Article published on the 2009-02-17 Latest update 2009-02-18 09:44 TU
Anti-war campaigners have slammed a one-million-dollar prize given to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his role in conflict resolution. Blair, who is currently a peace envoy to the Middle East, received the award from the Dan David Foundation, based at Tel Aviv University in Israel.
Blair's opponents at home are angry that the award apparently overlooks his enthusiastic backing of the US-led war in Iraq.
And, they point out, his efforts as Middle East envoy for the international quartet of the US, EU, UN and Russia have yet to bear fruit.
“I think it is bordering on surreal. There has been no progress in the Palestine conflict […] his role was to try and bring progress to the Middle East,” says Chris Nineham from the Stop The War Coalition in the UK.
“This prize looks like a payment for services rendered,” Nineham told RFI. “It will make people feel that he’s not really a peace envoy, he’s an envoy operating in the interests of the Israeli state in the Middle East.”
The Dan David prize is awarded to three laureates each year and aims to reward those who make an outstanding scientific, technological, cultural or social impact on the world.
The prize is worth one million dollars (790,000 euros) and awards people from fields important in the past, present and future.
The foundation cites Blair's diplomatic efforts in conflicts as the reason for his selection.
“Exceptional leadership and steadfast determination in helping to engineer agreements and forge lasting solutions to areas in conflict […] Northern Ireland, Kosovo and now the Middle East,” says Smadar Fisher, director of the Dan David Prize.
Fisher denies that the award could affect his judgement in the Middle East.
“No, this is an international prize, we cannot see it as a conflict of interest, of course not,” she told RFI.
The other prize winners include Robert Gallo, one of the scientiests credited with discovering HIV and Paolo de Bernardis, Andrew Lange and Paul Richards, all experts in the history of the universe.
Blair will donate his prize money to his charity for religious understanding, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, while ten per cent of the money has to go to fund graduate students in each respective field.
Dan David, who founded the prize, was born in Romania and was a member of the Central Committee of the Zionist Youth Organisation there until 1949. He is current president of the Photo Me company, listed on the London stock exchange.
Blair will be presented with the prize in May.
According to the London Daily Mail, Britain has contributed £500,000 (566,000 euros) to the costs of Blair's Middle East mission.