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November 17, 2020 4:45 am

New York Times Airs New Doubts on Nobel Peace Prizes for Rabin, Peres

avatar by Ira Stoll


The Nobel Peace Prize laureates for 1994 in Oslo. From left to right: PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Photo: Saar Yaacov/GPO.

The New York Times is suggesting that the Nobel Peace Prizes awarded to Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres for the Oslo Accords with Yasser Arafat were “questionable.”

The 1994 prizes are included in a Times article headlined “Nobel Peace Prizes: A Growing List of Questionable Choices.” The article includes a series of what the Times calls “flawed choices,” those “recipients whose actions and behavior — either before or after the honor was given — have been viewed as unworthy or in some cases even absurd.” Note the passive voice “have been viewed,” a classic Times trick to obscure the fact that the ones doing the viewing are Times editors.

Some of the prize winners, the Times reported, “pushed for peaceful outcomes, but the achievements exalted at the time proved flawed or ineffective in hindsight.”

Expanding on its claim that Rabin, Peres, and Arafat were unworthy of the prize, the Times article says, “Mr. Rabin, then prime minister, was assassinated in 1995 by an Israeli fanatic who opposed a peace agreement. And efforts since then to resolve the conflict have repeatedly faltered, punctuated by bouts of violence and bitter recriminations. Doubts about a proposed two-state solution have only intensified in recent years, amid threats by Israel to annex territory in the occupied West Bank.”

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That is just a strange passage. It, too, is characterized by the passive voice. “Doubts … have intensified,” but the Times doesn’t say who is doing the doubting.

Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat was assassinated after he won the Nobel for making peace with Israel, yet the Times doesn’t say that in retrospect, Sadat didn’t deserve the prize. The Palestinians don’t get blamed specifically by the Times at all for the “bouts of violence” or the lack of peace. “Threats by Israel to annex territory” are mentioned, yet there’s no mention of Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, or of Palestinian threats of violence or of unilateral declarations of statehood. Rabin and Peres are not given credit for the peace treaty with Jordan, an enduring achievement.

Some longtime critics of Oslo may celebrate that the New York Times, which once denounced those critics as extremist enemies of peace, has now, at long last, joined the chorus of Oslo critics. I’m less confident of that analysis, though do I appreciate the irony. Principled criticism of Oslo at the time was grounded in concern about rewarding terrorism and in doubt about Yasser Arafat’s true intentions. The Times objection to Oslo now seems more that it stopped short of surrendering to the Palestinians every inch of the land of Israel, from the river to the sea. That’s what the reference is to “doubts about a proposed two-state solution.”

As I documented earlier this fall (“New York Times Tilts Toward One-State Solution on Israel-Palestine”), the Times editorial and op-ed pages have been pushing for the replacement of the Jewish state of Israel with, instead, what a Times editorial described as “a single country in which Jews are a minority.” If that is one’s preferred endgame, of course it makes no sense to award any prestigious prizes to either Rabin or Peres. Whatever errors they may have made, they certainly were not out to replace Israel with a Peter Beinart-Diana Buttu-style single country of “Israel-Palestine.”

Rabin’s reputation has come under particular fire lately on the left: congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently refused to attend an event by Americans for Peace Now marking the 25th anniversary of his death.

If fans of Rabin and Peres have any consolation, it is that they are joined on the Times’ “questionable” Nobel Peace Prize list by president Barack Obama. The Times faults him for having “authorized a surge of American troops into Afghanistan and presided over a vast expansion in the drone strike program.” I’m not here to defend the Nobel to Obama, but why is it so hard for the Times to understand that killing terrorists can advance the cause of peace? Obama earned the Nobel by killing Osama Bin Laden just as Shimon Peres earned it by acquiring Israel’s nuclear deterrent. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense, and peace comes through strength. At least the Times left Henry Kissinger off its list of undeserving Nobelists — an omission that irked some Times reader-commenters, but that at least put Kissinger, with Menachem Begin, in the rare and elite category of pro-Israel Jews that the Times doesn’t yet have on its list of questionable Nobel Peace Prize winners.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of the Forward and North American editor of the Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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