A Nobel Truth Prize for Gideon Levy

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Journalist Gideon Levy at the Israel Conference on Peace in 2017.
Journalist Gideon Levy at the Israel Conference on Peace in 2017. Credit: Tomer Applebaum

If there were a Nobel Prize for Incitement, there would definitely be room for the call of journalist Akiva Novik to award a Nobel Peace Prize to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the Abraham Accords. Former U.S. President Donald Trump (to whom Novik also wanted to grant a peace prize for the Accords) can be offered a Nobel Prize for Dishonesty. Really, what connection is there between Netanyahu, “the angel of destruction” according to the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, and this humane prize?

And now to the main point: This year those in charge of the prize thought otherwise. They started out from the assumption that there is a strong connection between “peace” and “truth,” otherwise they wouldn’t be granting the prestigious prize to two journalists, Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia, because journalists don’t deal directly with promoting peaceful relations between countries and nations, they deal with extracting the truth from the lying jaws of the government – almost every government.

On this occasion I can offer two explanations for the decision. The first: peace and truth are on the side of good, of life, whereas war and lies are on the side of evil. Therefore, in order to reinforce the brotherhood of the good, the committee saw fit to honor truth in the ranks of the kingdom of peace. Not bad. I’m in favor.

And another explanation that comes to mind: It’s true that the winners are not the first journalists to receive the Nobel Peace Prize – previously two journalists won the prize, in 1907 and in 1935 – but the war between lies, disinformation and manipulation of facts on the one hand and a balanced and true report on the other, is today the main battlefield in our turbulent world. Words have replaced gunshots, investigations have replaced artillery and pictures have replaced bombs.

Today it’s hard to enter social media without being hit by the shrapnel of incitement. If we compare it to live fire, we can count many victims. It’s true that incitement does not leave dead and wounded behind it, but its negative psychological impact on human behavior is tremendous, especially when this battlefield is run by giants such as Facebook which, according to investigations, inflames negative elements of our discourse. We can certainly regard the present decision of the Nobel Prize Committee as a kind of expression of aversion to the shallow discourse of social media.

Therefore, I’m impressed by the fact that this important prize was awarded to journalists. In the present era they are the leaders in the dissemination of truth in the world. Without truth, everything is fragile and on the verge of collapse. On the other hand, you can’t build anything on lies, you can only destroy, and in my opinion the time has come to offer a new prize, which is not an appendix to the peace prize or a guest of honor – a Nobel Truth Prize. The truth deserves a prize, because often those who reveal it pay dearly: damage to their livelihood, marginalization, threats and sometimes, as in the countries of the current prizewinners, far more terrible things.

It’s true that the path of truth is difficult and full of disappointments, while lies have many consumers and applauders, but a world without truth is a cruel, desolate and depressing world. Although the journalist, after he reveals the truth, is unable to do anything more than that, even without changing the reality we can at least find consolation in the fact that evil will not walk around erect.

The camera of Basel al-Adra did not change the reality in Khirbet al-Mufkara in the South Hebron Hills, but exposed the army and the rioters in their disgrace. The truth erodes the self-confidence of the oppressors and gives hope and confidence to the oppressed. That’s no small thing.

In Israel there are quite a number of journalists who reveal the truth, and pay a high price for doing so. We have to be grateful for that, but the problem is that in spite of that most Israelis don’t even notice the monster in the room – the occupation. Therefore, I think that we should also award the Nobel Truth Prize to journalist Gideon Levy, who week after week displays to us the ugliness of the invisible monster.

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