Stephen Hawking Insists He Is Boycotting Israel Academic Meeting Over Politics

Wheelchair-Bound British Physicist Confirms Backing Palestinians

Black Hole: Phycisist Stephen Hawking was expected to appear at a meeting organized by Shimon Peres. But his name was quietly dropped from the list of attendees.
getty images
Black Hole: Phycisist Stephen Hawking was expected to appear at a meeting organized by Shimon Peres. But his name was quietly dropped from the list of attendees.

By Reuters

Published May 08, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The British cosmologist Stephen Hawking has pulled out of a prestigious Israeli conference as part of an academic boycott to protest against Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, Cambridge University said on Wednesday.

After conflicting explanations were given for Hawking’s decision, a spokesman for the British university confirmed that the wheelchair-bound scientist was snubbing the annual event, organised by President Shimon Peres, as part of the boycott.

“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,” the spokesman said.

“We had understood previously that his decision was based purely on health grounds having been advised by doctors not to fly.”

Hawking, who has won international recognition for his work on black holes, had been flagged as a major speaker at the conference, alongside former U.S. president Bill Clinton and former British prime minister Tony Blair.

By snubbing the event, Hawking, author of the best-selling “A Brief History of Time”, has become one of the most prominent scientists to join the boycott movement.

His name was quietly withdrawn from the list of participants this week and the organisers on Wednesday criticised his withdrawal.

“The academic boycott against Israel is in our view outrageous and improper, certainly for someone for whom the spirit of libertylies at the basis of his human and academic mission,” conference chairman Israel Maimon said in a statement.

The British-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign released what it said were extracts of Hawking’s letter to the conference organisers in which he explained his decision.

“I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott,” his letter said, according to the PSC.

“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.”

Numerous figures from the world of art and entertainment have refused to perform in Israel in recent years as part of an effort to promote the Palestinian cause, including British singer Elvis Costello and the U.S. indie rock band the Pixies.

Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2010 over the issue of continued Jewish settlement building on land seized in the 1967 war. The Palestinians want to create an independent state on the captured territories.

The United States is seeking to revive the negotiations.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.