Faizel Patel, Radio Islam News- 2013-05-08
Physicist Stephen Hawking has joined the academic boycott of Israel by pulling out of a conference hosted by president Shimon Peres in protest at treatment of Palestinians.
In a display of patriotism for Palestine the 71 year old renowned physicist, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and author of the 'brief history of time' had accepted an invitation to headline the fifth annual president's conference, Facing Tomorrow, in June, which features major international personalities, attracts thousands of participants and this year will celebrate Peres's 90th birthday.
Hawking wrote a letter to Perez explaining he had changed his mind based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there.
Hawking's decision marks another victory in the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions targeting Israeli academic institutions. He had been urged by pro-Palestinian groups to boycott the annual conference, this year planned as part of celebrations but said in the letter he came to the decision 'independently' reported the Guardian
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.
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."
Meanwhile chairman of the presidential conference, Israel Maimon 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, "added Maimon.