Stephen Hawking Joins Academic Boycott Of Israel

200px-Stephen_Hawking.StarChildLeading Physicist Stephen Hawking has created an international stir by joining a boycott of Israeli academic institutions and travel to Israel after sending a letter declining an invitation to attend the President’s Conference. While Cambridge originally claimed that Hawking was not attending due to his health, Hawking sent a letter to Israeli President Shimon Peres saying that he was in fact boycotting Israel due to its Palestinian policies.

The letter was an embarrassment for the University of Cambridge which appeared like it was trying to spin the declination of the invitation for reasons of health. Tim Holt, acting communications director at the University of Cambridge, issued a statement that tied the decision to Hawking’s continued struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known as Lou Gehrig’s disease:”For health reasons, his doctors said he should not be flying at the moment so he’s decided not to attend. He is 71 years old. He’s fine, but he has to be sensible about what he can do.”

However, Hawking sent a letter to Peres clearly stating that he was refusing on principle to travel to the conference in Israel. Hawking described Israel’s treatment and policy of the Palestinians as a “disaster” and reprehensible. Hawking stated that he initially accepted the invitation with the intention to speak out against the policies: “Had I attended, I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster.” He then explained that “I accepted the invitation to the Presidential Conference with the intention that this would not only allow me to express my opinion on the prospects for a peace settlement, but also because it would allow me to lecture on the West Bank. However, I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this, I must withdraw from the conference. Had I attended, I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster.”

There are various groups of academics supporting the boycott of Israeli products as well as academic and cultural ties with Israel, including a group with Desmond Mpilo Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus. The boycott has also received support of groups this year like the Asian American Studies Association. Various divestment policies have been proposed or passed at American academic institutions.

Ironically, MIT linguistics professor and political author Noam Chomsky actually opposed the ban by scholars but was himself banned from Israel simply because of his political views by the Israeli government.

The Hawking controversy reveals a deepening divide among academics in the United States over the boycott — an increasingly heated debate. The Hawking decision comes as Israel has ordered the building of new settlements opposed by the United States and the world community as well as a report this year from the United Nations stating that Israeli have taken a “heavy toll” on the rights and sovereignty of Palestinians. The U.N. complained about the creeping annexation” by Israel in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Others have disagreed that such boycotts are productive and insist that more interaction with Israel is better for pushing reforms. Israel Maimon, chairman of the Presidential Conference, added this week that “Israel is a democracy in which all individuals are free to express their opinions, whatever they may be. The imposition of a boycott is incompatible with open, democratic dialogue.”

The response to Hawking from conservative publications have been extreme. One such site asked “Would Professor Hawking ever survive in any Arab country or under the Palestinian autocracy he shamefully defends?” The Israeli publication noted that “[w]hile in the Arab world disabled people have been called ‘the invisibles,’ because they are segregated and hidden from the public eye, Israel’s work with illness and disabilities would merit a book in itself.”

Hawking’s letter has put the boycott and divestment movement on the front pages of international newspapers and is likely to rekindle the debate on U.S. campuses.

120 thoughts on “Stephen Hawking Joins Academic Boycott Of Israel”

  1. In the end, it does not matter what any foreign academic, intellectual, scientist or businessman thinks of the I/P situation. As I said before, the middle east conflict has gone on centuries. All western nations have done is made it worse. The West started meddling in their affairs with the Crusades. It has only gotten worse since then. They are going to have to solve their own problems. We cannot keep pumping treasure and American lives into an endless war that started two or three thousand years ago. If they cannot solve their own problems, we cannot solve them either.

  2. Ralph, do you have a point, or are you just trying to show off your neologisms? How about sharing exactly where you got your vast knowledge of…..something. You make these grandiose claims of having more knowledge than some Nobel Prize nominees in physics and goodness knows what else. So what are your credentials?. You remind me of a previous troll in many ways. Brent Waller didn’t understand the internet either.

  3. “Ultrasubcretin Subquintile”
    Wow, eight syllables within two words, we have a true theoretical lexicographer here folks.

    Yes, ralph, I’ll turn out the lights for you. We know you prefer it dim.

  4. Gene, Pete, Darren, and Otteray, I realize that you’re in the “special ed” section of the Ultrasubcretin Subquintile and are a bit slow to grasp basic instructions; and I don’t mean to be rude, but I did say that “Class is dismissed, stunods.” Please turn off the lights when you leave.

  5. Ralph wrote:
    “I choose not to reveal my core area of expertise for political reasons”

    they almost fired him when he kept asking customers “do you want freedom fries with that”

  6. Banned by Israel, Chomsky gives W.Bank lecture by video

    Although Israeli officials insisted he would be permitted to cross the border, Chomsky discovered on Monday there was no “official” guarantee he would be allowed in, so he decided to give the lecture by video link, the Haaretz daily reported.

    Doesn’t sound like he was denied entry by ONE person. Especially since that ONE person was on the phone to his superiors.

    Chomsky himself pointed out that Israel was in essence boycotting Bir Zeit University in preventing his appearance there.

  7. I forgot to add: I am not about to give anyone Bible lessons, but if you read the Old Testament, it will explain why Israel is refusing to totally (and not half-hearted) relinquish the Gaza Strip?

    For those Bible Scholars, ‘God’ changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and promised that his descendants will be as numerous as the sand on the seashore? Or was it as the stars in the sky? Anyway, there’s the religious connection to the ‘promised land’.

  8. Ralph A et All

    Please read the link:

    As I said before (and as OS so eloquently stated), the problems in the middle east has been transpiring for centuries, if not millenniums. Also, as I mention earlier, the UN is the one that decided to allow the Gaza Strip to become ‘an unofficial/probationary member state & to hold elections in by a unanimous UN vote’. However, Israel and the US were one of the few nations (138-9) to vote against it.

    Please read the entire wikipedia link.

    Then, months before the ‘election’, Israel started a blockade, preventing Gaza voters from voting? See:

    Israel is had agreed (but they were not happy with the decision) to leave the West Bank, according to the wiki link. However, they came back to occupy it? Why can’t they just leave the Gaza Strip/land for good? Read the Yahoo! article. Moreover, if you read the Bible, (which Israel utilizes as the reason for tryng to keep hold of the Gaza Strip), Israel believes that this land has been given to them.

    I am not against Israel or for the Palestinians; I just want an end to the war/conflict which probably won’t happen in our lifetime.

  9. An omission is tantamount to a false statement if the person making the omission has a duty not to omit material facts. Misrepresentations, half-truths, omission, and concealments are just different forms of deception.

    Thus to quote one particular law:

    “To make any untrue statement of a material fact or to omit to state a material fact necessary in order to make the statements made, in the light of the circumstances under which they were made, not misleading. . .”

    With regard to the second point, Chomsky was initially denied entry by ONE person who had authority. However, that person acted on his own, and not in accordance with an Israeli policy. That is why the Israeli Government made a public statement that corrected that mistake. Such acts by individuals happen all of the time in the US and in many other free nations. But when an employee of Israel makes such a mistake, a mountain is made out of a molehill. Meanwhile, the Muslim nations and many other Leftist nations throughout the world are always denying individuals rights and far worse, but the Leftists are just fine with that. They are happy to protect their own, no matter how hypocritcal and heinous their support for oppression is.

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