In my opinion, this is not just about Stephen Hawking, but about the prevailing mindset that surrounds the man. The BDS movement is pure antisemitism, nothing more, and I dare anyone to prove to me otherwise. Go straight to the comments if you disagree, I’ll publish the full debate in a separate post.
The professor is hypocritical and wrong to boycott Israel when he has visited China and Iran
Stephen Hawking’s decision to join the academic boycott of Israel is worse than a mistake: it is a crime. By humiliating President Peres, who had invited him as an honoured guest, the world’s most renowned scientist has delighted anti-Semites everywhere and boosted a campaign that aims to eradicate the Jewish state.
Professor Hawking’s intellectual achievements, his lifelong struggle with motor neurone disease, above all his indomitable courage in the face of unimaginable adversity, have won him universal admiration. His Brief History of Time introduced millions to the mysteries of modern cosmology. Such fame brings with it power and responsibility. Scientists, like other public intellectuals, cannot plead naiveté when they put their reputations on the line for a political cause.
Albert Einstein, the most celebrated scientist of his day, used his influence to mobilise the free world against the Nazis and to champion the right of the Jewish people to their own state. When Andrei Sakharov, the greatest scientist in the Soviet Union, realised that the empire he had been serving was evil, he became a dissident and dedicated his life to the cause of liberty.
Professor Hawking enjoys prestige comparable to that of Einstein and Sakharov. He could have used it in the same cause, for there is no shortage of tyrants in the world today. He could have set an example to his fellow academics by paying tribute to Israel — a small nation that, per capita, makes a greater contribution to science than any other. The professor himself communicates using an Intel Core 17 microchip designed in Israel.
Instead, he joined forces with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS), which demonises Israel as a “colonial” entity with no right to exist. One of its supporters, Ali Abunimah, wrote exultantly that “Hawking’s decision to respect BDS may be seen as a turning point — the moment when boycotting Israel … went mainstream”. Mr Abunimah’s website, Electronic Intifada, has run articles claiming that the Jewish state is worse than apartheid South Africa and comparable to Nazi Germany. This is the company that Professor Hawking is now keeping. British universities are the seminaries of this poisonous movement: their institutions and resources are being used by academic extremists to promote it.
Of course, Israelis are thick-skinned and used to ignorant criticism by celebrities. Professor Hawking’s endorsement of BDS, however, takes delegitimisation on to a different intellectual plane. He says that he cannot set foot in Israel because “the policy of the Israeli Government is likely to lead to disaster”. What does he think about Syria, where a disaster has already happened, a civil war that has already killed more people than all the Arab-Israeli conflicts combined?