(October 15, 2012 / JNS) The Nobel Peace Prize isn’t so much a peace prize as it is an appeasement prize.
I know, I know: many people realized this bald truth before I did. I’ll confess that I was avoiding that conclusion because, despite all the laughable recipients of the prize— former PLO leader (and professional Israel-hater) Yasser Arafat, former president (and professional Israel-hater) Jimmy Carter, former International Atomic Energy Agency chief (and professional Israel-hater) Mohammed ElBaradei—there have been a handful of winners who deserved the accolade, like the Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, the brave Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, and the courageous architect of the Northern Ireland peace process, David Trimble.
But the news that the 2012 prize has been awarded to the European Union has compelled me to reassess my view. There is nothing that I can think of that would recommend giving this honor to a bunch of unelected bureaucrats sitting in Brussels. All too often, the EU’s foreign policy interventions have been marked by cowardice.
During the 1990s, the EU’s response to Serb-sponsored ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia was shameful in its timidity. More recently, the 27-member bloc has failed to protect the Republic of Georgia from a Russian military onslaught, has done nothing to bring about the collapse of Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in Belarus—a country commonly known as “Europe’s last dictatorship”—and continues to entertain the possibility of Turkey’s full membership, despite Ankara’s official denial of the Armenian genocide, its support for the rogue “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” created after Turkish troops illegally occupied the northern half of the island in 1974, and its backing of the terrorist groups that attacked Israeli troops during their infamous attempt to breach the Israeli blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza in May 2010.
Yet there is one policy dilemma that symbolizes the EU’s weakness better than any other: its refusal to designate the Lebanese Islamist organization Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
At the beginning of October, Israel shot down a drone aircraft after it flew approximately 25 miles into southern Israeli territory, close to the Dimona nuclear plant. Suspicions that Hezbollah was responsible were formally confirmed this week, when Hezbollah’s leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, delightedly claimed credit for the operation. “The resistance in Lebanon sent a sophisticated reconnaissance aircraft from Lebanon… It penetrated the enemy’s iron procedures and entered occupied southern Palestine,” Nasrallah boasted, adding that the drone’s parts were manufactured in Iran, Hezbollah’s main sponsor, and assembled by Hezbollah terrorists.
By any reasonable definition, the use by a private militia of the territory of one sovereign state to attack a neighboring sovereign state constitutes “terrorism.”
Moreover, the drone operation was not the only act of terrorism committed by Hezbollah in the last year. Back in July, a bomb attack on a busload of Israeli tourists visiting the Bulgarian resort of Burgas resulted in the deaths of seven people. There was ample evidence linking Hezbollah to this monstrous act, which took place on the territory of an EU member state. Additionally, the Burgas attack took place soon after Israeli targets in Thailand, India and Georgia were selected by Hezbollah for assault. As Ehud Barak, Israel’s Defense Minister, asserted at the time, the pattern of these attacks was demonstrative of the “global wave of terror sponsored by Iran and carried out by their Lebanese agents, Hezbollah.”
And if that weren’t enough, Hezbollah has actively aided Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad in his brutal suppression of the 19-month-old uprising against his rule. Nasrallah has denied that Hezbollah has provided military support for Assad, but what else could explain the recent deaths of two of its operatives on the Syrian border while, in the organization’s own words, performing their “jihad duties?”
The United States, which classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in 1999, added a new layer of sanctions against the group in September precisely because of its alliance with Assad. But in this instance, as in all others, the EU has maintained its insistence that Hezbollah resists classification as a terrorist organization. Out of all of its member states, only the Netherlands accepts this designation.
The EU’s reasoning, such as it is, is based on its assessment that because Hezbollah is involved in Lebanon’s political process, it cannot be labeled a terror group. This stance flies in the face of several authoritative western intelligence reports. As a 2010 Canadian intelligence study pointed out, “Despite its foray into Lebanese politics, Hezbollah retains a potent military capability independent of Lebanese state control and a terrorist wing controlled by Hezbollah’s leadership.”
The EU’s stubbornness over Hezbollah frequently leads it to ignore evidence of Hezbollah’s involvement with terrorism. While the Burgas attack was still fresh, with evidence still being collected, the Presidency of the EU Council rushed to rule out Hezbollah’s culpability, citing the lack of “tangible evidence.” There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.
Meanwhile, America’s patience is running out. At the end of September, more than 250 members of Congress sent a letter to EU leaders that pointed out that both Israel and the United States deemed Hezbollah responsible for the Burgos atrocity, urging the Europeans to properly join the Americans “in the vital effort to fight terrorism.” The EU’s studied indifference to these pleas will only strengthen Hezbollah’s resolve to carry out more attacks on European soil.
All this explains why the Nobel Committee’s decision to grant the peace prize to the EU was such a catastrophic error of judgment. We have gotten used to pious European spokesmen lecturing the United States about the dangers of unilateralism, conveniently forgetting that Europe is littered with the corpses of young American soldiers who died fighting to protect the continent’s freedom in two world wars. Now, however, this same ideology of appeasement has become a real security risk. And what is needed is a dramatic policy correction, not a peace prize.
Ben Cohen is the Shillman Analyst for JNS.org. His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Ha’aretz, Jewish Ideas Daily and many other publications.