- (Photo: AP Photo: / PA Wire, David Parry)
Famed British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is drawing rebuke after he announced he would be boycotting an academic conference in Israel that is set to take place in June.
The decision for Hawking to boycott the Israeli Presidential Conference was due to a current Palestinian boycott of Israeli academics. His actions are said to be a show of solidarity, rather than using the event as a platform to express his opinions regarding the current conflict involving both entities.
The decision has drawn the objections of other academics as well as the event's organizers.
"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," conference chairman Israel Maimon said in a statement.
A spokesman for the Fair Play group, which campaigns against boycotts of Israel, was surprised that Hawking did not take the opportunity to express his views of the ongoing conflict.
"Prof. Hawking could have joined the conference and explained his views on the conflict in the region, just as many other participants have done … by boycotting the conference, he has thrown away this opportunity and will help nobody," the representative stated.
Others have charged that the withdrawal was due to the mounting political pressure applied by Palestinian supporters.
"Rather than caving into pressure from political extremists, active participation in such events is a far more constructive way to promote progress and peace," Daniel Taub, the Israeli Ambassador in London, said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said that the criticisms of Hawking were not warranted and that anyone has the right to express their feelings in any manner that may be deemed necessary.
"Many will be taken aback at the extreme reaction among Israel's supporters to the news of Prof. Hawking's support for the Palestinian call for boycott … we urge those opposed to boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions to respect freedom of speech," said the representative.