'Chomsky pushed Hawking to boycott Israel event'

'Guardian': American-Jewish intellectual among academics who lobbied Hawking to pull out of Israeli event over Palestinian issue.

May 11, 2013 09:35
2 minute read.
Noam Chomsky and Grand Ayatollah

Chomsky with Ayatollah (R370). (photo credit: REUTERS)


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American Jewish linguist and outspoken Israel critic Noam Chomsky was among a group of 20 academics who lobbied British physicist Stephen Hawking to boycott next month’s President’s Conference in Jerusalem, The Guardian reported on Friday.

Chomsky joined British academics in telling Hawking they were “surprised and deeply disappointed” that he had accepted the invitation to speak at the conference in Israel,” according to the newspaper.

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Jonathan Rosenhead, chairman of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, convinced Chomsky to endorse a letter to Hawking pushing him to change his mind and boycott the June 18-20 conference.

“Israel systematically discriminates against the Palestinians who make up 20 percent of its population in ways that would be illegal in Britain,” its treatment of the people of Gaza amounts to “collective punishment,” the construction of Jewish settlements breaches the Geneva convention and “Israel places multiple roadblocks, physical, financial and legal, in the way of higher education, both for its own Palestinian citizens and those under occupation,” the Guardian quoted the letter as saying.

“Israel has a name for the promotion of its cultural and scientific standing: ‘Brand Israel.’ This is a deliberate policy of camouflaging its oppressive acts behind a cultured veneer,” the letter continued.

Hawking informed the conference’s organizers on Wednesday that he was withdrawing his participation in the event, in support of the academic boycott of Israel.

“I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics,” he said in a letter to the organizers. “They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this I must withdraw from the conference.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu slammed Hawking for joining the boycott against Israel and cancelling plans to attend President Shimon Peres’s conference, saying the celebrated physicist should “study the facts.”

Asked by The Jerusalem Post about Hawking’s boycott at a press briefing, Netanyahu said, “He should investigate the truth, he is a scientist. He should study the facts and draw the necessary conclusions: Israel is an island of reason, moderation and a desire for peace.”

Conference organizers are expecting a record attendance of 5,000 participants, including some of the world’s smartest people, leaders of the largest global technological companies, internationally renowned academics, Nobel Prize laureates, celebrated artists and past and present heads of state.

Former US president Bill Clinton is to be awarded with the Presidential Medal of Distinction at the conference.

Other statesmen who are set to join Peres in celebrating his ninth decade include former president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, former British prime minister Tony Blair, who attended all four previous Presidential Conferences, and Prince Albert of Monaco.

Jonny Paul and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

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