Who Wants To Be a Nobel Peace Laureate?

A killer and a spy.

Chatterbox is intrigued by the annual lobbying campaigns for the Nobel Peace Prize. (See “So You Want To Win the Nobel Peace Prize.”) A couple of weeks ago, he invited readers to submit evidence of particularly far-fetched lobby campaigns. This brought to Chatterbox’s attention Stanley “Tookie” Williams and Mordechai Vanunu. Both received Nobel nominations last year, and, as this Williams Web page and this Vanunu Web page demonstrate, their campaigns continue unabated. Nominations for the 2002 prize must be submitted by Feb 1 to the Norwegian Nobel Institute (don’t goof and send them to Stockholm!), so this is crunch time. Nominators must be national legislators; “members of international courts”; professors of social science, history, philosophy, law, or theology; university rectors; directors of “peace research institutes” or “foreign policy institutes”; Nobel peace laureates; active or former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee; or former advisers of same.

Tookie Williams is an inmate on death row at San Quentin who was convicted of killing four people in 1981. Williams co-founded (with the late Raymond Lee Washington) the Crips, a notorious Los Angeles street gang. Even for the gentle Norwegians who will make the selection, these two resume items are likely to raise a red flag. On the plus side, though, Williams is apparently very sorry. (Click here to read his apology.) These days, Williams writes children’s books about the evils of gang violence and donates the money to various anti-gang groups. (Inevitably, National Public Radio interviewed him about it last year. Click here to listen.) The Nobel campaign (which last year resulted in a nomination by Mario Fehr of the Swiss parliament) is apparently an offshoot of the international movement against the death penalty and also, of course, of efforts to spare Williams’ own life. These latter two causes strike Chatterbox as much more worthwhile.

Mordechai Vanunu sits in Israel’s Ashkelon Prison, where he is serving an 18-year sentence for espionage and treason. Motivated by a commitment to pacifism, Vanunu took secret photos of Israel’s Dimona nuclear weapons plant while working there as a technician. He then left the country, traveling to the Soviet Union, India, and, finally, Australia, where he converted to Christianity. In 1986 Vanunu passed along what he knew to Peter Hounam of the London Sunday Times, which published a lengthy expose about Israel’s nuclear arsenal. (Hounam subsequently wrote a book about the affair.) The Israelis then nabbed Vanunu by hiring a dishy American (code name: “Cindy”) to lure him from London to Rome, where Mossad agents whisked him back to Israel. Vanunu is due to be released from prison in 2004. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize last year by 1976 peace prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, co-founder of the Northern Ireland Peace Movement. Vanunu’s viability for this year’s prize depends largely on whether the Norwegians will regard him as Israel’s Daniel Ellsberg or Israel’s Julius Rosenberg. Awkwardly, Vanunu himself embraces the “spy” label; click here to read his poem, “I Am Your Spy.” Such careless public relations work is rarely rewarded with a Nobel Peace Prize.

Do you have evidence of an unworthy Nobel Peace Prize campaign? If so, please  forward it to