealed that Kerry, completely recovered from a bicycling mishap, has decided to donate his to the Save the Birds campaign, a grassroots effort to halt the building of an offshore wind farm between Cape Cod and Nantucket Island, where the secretary of state and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry are prominent property owners.
Spokespersons for Zarif and Rouhani indicated that both will sign their checks over to the Dr. Sapir hospital, a Jewish charity in Tehran.
Zarif wore a suit but was tieless, as neckties symbolize the resurrection of Jesus. In deference to him and Rouhani the erection of the traditional Norwegian fir Christmas tree outside city hall was postponed. Rouhani cut an elegant figure in turban and robe. In his acceptance speech delivered in Farsi, the Iranian president, who is fluent in English, thanked Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei and the prize committee and repeated his observation of last March that “all people” look forward to the “extirpation God willing of the festering Zionist tumor.” However, there was disagreement among linguists whether the term used should be translated as “extirpation” or “disappearance.”
The award of an unprecedented second prize to Obama, and a first to Kerry, Zarif, and Rouhani, reflected the unanimous decision of the five-person jury and with few exceptions was saluted worldwide. All four were mentioned in congratulatory tweets by North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Syrian President Bashir Assad, Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French Prime Minister François Hollande, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist party Xi Jinping, UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, Cuban President Raúl Castro, Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, and Pope Francis.
Since the emergence of the Protocols, numerous trade delegations from Great Britain, Germany, France, Norway, Halliburton, and the Peoples Republic of China have taken up residence in Tehran hotels. Trevor Noah, host of the Daily Show, who is one-quarter Jewish, has dubbed this the “Persian Gold Rush.”
However, there has been some controversy. Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editress-in-chief of the Huffington Post, yesterday joined Netanyahu in again deploring the choice of laureates, or in Huffington’s case the fact of their all being men. It will be remembered that when the selections were made public in October she branded Five and her four fellow judges, two of whom are women, as “patriarchal,” this for overlooking Wendy Sherman who “devoted the best years of her life” to “hammering out and giving birth” to the Protocols.
Here in Norway enthusiasm surrounding the prizes is virtually universal. All three major dailies—Aftenposten, Dagbladet, and Verdens Gang—hailed them. “Verfortjent!” was Verdens Gang’s banner headline: “Well-deserved!” Among the few dissenters was Henriette Hendrickson, a professor of history at Oslo University. Interviewed on NRK3, one of the least popular television channels, she alleged that immediately following the Munich agreement, Neville Chamberlain was nominated for the peace prize by a group of Swedish parliamentarians.
According to his Wikipedia entry, Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940) was the prime minister of Great Britain who in 1938 negotiated a deal at Munich with Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), the democratically elected chancellor of Germany, whereby Germany would annex a German-majority sector of Czechoslovakia in return for peace in Europe.
“And he would’ve gotten the prize, too, if Hitler hadn’t eaten the rest of Czechoslovakia like a sild first,” Hendrickson claimed.
Sild or pickled herring is a Norwegian delicacy.
Archivist Larsson confirmed the Chamberlain nomination but pointed out that even if Hitler had kept his end of the bargain there is no certainty that Chamberlain would have received the prize.
Hendrickson on NRK3 also recalled that following the Chamberlain-Hitler pact, the British prime minister saw to it that his own country’s defenses were bolstered. By contrast, she said, soon after this year’s announcement of the peace prizes, Obama vetoed the entire U.S. defense budget as sent to him by Congress on the grounds that it included $38 billion in additional monies for overseas contingency operations.
“The last four nails have been driven into the coffin of the Nobel peace prize,” she stated. “But to say that what these two gentlemen, Obama and Kerry, did in Vienna is as bad as Munich would be wrong. Actually it’s worse than Munich. Chamberlain didn’t green-light Hitler obtaining nuclear weapons in at most fifteen short years. I predict that future historians will say that the American quasi-century which began with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and during which the U.S. served as the world’s indispensable policeman, ended with a whimper in Vienna on July 14, 2015.”
Told that hers was a lonely position, Hendrickson agreed. “My wife, my children, my friends, and my colleagues all think I’m mad. If they didn’t love me they’d declare me an enemy of the people,” adding, “Thank God for tenure.”
Apparently what she said of her colleagues is true.
“Norway has free speech and we love Henriette,” said Erick Erickson, professor of Nordic hermeneutics and rap at the university. “You can depend on her to be controversial. But Munich? Oh, man, give me a break.”
He was speaking on NRK1, the most popular channel. Erickson reminded viewers that the Protocols were already bearing fruit. Snoop Dogg is to have a concert in Tehran’s largest sports venue, and Apple has announced its first store in Iran’s capital city will open by Ramadan. This demonstrates the irresistible “soft power” of Western and especially American humanistic culture, he said, which is bound to overcome fundamentalist religion.
In fact, although until now the only iPhones available in Iran have been Chinese knock-offs, laureate Zarif was seen taking a selfie of himself and Queen Sonja with what may have been the genuine article. The presentations, acceptance speeches, and photo opportunities were followed by a municipal banquet. Journalists were excluded, but a person who spoke on condition of anonymity due to her being unauthorized to go on the record said no alcohol was served, the reindeer was halal, and not a few of the jokes were at Bibi’s expense.