Stephen Hawking Boycotts Israeli Presidential Conference; Backlash Ensues

Image: Stephen Hawking Boycotts Israeli Presidential Conference; Backlash Ensues

Friday, 10 May 2013 09:03 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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Stephen Hawking has bowed out of the Israeli Presidential Conference next month, after Palestinian academics urged the world-renowned physicist to boycott the event in protest of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory. His decision has incited vile backlash on Twitter.

Hawking, a professor at Britain's Cambridge University, had previously accepted an invitation to the high-profile conference to be held in Jerusalem in June.

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Though Cambridge University first said Hawking's decision not to attend was because of medical reasons — he's 71 and a quadriplegic — the school said Thursday he would not be attending out of respect for a Palestinian call to boycott contact with Israeli academics.

"A letter was sent on Friday to the Israeli president's office from Stephen Hawking regarding his decision not to attend the Presidential Conference, based on advice from Palestinian academics that he should respect the boycott," a Cambridge University spokesman told CNN.

Conference Chairman Israel Maimon said Hawking's decision is "unjustifiable and wrong."

"The academic boycott against 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," Maimon told reporters, adding that Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Tony Blair plan to attend. "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."

The Israeli Presidential Conference, now in its fifth year, brings together statesmen and leading experts in various disciplines to discuss ways to address the world's problems. The goal, organizers say, is to identify challenges and propose solutions.

Hawking's endorsement of the boycott has prompted a vitriolic response on Twitter.



"The anti-Semite Stephen Hawking can’t even wipe his own a—," one user wrote.

"Someone should release the hand brake when he’s on a hill," another vile post read.

Others condemned the abuse, calling it a "festival of hate."

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