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Stephen Hawking Boycotts Israel in Solidarity with Palestine

(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons)

The world’s most famous scientist has announced that he will boycott an upcoming Israeli conference to show solidarity with Palestinian academics and protest Israeli’s oppressive occupation of Palestine.

The BBC reports that renowned British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is supporting the worldwide academic boycott of Israel on the “unanimous advice” of his Palestinian contacts.

According to a statement published by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP):

Professor Stephen Hawking has declined his invitation to attend the Israeli Presidential Conference Facing Tomorrow 2013, due to take place in Jerusalem on 18-20 June. This is his independent decision to respect the boycott, based on his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there.

Hawking, 71, had originally planned to attend the conference and criticize the Israeli government in a speech, but decided not to travel to Israel. Part of the reason for this is that he is in very poor health.

Hawking joins a growing number of British personalities who have rejected invitations to visit Israel.

Former Pink Floyd front man Roger Waters is the most famous Briton to boycott Israel, accusing the Israeli government of “running an apartheid regime” and “laying waste to most of Lebanon.”

The Israel apartheid analogy has been made by South African apartheid survivor and Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu, as well as his fellow Nobel Peace Prize winners Jimmy Carter, the former US president, and Mairead Maguire, an Irish peace activist. Some critics go even further and accuse Israel of ethnically cleansing Palestinians by continued illegal settler colonization of the occupied West Bank.

In 2010, rocker Elvis Costello cancelled two scheduled concerts in Israel, citing the “deplorable conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians.”

Super-producer Brian Eno, singer Annie Lennox— who described Israel’s 2008-09 Gaza offensive as “pornography of destruction”– and award-winning filmmaker Mike Leigh have also boycotted Israel.

Last year, American music legend Stevie Wonder also canceled a scheduled US fund-raising performance benefiting the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

In the academic world, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland last month became the first European lecturers’ association to back a boycott of Israel, denouncing “Israeli militarism, occupation and apartheid.” In the United States, the Association for Asian American Studies also voted last month to support a boycott of Israeli academic institutions “in protest of the illegal occupation of Palestine,” among other crimes and human rights violations. The group is the first US-based academic association to support the boycot, divestment and sanction (BDS) movement.

The Raw Story reports that although Hawking has visited Israel four times in the past, most recently in 2006, he has since become a vocal critic of the Jewish State’s policies and actions. He called the 2008-09 ‘Cast Lead’ invasion of Gaza “plain out of proportion,” adding that “the situation is like that of (apartheid) South Africa before 1990 and cannot continue.”

Israel supporters reacted angrily to Hawking’s decision to boycott Israel.

“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 Maimon, chairman of the Israeli Presidential Conference, said in a statement.

“Rather than caving in to pressure from political extremists, active participation in such events is a far more constructive way to promote progress and peace,” Daniel Taub, the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom, is quoted by the BBC.

Shurat HaDin, an Israeli legal center that represents victims of terrorism, called Hawking a hypocrite for boycotting Israel while using Israeli technology in his communication system.

“Hawking’s decision to join the boycott of Israel is quite hypocritical for an individual who prides himself on his whole intellectual accomplishment,” a representative of Shurat HaDin is quoted in the Guardian. “His whole computer-based communications system runs on a chip designed by Israel’s Intel team. I suggest if he truly wants to pull out of Israel he should also pull out his Intel Core i7 from his tablet.”

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