OP-ED: Genius Hawking Displays Hypocrisy on Israeli Academic Boycott

  • By Joseph J. Honick 
Joseph J. Honick

Joseph J. Honick
Despite his health and other physical constraints, Stephen Hawking’s position atop the heap of world’s leading scientists remains unchallenged.   So it is beyond understanding that he would confuse politics and legitimate science in his boycott of Israeli academicians by refusing to participate in a Presidential Conference in Jerusalem in late June to be hosted  by President Shimon Peres. The theme of the meeting is “Facing Tomorrow 2013.”
What compounds the apparent hypocrisy in Hawking’s action is his failure ever to address the wide range of restraints of women’s rights in Arab nations, excesses in dealing with anyone daring to exercise free speech and reneging in producing  promised aid to Palestinians.

Adding to this, Hawking is willing to overlook the massive contributions of Israelis in the world of science, medicine, energy and other important realms.

Hawking claims it is his way to criticize Israeli “treatment of Palestinians.” Apparently Arab historic mistreatment of those calling themselves “Palestinian” was never sufficient to gain the scientist’s review and condemnation.

Originally, Hawking’s decision not to attend the Israeli Presidential Conference, now in its fifth year, was said to be based his health problems. According to Conference Chairman Israel Maimon, “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,” also calling the imposition of a boycott “incompatible with open democratic dialogue.”

For the record, former world leaders, including Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev and Tony Blair plan to attend the three-day meeting that beginsJune 18.  From this writer’s perspective, Hawking’s sudden sensitivity to mistreatment of Palestinians is so sudden as to raise doubts about its sincerity and his own real concerns.  After all, he said nothing when a woman was beheaded by the Saudis just a few months ago, or when the Emirates government started rounding up and arresting men and women for criticizing the government. Even more to the point, Hawking was never  in the forefront of any critical commentary at all on the history of how Palestinians were mistreated in Arab countries both before and since the rebirth of the State of Israel.

Hypocrisy is to be expected from those not steeped in the world of science, people who look more to recognize the achievements of fellow scientists, regardless of nationality or politics, especially those in nations that have produced major advances of recognized contributions in medicine, energy and nanoscience, among other areas, as is the case of Israel.  But, when so someone of Hawking’s stature presumes to lecture  only one nation about social concerns, it is both inappropriate and frankly beneath his dignity.

We looked to see where else Hawking has pointed the finger of criticism as he has here.  Given all the tragedies and mass suffering in places like the Congo, Syria and the Sudan, among others, one might have expected Hawking to be speaking quite openly and energetically on such issues.  And just as strangely, Hawking co-authored a book with Leonard Mlodinow titled “The Grand Design” whose Freudian slip suggests his problems about creation and religion, things that quire  conflict with Palestinians in general and most Arabs or anyone else of religious belief.

Of course, Hawking’s decision was hailed by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine.  Perhaps these same boycotters would also counsel Hawking to renounce any of the medical discoveries by Israeli scientists that are daily saving and improving lives without regard to ethnicity and to urge the BCUP members likewise to demand that Palestinians boycott such treatments for their families as well.

For those, like this writer, who have always seen Stephen Hawking as remote from political entanglements, this decision casts a cloud over him personally despite the genius he has demonstrated otherwise.  When he addresses universal social and human calamities in specifics, perhaps this hypocrisy may be diminished, but it cannot  be erased, no matter what reads here might believe on their own with regard to the Conference.  You see, in Palestinian academic circles and in Arab nations generally, the story of the Nazi Holocaust is not only prohibited from schoolrooms but is generally regarded as not happening.

What will Hawking have to say if  one of the future Conferences has a title something like “Science and the Holocaust”?Honick, president of GMA   International Ltd. Bainbridge Island, WA, is a frequent contributor to many sites, including Huntington News Network.

 
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