On Nobel Prize Establishment Day: From Barack Obama to Yasser Arafat, top 10 controversies over Nobel Prize nominations

Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament on 27 November, 1895 and this was the day when Nobel Prize were established.

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Saturday, November 26, 2022, 06:15 PM IST
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On Nobel Prize Establishment Day: From Hitler to Bob Dylan, top 10 controversies over Nobel Prize nominations |

Alfred Nobel, a Swedish scientist, signed his last will and testament on 27 November, 1895, giving most of his fortune to prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace.

On this day, let's see how some of the controversies were created over Nobel Prize nominations. Starting with, Trump has been nominated for 2021 Nobel Peace Prize following his efforts to broker peace between Israel and the UAE. A Norwegian parliamentarian has nominated US President Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize citing what he claimed was Trump's role in facilitating contacts between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

Trump's nomination for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize was lauded by his supporters; however, it has sparked a controversy among his critics as they dismissed the announcement as a publicity stunt.

This is not the first time when the nominations for Nobel Prize came under the scanner and created a controversy.

Here are the top 10 controversies over Nobel Prize nominations:

Barack Obama

In 2009, then US president Barack Obama was nominated and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, just nine months into his first term. The selection was highly criticised for being partial and many has slammed it for being premature.

Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger, the U.S. Secretary of State was jointly awarded the prize in 1973 along with North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho. The award was given to them for a cease-fire. The second awardee Le Duc Tho had then declined the award and two members of the committee, who had voted against Kissinger’s selection, resigned in protest.

The move was also criticised because of the role of Henry Kissinger in ordering a bombing raid of Hanoi while negotiating the cease-fire.

Peter Handke

In 2019, Austrian author Peter Handke was awarded Nobel prize for Literature. The selection was criticised because Handke is considered to be one of the world’s most prominent apologist for the Serbian dictator and alleged war criminal Slobodan Milosevic. Milosevic was charged in 2001 with the Bosnian Genocide.

Yasser Arafat

In 1994, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. The award was given to them for their work on the Oslo Peace Accords.

The selection was under the scanner as it failed at ending the Israel-Palestine conflict. Many critics also expressed their reservations and noted that while Arafat was head of Fatah, the PLO group engaged in acts of terrorism.

Bob Dylan

Selection of Bob Dylan for 2016 prize for literature, came under scanner. The criticism was that the Nobel Committee has failed to award several key authors and playwrights, despite their influence on literature and culture. Thus when the committee selected Dylan, there was an outrage.

Benito Mussolini

In 1935, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was proposed by German and French academics mere months before his country invaded Ethiopia. The nomination created massive uproar back then.

Joseph Stalin

As one of the victors of World War II, Russian leader Joseph Stalin was nominated twice, in 1945 and 1948. The nomination also received flak from many.

Adolf Hitler

In 1939, a Swedish legislator had nominated Hitler as a joke, however, no one found it amusing. His nomination created an uproar, and it was quickly withdrawn.

Mahatma Gandhi

According to the former director of the Nobel Institute, Geir Lundestad, Gandhi's name was shortlisted five times (twice before World War II, then in 1946, 1947 and 1948). "The greatest omission in our 106-year history is undoubtedly that Mahatma Gandhi never received the Nobel Peace Prize. Gandhi could do without the Nobel Peace prize, but whether Nobel committee can do without Gandhi is the question," Lundestad added.

The European Union

The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union "for over six decades having contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe." The selection was criticised because of the several economic problems, including the Greek debt crisis in the EU. Many also criticised the move because several European countries make and sell weapons.

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