What's a Pro-Boycott Cartoon of Stephen Hawking Doing in a Jewish Paper?

The Forward Should Defend Israel, Not Hypocritical Attackers

eli valley

By Hillel Halkin

Published June 03, 2013, issue of June 07, 2013.
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Would America’s best Jewish newspaper publish a cartoon in support of renowned British physicist Stephen Hawking’s joining the academic boycott of Israel? It would — and it did.

I can think of no other accurate way of describing the prominently featured appearance in a recent issue of the Forward of Eli Valley’s “A Brief History of Hawking’s Hypocrisy.”

It can be contended, of course, that this cartoon was not pro-boycott at all. All it did, one might say, was lampoon accusations made against the totally paralyzed Hawking that he was acting hypocritically, inasmuch as his own life-support system depends on an Israeli-designed computer chip that he did not choose to boycott, too.

But such a contention is disingenuous. Charging Hawking with hypocrisy for not pulling the plug on himself because he has been kept alive by Israeli technology is admittedly a rather poor argument, although perhaps not as poor as all that. (Israeli technology, after all, is not unconnected to research in the Israeli universities that the boycotters wish to treat as pariahs.)

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

It is not, however, the main argument against Hawking or even one of the main arguments in general, and none of his serious critics has claimed that it is. Most have not even mentioned it.

A cartoon that ignores this fact — one implying that Hawking’s disinclination to commit suicide is the main argument against him — is a cartoon that seeks to portray Hawking’s critics as foolish and malicious. And since what Hawking is being criticized for is boycotting Israel, it is a cartoon that portrays opposition to the boycott as foolish and malicious, as well. It is a pro-boycott cartoon.

And in the Forward!

Is it really necessary to make the case in the pages of a Jewish newspaper that no Jewish newspaper, let alone the Forward, should allow the slightest expression of sympathy for the Israel boycott movement to appear in it? Is it necessary to insist on the inherently anti-Semitic nature of this movement? Is it necessary to observe that anti-Semitism should not be condoned, let alone promoted, by the Jewish press?

Apparently, it is.


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