For the second time, Donald Trump has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by right-wing Norwegian MP, Christian Tybring-Gjedde. In Tybring-Gjedde’s own words, Trump was nominated, “For his merit … trying to create peace between nations.” In his letter of nomination, Tybring-Gjedde notes specifically Trump’s role in the normalization of relations between the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Israel.
Alfred Nobel intended that the Peace Prize would be granted “to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” It would be easy to go through Trump’s record in the past year of human-rights violations at home and abroad. But we don’t actually have to go any further than what he is actually being nominated for. Facilitating the cultivation of relations between the UAE and Israel is merely a consolidation of regional power that benefits no one other than the most powerful and is detrimental to human rights and the cause of Palestinian statehood.
Over the years, the prospects of Palestinian statehood have diminished as Israel has made peace with former advocates of the Palestinian cause, namely Jordan and Egypt, and Israeli settlers divide the West Bank into enclaves that make a contiguous state seem impossible. Egypt, for example, once an ally of the Palestinians, has maintained its side of the crushing blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel in 2007. Even when the Muslim Brotherhood held power for a year in Egypt, the blockade remained despite Hamas, the democratically-elected leadership of Gaza, being a member organization of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Since Trump has taken power, American foreign policy has escalated in favor of Israeli control over the occupied territories. In March, the Trump administration unveiled its version of the two-state solution, which was written without any input from Palestinians. It would effectively divide the West Bank into three sections and dismiss the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. Later that month, based on an unsubstantiated allegation that an attack from Islamic Jihad was being planned, Israeli air raids were conducted in Gaza, killing more than thirty people.
On May 14, the United States moved its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a symbolic gesture, as half of Jerusalem was allocated to Palestinians in 1949 and is currently occupied by the Israeli state. In response, Palestinians demonstrated in Gaza and were met with sniper fire. Thousands were shot and more than one hundred were killed, including medics and journalists who clearly identified themselves. Between August 6 and 31, Israeli attacks were carried out almost daily against Gaza, allegedly in response to “airborne incendiary devices.”
With the peace deal between the UAE and Israel, trade is expected to surpass $4 billion dollars as the UAE has promised to end its economic boycott. Of course, other than economic tensions, Bahrain, Israel and the UAE have not been at war with each other and have cooperated in regional disputes on a number of occasions. In 2011, Wikileaks revealed that Bahrain and Israel had also been communicating over security issues in the region. Effectively, the UAE and Bahrain went from turning their backs on the Palestinians, who were absent from of the 2020 peace talks, to openly opposing their cause, removing the only viable leverage that the UAE could have held over Israel to bring about a Palestinian state: the economic boycott.
Four American presidents have received the Nobel Peace Prize, each one equally undeserving. Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the prize in 1906 for having negotiated peace between the imperialist powers of Russia and Japan. Between 1903 and 1913, American troops were crushing a rebellion in the southern Philippines, which killed some one hundred thousand people.
Also, on Roosevelt’s record is the construction of the Panama Canal, a violent and deadly endeavor, the history of which has largely been forgotten in the American education system that Trump believes is not “pro-American” enough. After Colombia refused to give up Panama, then a region of Colombia, Roosevelt began sponsoring Panamanian separatists. American naval forces were sent to Panama in both the Atlantic and the Pacific, preventing sea-transports of Colombian forces. American railroads to Panama were shut down as well.
Immediately after Panamanian independence was declared, a French engineer involved in earlier canal attempts was named “Envoy Extraordinary” and “Minister Plenipotentiary” to negotiate the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty between Panama and the United States, granting the U.S. military bases in the region and control over the Panama Canal. During American construction, between 1904 and 1914, 5,600 Panamanian workers died from diseases and accidents. In order to cut costs and time, the U.S. relied heavily on the use of dynamite in construction. Disproportionately, black West Indian labor was used to transport and deploy the oftentimes deadly dynamite. As Howard Zinn, a “propagandist” according to Trump, wrote:
“The canal was a pure example of American imperialism. It saved American companies $1.5 billion a year in delivery costs, and the United States collected $150 million a year in tolls, out of which it paid the Panama government $2.3 million dollars, while maintaining fourteen military bases in the area.”
Cornel West forcefully has called Barack Obama, “a war criminal with a Nobel Peace Prize.” Obama won the prize in 2009 for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” The Nobel Committee noted that it had “attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons,” and that because of Obama, “democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.”
On the question of “human rights,” Obama spent the rest of his presidency ensuring the detriment of both around the world, particularly in the Middle East and Africa, notably with his use of drone warfare and air strikes. By the time he was done, the Obama administration had struck seven different countries with drones: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Libya.
On July 1, 2016, National Intelligence Director James Clapper released a report claiming that at most, 117 civilians were killed by Obama’s drone program in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. But in Pakistan alone, of the estimated 2,400 people that were killed, at least 213 have been identified as civilians. In Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, according to Airwars, an organization dedicated to “monitoring and assessing civilian casualties from international airstrikes,” between 384 and 807 civilians were killed over the course of 563 drone strikes. In Iraq and Syria, by conservative estimates, 2,727 civilians were killed by Obama’s air campaign. In 2016, Obama’s last year, 26,171 bombs were dropped, or three bombs an hour. Not exactly actions worthy of a Peace Prize.
Even in the case of nuclear proliferation, Obama’s record is less than average. During his tenure, he escalated tensions with Iran over alleged nuclear proliferation despite Iran being a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. All the while, Obama continued support for Israel, signing a $36 billion aid package to be distributed over ten years, though Israel is not a signatory and is estimated to have some 200 nuclear warheads. Obama also made moves to develop the Long-Range Standoff cruise missile, which could be used in limited capacity, normalizing nuclear weapons on the battlefield, despite ten Democratic senators signing a letter urging him to abandon the project. The missile can be both nuclear and non-nuclear, creating a type of warfare where two parties will be ignorant of what kind of destruction is coming their way.
President Woodrow Wilson won the prize for creating the League of Nations. Of course, this was after Wilson took the U.S. into a war that killed millions despite having campaigned on keeping the U.S. out of the First World War. At home, he launched the first Red Scare, imprisoning or deporting anyone who opposed sending Americans into Europe to die over a conflict that was predicated on economic and territorial disputes. With the passing of the Espionage Act, 900 people were arrested for their political beliefs. In one instance, six members of Frayhat, a Jewish anarchist organization in New York, were arrested for publishing articles critical of U.S. involvement in the war. Jacob Schwartz, one of the six, was beaten so badly while being arrested, he died in custody.
Wilson’s imperialism took a terrible toll on Latin America. In 1915, Wilson sent troops to occupy Haiti, an occupation that lasted until 1934. At this time American economic interests reigned supreme, with the American government taking control of the Haitian banks, ensuring American companies were repaid debts. Charlemagne Peralte, Haitian resistance leader, was killed by American Marines and crucified on a door for Haitians to see. During the first five years of the occupation, more than two thousand Haitians were killed by Marines. Wilson also sent Marines to the Dominican Republic in 1916 where they would stay until 1924. Three hundred Dominicans were killed in the first five years—this to allow sugar plantations to be taken over by American companies.
President Jimmy Carter won the prize for reasons most similar to those that have earned Trump the nomination. In 1978, Menachem Begin, Anwar Sadat and Jimmy Carter signed the Camp David Accords, normalizing relations between the Egypt and Israel. Following the agreements, Israel and Egypt became the two largest yearly recipients of military aid from the U.S. The next year, Carter used Israel to covertly send sixteen warplanes to Indonesia as Indonesia was conducting a genocide in East Timor, which by the end would result in the deaths of two to three hundred thousand people. Also during Carter’s administration in 1978, using American weapons, Israel engaged in a bombing campaign in Lebanon that killed more than 1,000 civilians. The regime in Egypt that would be propped up by U.S. aid following the deal was a dictatorship that lasted until 2011.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘peace’ in three parts: “1. a situation or a period of time in which there is no war or violence in a country or an area. 2. The state of being calm or quiet. 3. the state of living in friendship with somebody without arguing.” Considering these definitions, it makes sense why someone like Malala Yousafzai or the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons would win the Nobel Peace Prize. However, there is a fourth meaning used by Western imperialists. Peace for them is defined by a state of affairs where Western political hegemony is intact and where Western economic interests are secured. For this reason, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama are Nobel laureates. Trump has ensured there will never be a Palestinian state, allowing for Western hegemony in the region to reign supreme. Going by the fourth definition of peace, he deserves the prize. Otherwise, no American president does.