Palestine? / Israel? — (Jerusalem) -- Stephen Hawking Boycotts Israeli Conference
Immediately, Israeli Conference Organizers - PROTESTED HIS BOYCOTT.
Dr. Stephen W. Hawking, Ph.D. - University of Cambridge physicist and cosmologist - Supports Academic Boycott of Israel pulled out of high-profile conference planned there for June - To Support Academic Boycott of Israel.
Conference organizers and the university there confirmed soon afterwards.
Protests by international activists were brought into mainstream news this week when Dr. Hawking joined along with other intellectuals, scientists and celebrities.
Activists enjoyed having Dr. Hawking join along with them against Israel's policies of cruel and oppressive treatment toward Palestinians.
Immediately the talking heads amongst intellectuals who side with the Israeli policy showed opposition toward Hawking and activists in the very heated and contentious issues surrounding the boycott.
Dr. Hawking's move to join along with the activists has undoubtedly demonstrated the immediate retaliation of Israel's supporters and their efforts to stifle and put down such actions. His participation is definitely bringing significant attention and help for the anti-Israel campaign.
Organizers of the fifth annual Israeli Presidential Conference, held under the auspices of President Shimon Peres, said they had received a letter over the weekend from Dr. Hawking, a longtime Cambridge professor, announcing his decision.
Cambridge issued a statement indicating that Dr. Hawking had told the Israelis that he would not be attending “based on advice from Palestinian academics that he should respect the boycott,” according to The Associated Press.
Earlier, the university’s director of communications, Tim Holt, said by telephone that Dr. Hawking, 71, had withdrawn from the Israel trip for health reasons.
The university later said it had been told otherwise by Dr. Hawking’s office.
Israel Maimon, the chairman of the conference, strongly criticized the professor’s decision, saying in a statement, “The academic boycott of 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.”
Mr. Maimon, who is a lawyer and a former Israeli government cabinet secretary, added: “Israel is a democracy in which all individuals are free to express their opinions, whatever they may be. The imposition of a boycott is incompatible with open, democratic dialogue.”
Questions: Does Mr. Maimon suppose a boycott not to be an allowed free expression of opinion - whatever they may be?
There was no immediate comment from Mr. Peres’s office.
The Guardian newspaper first reported Dr. Hawking’s change of mind and cited a statement by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, which The Guardian said was published with Dr. Hawking’s approval.
The statement described Hawking's cancellation as, his own "independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there.”
Dr. Hawking last visited Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2006 at the invitation of the British Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Matthew Gould, the British ambassador to Israel, spoke out against this academic boycott as he collected an honorary doctorate from Ben Gurion University of the Negev in December. He's quoted as saying, “We believe that boycotts divide people and reduce understanding… when what we need is to bring people together.”
The Oxford University Student Union decisively rejected a motion supporting a boycott of Israel in a vote in February.
Under pressure from pro-Palestinian activists, a string of high-profile artists have canceled performances in Israel in recent years.
The list includes the Pixies, the American alternative rock band; the British rocker Elvis Costello; and Gil Scott-Heron, the American rap poet and musician who died back in 2011.
Other performing artists, like Elton John, Rihanna, Rod Stewart and Madonna, have demonstrated their support and even given concerts in Israel over the last few years. They are most likely to side with Israel on this, in spite of their continued oppression of the Palestinians.
Barbra Streisand, herself a Jew, is slated to give two concerts in Tel Aviv in June and to perform at the Israeli Presidential Conference in honor of Mr. Peres’s 90th birthday this summer.
The conference, called “Facing Tomorrow 2013,” is billed as a meeting place for exploring the developments shaping the future of Israel, the Jewish people and their world.
Its program includes former heads of state, academics, artists and business executives.
Bill Clinton, former president of the United States is schedule to receive an award from Mr. Peres.
Also listed among the speakers is Munib al-Masri, a Palestinian tycoon from the West Bank city of Nablus. He worked toward promoting internal Palestinian reconciliation.
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