When Norwegian lawmaker Bjørnar Moxnes nominated the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month, he called it an effort towards “stopping an ascendent, racist and right-wing politics sweeping too much of our world.”
Moxnes heads Rødt (Red) Party, one of several relatively small groups on the left of Norway’s political spectrum. The party won enough votes to have a member in parliament for the first time last fall.
It was a significant gain for Norway’s left while the lackluster vision of the more mainstream Labor Party was blamed in part for a narrow victory by a coalition of right-wing parties at the polls.
With a seat in parliament came new possibilities for promoting Rødt’s platform which supports a full “economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel.”
“We believe that awarding the BDS movement with the Nobel Peace Prize is perfectly in line with the intentions of Alfred Nobel and his pro-peace legacy,” Moxnes told the Electronic Intifada by email.
Moxnes said the decision to nominate the BDS movement, which has been endorsed by former peace prize laureates such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire, was one made democratically by the party he leads.
“We are taking the will of thousands of party members and other Norwegian pro-Palestinian solidarity activists and movements into the Nobel Committee and into the international political scene,” Moxnes said.
He urged activists all over the world to make the most of the opportunity that this nomination represents.
Jewish Voice for Peace and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, based in the US and UK, respectively, have already launched a #NobelforBDS campaign and petition to support the nomination.
Moxnes said that this campaign and others like it could change the way world public opinion perceives the BDS movement and the Palestinian cause.
“We believe we can take the fight several steps in the right direction before the Nobel Committee announces its decision in October, regardless of whether the BDS campaign is actually awarded or not,” he explained.
Moxnes said he has received hundreds of messages of support since the nomination. But, inevitably, strong negative reactions have come from Israeli media and politicians.
In a letter to Norway’s ambassador to Israel, Sharren Haskel, a lawmaker representing Israel’s ruling Likud party, expressed her “dismay” and repeated standard accusations that BDS is “anti-Semitic” and that it is “not a peace-seeking movement.”
For his part, the Norwegian envoy distanced his government from the nomination, saying that the Norwegian Nobel Committee is responsible for the selection process and that the state is opposed to boycotts of Israel.
While acknowledging the blowback he has faced, Moxnes said that “Those who are really taking a risk are the millions of Palestinians and many Jews too, who resist a brutal occupation. They are making a sacrifice that we can only try to imagine.”
Israel is going to great efforts to combat the BDS movement.
The Israeli government listed the Palestine Committee of Norway among 20 organizations banned from the country as punishment for its support of BDS. Employees of Norwegian Church Aid have been denied entry by Israeli border officials.
Pushback and momentum
Laws aimed at criminalizing BDS have been introduced in Europe as well. The current government in Norway has included a provision in its latest budget proposal that would strip government funding from any organization that advocates BDS.
Moxnes said there is broad support for the Palestinian people in Norway, despite its government’s policies. He pointed to the vote by the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions last year to support BDS. Other major Norwegian organizations, such as the YMCA/YWCA, support a full boycott of Israel and the Church of Norway supports settlement boycotts.
Despite of the ascent of the far-right in northern Europe, Moxnes still finds momentum in support of Palestinian rights. He noted that Denmark’s parliament recently voted to exclude settlement activities from agreements with Israel. It is the first European state to publicly support sanctions against the companies on the UN list that do business with Israel’s settlements built in violation of international law.
“We hope that more countries will follow this example,” Moxnes said.
He and his party are working to ensure that Norway is one of them.
Ryan Rodrick Beiler is a freelance photojournalist and member of the ActiveStills collective.
Originally published in The Electronic Intifada