Stephen Hawking confirms he is boycotting Israeli conference

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University of Cambridge officials say they erroneously understood Hawking's decision to boycott Israeli Presidential Conference was based solely on health concerns.


British physicist Stephen Hawking has dropped plans to attend a major international conference in Israel in June, citing his belief that he should respect a Palestinian call to boycott contacts with Israeli academics.

The University of Cambridge released a statement Wednesday indicating that Hawking had told the Israelis last week that he would not be attending "based on advice from Palestinian academics that he should respect the boycott."

University officials said they had "previously understood" that Hawking's decision was based solely on health concerns — he is 71 and has severe disabilities — but had now been told otherwise by Hawking's office.

The decision means that one of the world's most famous scientists has joined a boycott organized to protest Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

Written By: AP
continue to source article at haaretz.com

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    • In reply to Stephen Hawking

      Hawking had told the Israelis last week that he would not be attending “based on advice from Palestinian academics that he should respect the boycott.”

      I don’t think it would be farfetched to assume that in this case, the word “advice” is a euphemism for the word “threats.”

  1. Prof Hawking is perfectly entitled to decide what to do. If you heard the radio 4 interview this morning the male interviewee who was slagging off the good prof actually said that everyone in the uk thought that hawking was wrong to boycott. What a pretentious overbearing lying prat he is who every he is. Just note that this whole sorry mess is caused by the pious on both sides making a peaceful rational measured fair settlement an impossibility. In the name of their gods the religious bigots have trasformed this situation from one that would have been very difficult to solve to one that is intractable.

    • In reply to #4 by Rev Up:

      Prof Hawking is perfectly entitled to decide what to do. If you heard the radio 4 interview this morning the male interviewee who was slagging off the good prof actually said that everyone in the uk thought that hawking was wrong to boycott. What a pretentious overbearing lying prat he is who every…

      Actually the impediments to progress are primarily .the governments and politicians and their interests. They will use religious factors to pit one group off against the other. Governments, nations and their interests are usually non-religious unless it suits their ends. Some kind of settlement could have been reached there years ago if the governments involved wanted it to happen.

    • In reply to #4 by Rev Up:

      Prof Hawking is perfectly entitled to decide what to do. If you heard the radio 4 interview this morning the male interviewee who was slagging off the good prof actually said that everyone in the uk thought that hawking was wrong to boycott. What a pretentious overbearing lying prat he is who every…

      Yes, of course he is… but by boycotting, is he not supporting opponents of free speech?

      ‘In a subsequent conversation with Haaretz, Maimon noted that Hawking was being more Palestinian than the Palestinians: While he was boycotting the conference, other Palestinians had agreed to attend it as speakers’.

      “Hawking’s stance strengthens the extremists,” Maimon added. “After all, extremists don’t talk; moderates talk. This boycott isn’t a path that encourages dialogue, it only encourages the extremists.”

  2. I think Professor Hawkin is on a hiding to nothing. This is essentaially a religious war. The Governments’ of both sides have been behaving appallingly towards one another since nineteen forty eight.

    “Warriors at Suez” by Donald Neff gives accounts of incidents in the early nineteen fifties. I won’t go into the matter here other than to say that they set the seal for events between the two communities ever since.

    I’m sorry to say that I think the Professor has been taken for a patsy.

    Daniel Barenboihm with the West-East Divan Orchestra, comprising both Israeli and Palestinian players has done some wonderfully positive work in the area. Quite how long or well it’ll stick is hard to tell; dare I say that there could just possibly be those on both sides determined to see that it doesn’t.

    Like I said, it’s a religious war.

    • In reply to #5 by Stafford Gordon:

      I think Professor Hawkin is on a hiding to nothing. This is essentaially a religious war.

      Fair enough for Hawking to boycott, but I couldn’t agree more about the conflict itself. It’s madness versus madness, and the only thing distinguishing one side from the other is access to technology.

  3. Is Professor Hawking still communicating using mechanical voice system run by Intel Core i& Processor which was developed by the Israeli division of Intel? Should he not immediately dismatle it?
    Did he return 3 million dollar award he accepted last year from Yuri Milner, a supporter of Israel and a major investor in Israeli high-tech?
    If not, it seems that his decision to boycott this conference is a rather easy way to make a political gesture, trying to delegitimize State of Israel. And it does show a huge dosis of hypocrisy.

    • In reply to #6 by Malgorzata:

      Is Professor Hawking still communicating using mechanical voice system run by Intel Core i& Processor which was developed by the Israeli division of Intel? Should he not immediately dismatle it?
      Did he return 3 million dollar award he accepted last year from Yuri Milner, a supporter of Israel and a…

      Maybe one advantage of not being a politician, diplomat or nation is that you can screw up, act out of ignorance or self-interest, be inconsistent and act out of conviction whether you’re right or wrong. It can be hard to turn down big prizes (Obama has the rest of his life to earn the one he got), especially if you think you deserve them.

      • In reply to #22 by A3Kr0n:

        In reply to #6 by Malgorzata:
        There’s over 4 million Palestinians that have been in prison all their life through no fault of their own.
        Absolutely disgusting apartheid Nazi regime. And the 4 million number comes from…?

    • In reply to #7 by Graham1:

      Oooh – nasty rotten old Israel again – the democracy where Palestinians who live in Israel have more rights and freedoms than than they do in their own wretched Islamic nation.

      It’s not the policies within Israel itself, it is the settlement building on Palestinian territory in the West Bank, the denial of due process for Palestinians arrested by the Israeli army, the maltreatment and sometimes torture of Palestinian prisoners, and the complete control/blockade of imports into Gaza and the West Bank and the complete control over Gaza and Westbank airspace that are not defensible.

      • In reply to #10 by Axulus:

        It’s not the policies within Israel itself, it is the settlement building on Palestinian territory in the West Bank

        Quoting another discussion:

        “I suspect that you know too little about them. Did you know, for example, that since Oslo Accord very few new settlements were established, except illegal ones, which are often destroyed by IDF on court orders (Israeli court, that is). Did you know that the percentage of West Bank area taken by those Israeli settlements is about 2% (two percent)? Did you know that most of them are in vicinity of armistice line from 1967 on land either belonging to Jews who were expelled by Jordanian army 1948, or on land which was not used and did not belong to any private person? Did you know that in all negotiations it was understood that in the final (nomen omen) settlement those places will belong to Israel? Did you know those houses about which there is so much talk now are to be built INSIDE existing Israeli settlements?”

        So what were you saying again?

    • In reply to #7 by Graham1:

      Oooh – nasty rotten old Israel again – the democracy where Palestinians who live in Israel have more rights and freedoms than than they do in their own wretched Islamic nation.

      Hmmm, are you sure that non Jewish, Arab citizens of Israel enjoy the same rights and privileges as the the entire population? If you look on the front page for RDFRS News the story beside this one reminds us that not even women enjoy equality in Israel. I think democracy is defined as equal rights for all citizens.

      • In reply to #12 by lindawardselbie:

        In reply to #7 by Graham1:

        Oooh – nasty rotten old Israel again – the democracy where Palestinians who live in Israel have more rights and freedoms than than they do in their own wretched Islamic nation.

        Hmmm, are you sure that non Jewish, Arab citizens of Israel enjoy the same rights and privileg…

        Hmmm, pretty much, yes- was he not comparing the rights of Arab citizens of Israel with their rights
        ‘in their own wretched Islamic nation’ ?

        You seem to have missed the content of the article you refer to—

        “Weinstein explicitly ordered Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, Health Minister Yael German and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz to eliminate the exclusion of women from the public sphere

      • In reply to #12 by lindawardselbie:

        If you look on the front page for RDFRS News the story beside this one reminds us that not even women enjoy equality in Israel.

        What news story was that? Why do they not enjoy equality in Israel?

        I think democracy is defined as equal rights for all citizens.

        Norway is not a democracy then, since men are required to do their one year of military service there while it’s voluntary for women?

  4. Shouldn’t he boycott CERN as well, for allowing the Israelis to participate and accepting money from the Israeli government for funding of CERN? Yet he has been more than happy to visit CERN on multiple occasions.

    I don’t think an academic conference is necessarily the most rational thing to boycott, given that a majority of academics in Israel oppose the government policies towards the Palestinians, and these academics are not representatives of the Israeli government.

  5. Putting Truth to Conscience to Knowledge, for they all share the same bed.

    I admire you for your integrity, Professor Stephen Hawking, amongst your many other virtues!

    Politically-correct is this man not!

  6. British physicist Stephen Hawking has dropped plans to attend a major international conference in Israel in June, citing his belief that he should respect a Palestinian call to boycott contacts with Israeli academics.

    The problem with the idea of boycotting Israel academically is that it would probably harm the rest of the world a lot more than it would Israel.

  7. There is not time or energy to protest everything. You protest the where you believe you might precipitate a change. Hawking’s choice of where to protest is a compliment to Israel and slap to China. There is also the matter preserving one’s conservative credentials. If you protest everything, it is no longer news when you protest anything.

  8. In reply to #7 by Graham1:

    Oooh – nasty rotten old Israel again – the democracy where Palestinians who live in Israel have more rights and freedoms than than they do in their own wretched Islamic nation.

    Hmmm, are you sure that non Jewish, Arab citizens of Israel enjoy the same rights and privileges as the the entire population? If you look on the front page for RDFRS News the story beside this one reminds us that not even women enjoy equality in Israel. I think democracy is defined as equal rights for all citizens.

    • In reply to #18 by lindawardselbie:

      Hmmm, are you sure that non Jewish, Arab citizens of Israel enjoy the same rights and privileges as the the entire population? If you look on the front page for RDFRS News the story beside this one reminds us that not even women enjoy equality in Israel.

      If 50% of the population is persecuted, for sure the 20% Arab population is also persecuted, along with the 5% gay population and with the 1% stamp collector population. It’s just straightforward extrapolation.

    • You ask if the poster is sure what they haven’t said is true. The poster said they have more rights than they would have in an islamic country, not that they had equal rights within israel. In reply to #18 by lindawardselbie:

      In reply to #7 by Graham1:

      Oooh – nasty rotten old Israel again – the democracy where Palestinians who live in Israel have more rights and freedoms than than they do in their own wretched Islamic nation.

      Hmmm, are you sure that non Jewish, Arab citizens of Israel enjoy the same rights and privileg…

  9. The “Palestinian Civil Society’s call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights” (BDS) has three simple demands:

    1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
    2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
    3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

    They are entirely in line with the official positions of the EU and the US on the subject. It is very strange that people are so up in arms about Prof. Hawking’s decision considering it reflects pretty uncontroversial views. The only discernible difference seems to be that BDS applies pressure where the EU and US have wasted decades paying lip service.

    • In reply to #24 by mb_77:

      The “Palestinian Civil Society’s call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights” (BDS) has three simple demands:

      Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
      Recognizin…

      The PLO Charter http://www.iris.org.il/plochart.htm

      PLO and Arafat have ducked and weaved, promising to reform this document but never actually doing so.

      [Article 21: The Arab Palestinian people, expressing themselves by the armed Palestinian revolution, reject all solutions which are substitutes for the total liberation of Palestine and reject all proposals aiming at the liquidation of the Palestinian problem, or its internationalization.]

      Hamas/Hizbullah Charters are more extreme, calling for another ‘Final Solution’ and annihilation of Israel. Arab supporters pre-suppose that ‘Israel’ is ‘Arab’ land, even though Jewish tribes existed there long before the Islamic invasion of the mid-7th century.
      It is self-evident that Palestinians are pawns in the power game and that no solution that involves Israel’s survival is acceptable to their ‘representatives’

      • In reply to #25 by 1bewildered1:

        Nothing in your reply voids the right of individuals to be free of occupation, colonization, violation of fundamental rights, denial of full equality and in the case of refugees to return to their homes.

        • In reply to #26 by mb_77:

          In reply to #25 by 1bewildered1:

          Nothing in your reply voids the right of individuals to be free of occupation, colonization, violation of fundamental rights, denial of full equality and in the case of refugees to return to their homes.

          What refugees? The Jewish refugees who were ethnically cleansed from the West Bank in the 40s, and are now returning, yet you people keep talking about how bad that is?

          Or are you referring to the millions of Palestinians who are claimed to be refugees, when the fact is that less than 1 million of them left Israel when the Arabs attacked?

  10. In reply to #27 by kamel:
    However, he definitely chooses to boycott what is least inconveniet to him. In that he is no different from Omar Barghutti, the founder of BDS movement who happily studied at the Israeli university while calling everybody else to boycott Israel, or like those people who refuse to buy agricultural products (harming also the Palestinian farmers) but used their firewalls, mobile phones and Israeli medicines without second thought. I was not talking about Professor Hawking integrity but about his hypocrisy.

    • In reply to #28 by Malgorzata:

      In reply to #27 by kamel:
      However, he definitely chooses to boycott what is least inconveniet to him. In that he is no different from Omar Barghutti, the founder of BDS movement who happily studied at the Israeli university while calling everybody else to boycott Israel, or like those people who ref…

      It is possible that people reject total economic boycotts on principle. I certainly do and it has nothing to do with convenience.

      • In reply to #36 by mb_77:
        “It is possible that people reject total economic boycotts on principle.”

        Economic boycotts are indeed a form of “collective punishment” on society as a whole, and tend to most adversely affect the poorest and most innocent people in that society.

        Ask anyone in Gaza.

        However, the academic boycott is something rather different. It is not trying to starve a population into cowed submission. It is more about saying until your country decides to behave like a modern civilized nation which has a proper respect for human rights, I will have nothing to do with it. Sporting and cultural boycotts can serve a similar role, without inflicting major hardship on the population.

        Here in Britain, after some campaigning, some supermarkets are insisting on differential labelling for goods produced in Israel and those produced in the West Bank (formerly often labelled “Israeli”). The UK government issued advice that this was best practice, although it does not as yet have legislative force. This month, the EU recommended there should be EU-wide legislation to this effect. This would appear to be a sensible way to enable individuals to make a more targeted form of protest if they so choose.

        South Africa has actually banned imports of West Bank (but not Israeli) produce.

        • In reply to #40 by Stevehill:

          However, the academic boycott is something rather different. …

          We are in complete agreement.

          The argument that I was replying to was that a targeted boycott is hypocrisy and tainted by being too “convenient”. Only a total boycott is a good boycott for some.

          But it is neither hypocrisy to use Israeli products (The boycott doesn’t criticize trade with Israel. It criticizes Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.) nor is it merely convenient (There are good reasons for selective boycotts, e.g. changing the public perception of the targeted party).

          • In reply to #42 by mb_77:
            Oh, how convenient! So for your selective boycott you are choosing what’s least inconvenient for you, just in order to change public perception of the targeted party. And you choose the party to target not by consistent criteria, for example severity of human right abuses, but by your likes and dislikes. And, of course, you do not understand how anybody can call this hypocrisy.

          • In reply to #43 by Malgorzata:

            In reply to #42 by mb_77:
            Oh, how convenient! So for your selective boycott you are choosing what’s least inconvenient for you, just in order to change public perception of the targeted party.

            I pointed out that there are other reasons why one could select this kind of boycott. You chose to ignore that and repeat your evidence-free claim that you know Prof. Hawking’s motivation for choosing this type of boycott. There is little progress to be made in this discussion as long as you replace facts with gut feelings and apply your arbitrary definition of what is “convenient”.

            And you choose the party to target not by consistent criteria, for example severity of human right abuses, but by your likes and dislikes.

            If you can point me to mainstream press reports in the UK that describe Iran or China as exemplary democracies with excellent human rights records then I agree with you that equal efforts should be made to raise the public consciousness to the fact that such portrayals are inaccurate.

          • In reply to #45 by mb_77:
            This reminds me about th replay I got from an authoritative source in Polish Catholic Church when I asked why the Church excomunicated the mother of a 9-year old girl, raped by her stepfather, who took the girl to have an abortion, as well as the doctor who performed it, but didn’t excommunicate the rapist. The answer was: everybody knows that rape is bad, so there is no need for the Church to condemn the rapist. But we have to influence the public opinion and show how evil abortion is, so, of course, the mother and the doctor had to be excommunicated. Sorry, for me this is just hypocrisy.

          • In reply to #46 by Malgorzata:

            In reply to #45 by mb_77:
            This reminds me about th replay I got from an authoritative source in Polish Catholic Church when I asked why the Church excomunicated the mother of a 9-year old girl, raped by her stepfather, who took the girl to have an abortion, as well as the doctor who performed it, bu…

            So in your analogy a woman’s right to an abortion is the equivalent of decades of occupation, colonization, violation of fundamental rights and denial of full equality that BDS criticizes Israel for? And China and Iran are the ones who caused the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians? Presumably by raping Israel? And excluding a family from their community is equivalent to avoiding having your name used for state propaganda events? Flawed analogies are not a substitute for fact based arguments.

            Also, how could you possibly believe that Israel, a state with nuclear weapons and one of the most powerful armies in the world, could be equated to the powerless victims of the Catholic Church? Apparently far more actions like that of Prof. Hawking are needed to shift the public’s perception of the power balance in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

          • In reply to #48 by mb_77:

            In reply to #46 by Malgorzata:
            Also, how could you possibly believe that Israel, a state with nuclear weapons and one of the most powerful armies in the world…

            I am sure you mean Middle East, don’t you? The Israeli army would probably win any match against any country in the region. But you know as well as me that this is not War World Cup qualifiers, Middle Eastern group, in which all compete for the first place:
            1. Israel
            2. Iran
            3. Saudi Arabia
            4. Egypt
            5. Syria
            After very disputed matches between all the participants, Israel came first again by a very small margin.

          • In reply to #48 by mb_77:
            I didn’t suspect that it would be so difficult to understand the analogy. I will try to explain. Even if your accusations of occupation, colonization and denial of full equality were true (they are not), you cannot deny that occupation, colonization and denial of full equality are going on in the world elsewhere, and with much greater ferocity: occupation of Tibet with many, many more victims, colonization by Iran of Ahwaz, discrimination of women, hanging of gays, persecution of religious minorities with death sentences or long imprisonment (to stay just with Iran and China and not mention Syria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia etc. etc.). Nothing like it in Israel where there is not even a death sentence in the penal code. What this analogy was suppose to show was hypocrisy of choosing one country – and not the worst country in the world – for opprobrium while staying silent about the worse crimes of the others with the motivation “everybody knows it’s bad”. With this reasoning there are well over 400 UNHRC resolutions condemning Israel and only a tiny handful for the rest of the world; frequent condemnations of Israel by EU, and only a few of the rest of the world; BDS action against Israel and no BDS action against anybody else. All those condemnations and actions by world organizations and prominent individuals really influence public opinion and the result is a false picture of Israel as the worse criminal state in the world – and this is plainly false.
            You have a strange vision of Israel as a superhuman power: all in all there are 8 million Israelis (6 million Jews, 1,5 million Arabs and other minorities); Arab countries have over 300 million people, and even Egypt and Jordan, which have peace treaties with Israel, seem very hostile. There is Iran with additional tens of millions and possibly nuclear weapon soon – and a promise to “excise this cancerous growth” made by both religious and civilian leadership of this country, and you imagine that those 8 million people can somehow be a threat to them all.
            Maybe this analysis by Eve Garrard would help you understand: http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2013/05/the-pleasures-of-anti-semitism-by-eve-garrard.html

          • In reply to #48 by mb_77:

            denial of full equality

            What denial of full equality? Since when were foreigners supposed to get full equality in a country? Foreigners do not have full equality in any nation on this planet.

      • In reply to #36 by mb_77:

        It is possible that people reject total economic boycotts on principle. I certainly do and it has nothing to do with convenience.

        I can definitely see why one would, being on the receiving end is not much fun. However, at least economic boycotts encourage innovation. In South Africa’s case our clever scientists worked out how to make oil from coal.

  11. A thought experiment:

    Say one of the recognized great thinkers of their time decided to boycott a conference in their field that was held in Apartheid South Africa in the late 20th century, or in the US when it was in the thrall of genocidal Manifest Destiny in the 19th. Would that have been a legitimate expression of values? Perhaps it wouldn’t have been seen as such at the time, but it would have washed out on the right side of history. You can wax happy-slappy about Israel as a democracy, but it’s about as democratic as was the US South in the eight decade Jim Crow era.

    }}}}

    • In reply to #29 by Ted Foureagles:
      So I understand that China (occupation of Tibet), Turkey (occupation of Cyprus), Sudan (genocide), Saudi Arabia (gender and religious apartheid), Egypt (persecution and ethnic cleansing of Christians) and a long list of other countries are so much better than U.S. in the eight decade Jim Crow era. Only one country is equal or worse. Only one country should be singled out and condemned. But could you possibly make another thought experiment and explain, why such an unequal treatment?

  12. Academia generally, but science specifically, is supposed to be above things like politics. Science is a global endeavour which transcends borders, culture, race, and religion. There is no such thing as “Jewish science”, science is science.

    And yes, in case anyone was wondering. As much as I hated apartheid, I still think that the academic boycott of South Africa was wrong. It made our society even more insular and exposed it to far fewer new ideas.

    • In reply to #32 by BroughtyBoy:

      Reading through these comments it strikes me that academic boycotts are (in every respect) ‘academic’.

      Academics determine the fate of humanity. That is why it is so crucial we do not allow politics to undermine academia.

  13. In reply to #35 by kamel:

    I think it makes perfect sense that prof hawking chooses to stay away from the murky worlds of religious and political propaganda.

    But he didn’t, did he? He had no problems visiting Iran and China. Does it means he endorses hanging gays, persecuting religious minorities and opposition, torturing people, theocracy and calling another country “a cancer which must be excised” by Iran, as well as occupation of Tibet, lack of freedom and persecution of opposition by China? He just jumped into the murky world of propaganda by boycotting Israel.

  14. In reply to #35 by kamel:

    I think it makes perfect sense that prof hawking chooses to stay away from the murky worlds of religious and political propaganda.

    Stay away? Did he say that he’s not comfortable with the conference agenda, so he’d rather stay away? No, he is BOYCOTTING! What can be a more political statement?

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