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Hawking Boycotts Israel

By Stephen Lendman - Posted on 10 May 2013


Hawking Boycotts Israel


by Stephen Lendman


Hawking was invited to participate in a June 18 - 20 Israeli Presidential Conference. Initially he accepted. In early May he declined. He's boycotting. He's protesting Israel's occupation. More on that below.


Hawking's a renown British physicist. His web site says he's the "former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge."


His books include "A Brief History of Time." It was an international bestseller. His latest book co-written with "renowned science writer" Leonard Miodinow is titled "The Grand Design."


It's described as a "groundbreaking new work." It's based on Hawking's 40 years of research and recent "extraordinary astronomical observations and theoretical breakthroughs to reveal an original and controversial theory."


Hawking remains active at Cambridge. He retains an office in its Department for Applied Maths and Theoretical Physics. He's university Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology.


He's worked on basic laws governing the universe. He's widely published. He received 12 honorary degrees, as well as many awards, medals and prizes.


He's a Royal Society Fellow and US National Academy of Sciences member. He's now 71. At age 21, he was diagnosed with ALS. It's known as Lou Gehrig's disease.


It's characterized by debilitating progressive weakness, muscle atrophy and fasciculations, muscle spacticity, dysarthria, dysphagia, and dyspnea. ALS is the most common neuron disease. It confines Hawking to a wheelchair. 


It hasn't dimmed his extraordinary intellect. He combines family life and research. He has three children and three grandchildren. He hopes one day he'll make it into space.


The fifth Israeli Presidential Conference focuses on "Facing Tomorrow 2013" and "The Human Factor in Shaping Tomorrow."


It's planned for Jerusalem. It's under the auspices of Shimon Peres.  It's celebrating his 90th birthday. Long ago he should have been condemned. 


He's a war criminal multiple times over. He's responsible for decades of crimes of war and against humanity. He helped institutionalize Israeli state-sponsored terror.


As a Knesset member, Deputy Defense Minister, Defense Minister, Foreign Minister, other ministerial positions, Vice Premier, Prime Minister, and Israeli President, his crimes include colonialism, apartheid, militarized occupation, and regional wars of aggression.


He shamelessly represents rogue leadership. In 1994, Nobel Committee members awarded him their Peace Prize. It wasn't the first time it went to a war criminal. It won't be the last.


Israel's Presidential Conference announcement said the following:


"As in previous years, it'll "look at tomorrow and engage the central issues that will influence the face of our future: geopolitics, economics, society, environment, culture, identity, education, new media, and more."


Attendees include "world leaders, international scholars, activists, poets and scientists, artists and clergy, entrepreneurs, economists and industrialists, as well as representatives of the next generation of leaders - promising young individuals who radiate innovation and creativity."


Participants include Netanyahu, Peres, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev, former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, Monaco's Prince Albert, Barbra Streisand, Natan Sharansky, David Axelrod, and Elliott Abrams, among others.


Topics include:


"Should We Wait it Out? Israel and a Changing Middle East"


"Tomorrow's Wars - No Longer Science Fiction"


"The World Order - Facing Tomorrow's Challenges"


"Political Islam - Where is It Headed?"


"The Decisions that will Shape Tomorrow"


Hawking was scheduled as a featured speaker. At least one report said he'd keynote the conference.


Initially, Cambridge University communications director, Tim Holt, said he cancelled for health reasons. Later he said Hawking's office told him otherwise. He withdrew "based on advice from Palestinian academics that he should respect the boycott."


He's protesting Israel's occupation. On May 3, he wrote conference organizers, saying:


"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."


Anti-Defamation League (ADL) demagoguery is longstanding. It disseminates pro-Israeli propaganda. It attacks Israeli critics unjustifiably. Its national director, Abraham Foxman, called Hawking's withdrawal "a slap in the face to academic freedom."


Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said:


"Never has a scientist of this stature boycotted Israel." Hawking became "part of the problem, not the solution," he added.


Conference chairman Israel Maimon said:


"The academic boycott against Israel is in our view outrageous and improper, certainly for someone for whom the spirit of liberty lies at the basis of his human and academic mission."


"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."


Israel's no democracy. It never was. It isn't now. It's a rogue terror state. It's intolerant of legitimate Israeli criticism.


Palestinian academics, activists and others support Hawking's decision. Omar Barghouti's a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).


He welcomed Hawking's decision, saying:


"Palestinians deeply appreciate Stephen Hawking's support for an academic boycott of Israel." 


"We think this will rekindle the kind of interest among international academics in academic boycotts that was present in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa."


Separately, PACBI said:


"Boycotting Israeli academic and cultural institutions is an urgently needed form of pressure against Israel that can bring about its compliance with international law and the requirements for a just peace."


The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) supports the academic boycott of Israel. It said Hawking decided to support the initiative, adding:


"This is his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there."


Before announcing his boycott, Birzeit University's Samia al-Botmeh said:


"We tried to communicate two points to him." 


"First, that Israel is a colonial entity that involves violations of the rights of the Palestinians, including academic freedom, and then asking him to stand in solidarity with Palestinian academic colleagues who have called for solidarity from international academics in the form of boycotting Israeli academia and academic institutions."


Al-Botmeh called his withdrawal "fantastic. I think it's wonderful that he has acted on moral grounds." 


"That's very ethical and very important for us as Palestinians to know and understand that there are principled colleagues in the world who are willing to take a stand in solidarity with an occupied people."


Desmond Tutu and other noted figures call Israeli apartheid worse than anything South Africa experienced.


Fifteen years ago, Nelson Mandela said:


"We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians."


Cambridge University acting communications director, Tim Holt, corrected his initial statement saying:


"We have now received confirmation from Professor Hawking's office that a letter was sent on Friday to the Israeli president's office regarding his decision not to attend the Presidential Conference, based on advice from Palestinian academics that he should respect the boycott."


Numerous high-profile figures, academics, independent journalists, activists, and others support the boycott Israel campaign.


Doing the right thing is its own reward. Imagine the difference if most everyone felt the same way.


Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 


His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."


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I can only agree that Stephen Hawking made the right decision. He had planned to attend to state his "opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster", but this surely wouldn't have done any good. It would've been the right thing to say, but it surely wouldn't be as good as boycotting.  If he had attended and stated what he says he was planning to state, then his words would've fallen on deaf ears. There might've possibly also been considerable censorship or underreporting of his statement. No one can effectively censor the fact that he's boycotting the conference now, and no one can effectively distort his reason(s), since they've been sufficiently published.

Wherein Lendman wrote, "He's protesting Israel's occupation. On May 3, he wrote conference organizers, saying: ...", the link is for the following article and I'll excerpt a little from it.


Stephen Hawking: Furore deepens over Israel boycott

Political motive revealed after Cambridge University first claimed scientist's non-attendance was on medical grounds

Harriet Sherwood and Matthew Kalman in Israel, and Sam Jones

The Guardian, Thursday 9 May 2013


... (photo of Stephen Hawkin with Israeli PM Ehud Olmert in 2006)



Daniel Taub, the Israeli ambassador to London, said: "It is a great shame that Professor Hawking has withdrawn from the president's conference … Rather than caving into pressure from political extremists, active participation in such events is a far more constructive way to promote progress and peace."

The Wolf Foundation, which awarded Hawking the Wolf prize in physics in 1988, said it was "sad to learn that someone of Professor Hawking's standing chose to capitulate to irrelevant pressures and will refrain from visiting Israel".


Comments on social media in Israel were overwhelmingly opposed to Hawking's move, with a small number engaging in personal abuse over his physical condition. A minority of commentators supported his stance on Israel's 46-year occupation of the Palestinian territories.

In addition to the letter sent by Hawking to the conference organisers, a statement in his name was sent to the British Committee for the Universities in Palestine, confirming his withdrawal from the conference for political reasons. The wording was approved by Hawking's personal assistant after consultation with Tim Holt, the acting director of communications at Cambridge University.


In a telephone conversation with the Guardian, Holt offered "my apologies for the confusion".

Taub is a hypocrite. He clearly doesn't have any moral ground to stand upon when pretending to be able to preach about extremism, including of any kind.  Participation being "a far more constructive way to promote progress and peace"" is just more Israeli/Zionist hypocrisy.  We know more than well enought that the Israeli leadership, political and military, clearly have no intention of honest progress and peace. Their idea, rather psychopathic idea, for progress and peace is genocidal.  Their progress is the ever increasing spread of Israeli Jews on Palestinian land, robbing Palestinians of their ancestral land and their means of livelihood.

According to Wikipedia, "The Wolf Foundation is a private not-for-profit organization in Israel established in 1975".  Their disapproval of Stephen Hawking siding with the boycott does what? Imo, it makes them complicit in the unending and extreme crimes of Israel.

I believe this about anyone who criticizes this decision by Hawking and anyone else who supports the boycott.  Not boycotting this so-called academic conference is complicity in the crimes of Israel.  It's to also be complicit with Washington's extreme crime of protecting Israel against due process of law.

Regarding the Israeli social media opposition to Hawking's decision, "with a small number engaging in personal abuse over his physical condition", it'd be interesting to know precisely which of the media are guilty for this abuse and I wonder why they're not named.

Regarding the last part of the excerpt from the Guardian article, it's just to highlight that Tim Holt officially apologized for the initial error about the reason for Hawking not attending the Israeli conference.

Paul Jay interviews Phyllis Bennis, who seems very favorable about Stephen Hawking's decision to support the boycott.  I'm not sure if my interpretation is accurate but Paul Jay comes to seem to be worried about the decision while Phyllis Bennis remains positive.


Stephen Hawking Confirms Support of Israel Boycott

Published by TheRealNews on 8 May 2013

Phyllis Bennis: Hawking's boycott of Israel will shake Israeli public the way sports boycott affected South Africa

Licence: Standard YouTube Licence

At 01:42, Paul Jay refers to a Guardian/UK article, showing a few words from it. It's the following piece.


Stephen Lendman cited from a Guardian/UK piece he provided with a link.  The url for it says May 8th while the publication date specified in the piece says May 9th.  The following article, which I'm only going to excerpt a good portion of, has the publication date of May 8th and it's by some of the same co-writers.  Stephen Lendman's link is found where he's referring to Tim Holt and says, "He's protesting Israel's occupation. On May 3, he wrote conference organizers, saying: ...", btw.



Stephen Hawking joins academic boycott of Israel

Physicist pulls out of conference hosted by president Shimon Peres in protest at treatment of Palestinians

Harriet Sherwood and Matthew Kalman in Jerusalem

The Guardian, Wednesday 8 May 2013


Hawking is in very poor health, but last week he wrote a brief letter to the Israeli president to say he had changed his mind. ...


Hawking's decision marks another victory in the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions targeting Israeli academic institutions.


In April the Teachers' Union of Ireland became the first lecturers' association in Europe to call for an academic boycott of Israel, and in the United States members of the Association for Asian American Studies voted to support a boycott, the first national academic group to do so.




Hawking's decision met with abusive responses on Facebook, with many commentators focusing on his physical condition, and some accusing him of antisemitism.


By participating in the boycott, Hawking joins a small but growing list of British personalities who have turned down invitations to visit Israel, including Elvis Costello, Roger Waters, Brian Eno, Annie Lennox and Mike Leigh.  (links provided further on)


However, many artists, writers and academics have defied and even denounced the boycott, calling it ineffective and selective. ...


Noam Chomsky, a prominent supporter of the Palestinian cause, has said that he supports the "boycott and divestment of firms that are carrying out operations in the occupied territories" but that a general boycott of Israel is "a gift to Israeli hardliners and their American supporters".


Hawking has visited Israel four times in the past. Most recently, in 2006, he delivered public lectures at Israeli and Palestinian universities as the guest of the British embassy in Tel Aviv. At the time, he said he was "looking forward to coming out to Israel and the Palestinian territories and excited about meeting both Israeli and Palestinian scientists".


Since then, his attitude to Israel appears to have hardened. In 2009, Hawking denounced Israel's three-week attack on Gaza, telling Riz Khan on Al-Jazeera that Israel's response to rocket fire from Gaza was "plain out of proportion … The situation is like that of South Africa before 1990 and cannot continue."


Israel Maimon, chairman of the presidential conference said: "This decision is outrageous and wrong. 


"The use of an academic boycott against Israel is outrageous and improper, particularly for those to whom the spirit of liberty is the basis of the human and academic mission. Israel is a democracy in which everyone can express their opinion, whatever it may be. A boycott decision is incompatible with open democratic discourse."


The British artists in support of the boycott and referred to in the Guardian article, Elvis Costello and Roger Waters, f.e., are all, with the exception of Mike Leigh, British musical composers, song writers, .... Leigh is a British film director, ....  I checked Wikipedia for each of these people and there're pages for all of them.


Noam Chomsky:


Part of his view about the boycott is clearly positive and good, but I wonder what his reason is or reasons are for saying "that a general boycott of Israel is "a gift to Israeli hardliners and their American supporters"".  Phyllis Bennis evidently would disagree about this view of his and I'm unable to imagine how he could be right.  For me, it's hunh, or what?


How is it going to possibly benefit or profit the Israeli hardliners and their supporters?  If the boycott's support comes to produce the sort of effect that Phyllis Bennis describes as possible among Israelis who presently support Israel's crimes, including against their own best interests, then the boycott becoming general surely won't profit the Israeli hardliners et al.  As she says in the interview referred to at the start of this post, the boycott of South African sports was what finally caused supporters of Apartheid in South Africa to oppose it and bring it to an end.

Israel Maimon:


He speaks as either a true idiot or a hypocrite; perhaps a combination of both.  The latter is highly probable.  His words don't make logical sense, unless the intention is to deceive naive others into believing nonsense.


He speaks of "the spirit of liberty" as if it's important, which it is, but it's also while he's speaking against the liberty and human right to support the boycott by refusing to attend the so-called academic conference in Israel.  Stephen Hawking and all other supporters of the boycott have every right in the world/Cosmos to choose as he has now done.  Anyone who opposes this right essentially is supporting oppression of human rights; wittingly or not.

Maimon speaks of Israel being a democracy, but as Stephen Lendman states, this is a blatant falsehood.  Full rights are only for Jews in Israel.  The non-Jewish people in Israel have much less for rights.  But, Jewish Israelis don't have truly full rights, either.  F.e., they're conscripted. All teenage or young Jewish Israelis are obliged to do a number of years of service in the Israeli military, including occupying/violently occupying Palestine.  It isn't an option. It's mandatory.


He adds that, "A boycott decision is incompatible with open democratic discourse". For the sake of being honest, if he cared to be honest and intelligently so, he should tell the Israeli leadership that they need to become compatible "with open democratic discourse", for they're definitely not compatible with it at all so far. They're psychopathic. Moral conscience isn't one of their characteristics.


A man who speaks with a forked tongue as much as Israel Maimon does is president of an academic conference that we're supposed to think is good and might possibly be beneficial for humanity?  Maybe he's a comedian from the "dark side".  He doesn't seem to possess much for moral conscience, if he has any at all.


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