The world’s most famous scientist has withdrawn from an annual conference to be hosted by Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, citing Israel’s mistreatment of neighboring Palestinians as the cause. Hawking had originally accepted Peres’ invitation and was scheduled to headline the event which will also serve as the president’s birthday celebration. “While journalists named [Hawking] ‘the poster boy of the academic boycott’,…Ha’aretz, the most progressive of the Israeli press, drew attention to the inflammatory language used by the conference organisers, who described themselves as ‘outraged’ rather than that they ‘regretted’ Hawking’s decision.”
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What’s the Big Idea?
Hawking is the most public figure yet to join the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel, which began publicly in 2005 as a broad-based rights coalition to protect the interests of Palestinian citizens including refugees, those under occupation, and those living in Israel. Prior to the BDS, an academic boycott of Israel was started in England in 2002, and Hawking now joins their ranks as well. Criticism of the boycott, however, is especially strong in academic circles where a free exchange of ideas–unencumbered by political strategizing–is of utmost value.