Can Arafat’s Nobel Peace Prize Be Revoked?

Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for the signing of the Oslo peace accords the year before. Given the events of recent weeks, can the Nobel Committee strip Arafat—or Peres—of his prize?

No. The Nobel Committee does not allow for the revocation of any prizes—and it has never happened in the award’s 101-year history. The 1895 will of Alfred Nobel, which established the prize, says it should go to the person who “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations.” Nowhere in his will or the Statutes of the Nobel Foundation is there a provision for the revocation of prizes.

But that hasn’t stopped several groups from trying. An e-petition conceived by a group of young Jewish professionals is calling for the revocation of Arafat’s prize. So far, more than 340,000 people have reportedly signed the petition. Though the members of the group acknowledge the Nobel Committee’s rule on revocation, they are lobbying the committee to make an exception.

The Nobel Committee has also rejected public demands to rescind prizes of controversial laureates Henry Kissinger, Le Duc Tho, and Menachem Begin. Kissinger and Le Duc Tho were jointly awarded the 1973 prize for their success in brokering the U.S.-North Vietnamese cease-fire agreement. (Le Duc Tho declined the prize, saying peace had not yet been established in South Vietnam at that time.)

In 1982, a socialist youth group in Madrid launched a petition drive calling for the revocation of Menachem Begin’s 1978 peace prize, which he shared with former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. The group faulted Begin for authorizing Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

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Explainer thanks Bjorn H. Feen of the Norwegian Nobel Institute. Thanks to Anthony Lapadula for asking the question.