The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights has been nominated for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. Formal nomination for the prestigious award was made last week by the Norwegian MP and leader of the Red Party, Bjørnar Moxness.
In a statement announcing the nomination, the Parliamentary Group, which includes a number of left-wing parties, said that the selection of BDS for a Nobel Peace Prize reflected "the growing international solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for justice, dignity and freedom from the Israeli occupation".
Explaining their nomination, the Parliamentary Group said that the BDS campaign is a non-violent movement for freedom, equality and a just peace for the Palestinian people and was therefore being nominated for the prestigious prize.
Moxness, who is leading the campaign for BDS to be honoured in Oslo at the end of the year, said:
Awarding this year's Nobel Peace Prize to the BDS movement would be a powerful signal, emphasising the international community's commitment to support a just peace for the Palestinian people and by that – for the Israeli people and all people in the Middle East – and the world at large.
In his comments to MEMO, Moxness was keen to point out that the intention behind the nomination was "first and foremost pro-Palestinian, not anti-Israeli". Having said that, the Norwegian politician expects a backlash: "We are well aware that the current right-wing government of Israel tends to try to criminalise any attempt to convince Israel to abide by international law and end the occupation and oppression of Palestine and the Palestinians."
Asked about the kind of opposition he is likely to face, he said: "We nominated the BDS movement for the Nobel Peace Prize well aware that this perfectly legitimate nomination of a perfectly legitimate movement that fights for a legitimate cause – that of the Palestinians – with legitimate peaceful means, will meet some resistance, typically in the form of smearing campaigns and the like. In the face of that kind of opposition, the challenge is to stay focus on the main cause, freedom for the Palestinians, and to stay focused on what we see as our humble contribution to that cause, an attempt to start a positive international campaign in favour of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the BDS movement."
One of the main reasons BDS groups cite for endorsing the campaign is the double standard when it comes to Israel. Alluding to this tendency the Red Party's press statement mentioned Norway's January 2018 decision to "officially impose sanctions and restrictions against 26 different states or regions due to breaches of international laws and human rights but not against the state of Israel – despite Israeli occupation, annexation and collective punishment of the Palestinian people".
According to Moxness "the current Norwegian government is closely allied to the USA and seems to be more eager to please the USA and its ally in Tel Aviv, than to uphold a principled stance on international law and human rights". This fact was one of the reasons for initiating this campaign to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the BDS movement, he said to MEMO.
Moxness explained that the support Israel gets on a governmental level is not replicated across Norwegian society, pointing to the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions which he said is a massive player in Norwegian politics. "They firmly support the Palestinian cause and voted in favour of implementing BDS measures against Israel last December."
The opposition to BDS, according to Moxness, is due to its impressive success. The BDS movements' impressive record of creating pressure to end Israeli occupation through peaceful means is seen as legitimate and ethical by most of the international community. It gets its inspiration from the anti-apartheid movement from South Africa, and it is endorsed by a very broad range of organisations and personalities, former Nobel Peace Prize laureates like Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire, people of different political affiliations and religious belongings. This legitimacy, said Moxness, is probably what scares the Israeli hawks the most.
The next step on the formal track is the publication of the Nobel Committees short list, which is due towards the end of September/beginning of October. Moxness is confident that if all supporters of the Palestinian cause join together and campaign for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the BDS movement it is perfectly possible to make it to that shortlist and beyond. And regardless of the committee's decision, he insists, "through the campaign we might have made important steps towards reigniting the struggle for justice for the Palestine through peaceful means."
Moxness appealed to human rights groups and activists to join the campaign. "We think an international campaign to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the BDS movement can contribute both to legitimise the BDS movement and more broadly to put the Palestinian cause back on the international agenda again," he predicted.
For this to happen we need the participation of all, he added. Moxness predicts that there will be grassroot support, social media support, the support of media organisations, political parties, politicians, governments, trade unions, students, artists, intellectuals, athletes as well as football teams.
The Nobel Committee will publish a shortlist of nominees by the end of September. "We have until then to make this an effective international campaign," Moxness said, and "if everyone participates this is the kind of positive campaign that we think can change the political environment and bring us closer to the objective of justice for the Palestinians."