Professor Stephen Hawking Supports Israeli Boycott
Stephen Hawking is the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and author of A Brief History of Time which was an international bestseller. Hawking is now Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge.
In 1963, Hawking contracted motor neurone disease and was given two years to live. Yet he went on to Cambridge to become a brilliant researcher and Professorial Fellow at Gonville and Caius College. Since 1979 he has held the post of Lucasian Professor at Cambridge, the chair held by Isaac Newton in 1663. Professor Hawking has over a dozen honorary degrees and was awarded the CBE in 1982. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and a Member of the US National Academy of Science. Stephen Hawking is regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Einstein.
Professor Stephen Hawking has announced his withdrawal from an Israeli conference in Jerusalem, prompting reports that he is supporting an academic boycott on the country.
According to new sources, Hawking was due to appear at the conference, hosted by Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, but his name was recently dropped from the list of speakers.
A statement on the website of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine said: "We understand that Professor Stephen Hawking has declined his invitation to attend the Israeli Presidential Conference, Facing Tomorrow 2013, due to take place in Jerusalem on 18-20 June.
"This is his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there."
Agencies reported that the University of Cambridge, where Hawking works, confirmed the statement had been approved by the professor.
"Outrageous and wrong!"
Israel Maimon, chairman of the Israeli Presidential Conference, said on Wednesday that Hawking's decision was "outrageous and wrong".
"The use of an academic boycott against Israel is outrageous and improper, particularly for those to whom the spirit of liberty is the basis of the human and academic mission."
"Israel is a democracy in which everyone can express their opinion, whatever it may be. A boycott decision is incompatible with open democratic discourse."
'Health Reasons' given as polite excuse
The University of Cambridge, where Hawking works, cited 'health reasons' for the change of plans.
"For health reasons, his doctors said he should not be flying at the moment so he's decided not to attend. He is 71 years old. He's fine, but he has to be sensible about what he can do."
The presidential conference traditionally draws hundreds of leading world figures, including Tony Blair in 2011 and George W Bush in the inaugural conference in 2008.
Numerous figures from the world of art and entertainment have also refused to perform in Israel in recent years as part of an effort to promote the Palestinian cause, including musicians Elvis Costello [top right] and Stevie Wonder, and actors Dustin Hoffman and Meg Ryan.
Israel has also been boycotted by athletes, with basketball star Karem Abdul-Jabbar cancelling a trip in 2012 and Tunisian fencing champion Sara Besbes refusing to take part in a competition in Italy rather than face an Israeli fencer.