Stephen Hawking in 2010.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
If world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking finally wins a Nobel Prize, more than four decades after developing his theory of black holes, he will have Israel to thank for it. Yes, a professor at the Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa claims to have verified Hawking’s hypothesis. In a paper posted on the physics website arXiv.org, Jeff Steinhauer described how he had simulated a black hole in the laboratory and witnessed the process that Hawking’s equations predicted.
As someone who backs the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Jewish state, Hawking is probably just as perturbed as he is elated by Steinhauer’s revelation. On the one hand, there are few pleasures in life as sweet as vindication, particularly for a scientist considered ahead of his time. On the other, someone swayed by very unscientific theories presented as facts by anti-Israel activists necessarily would be hard pressed to feel grateful to the very entity he wishes to shun.
And shun is precisely what Hawking did to Israel in 2013, when he reneged on a commitment to attend and be a key speaker at the fifth annual Presidential Conference in Jerusalem. Though his office claimed ill health was at the root of his cancellation, a few weeks before the event it subsequently emerged that Palestinian professors had advised Hawking to respect their academic and cultural boycott of Israel by not showing up.
Initially, everyone believed Hawking was unwell. After all, the now 73-year-old with a degenerative motor neuron disease related to ALS (Lou Gehring’s disease) is wheelchair-bound, virtually paralyzed and uses a speech synthesizer for verbal communication. That he is still alive at all, let alone functioning at the level that he is, is miraculous. So the notion that he might have had medical reasons for backing out was both plausible and understandable – until this turned out to be a flimsy excuse for his succumbing to BDS, a very different kind of malady.
At the time, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, founder and president of Shurat HaDin-The Israel Law Center, commented, “Hawking’s decision to join the boycott of Israel is quite hypocritical for an individual who prides himself on his whole intellectual accomplishment. His whole computer-based communications system runs on a chip designed by Israel’s Intel team. I suggest if he truly wants to pull out of Israel he should also pull out his Intel Core i7 from his tablet.”
This was a serious quip, in keeping with an ongoing campaign to call out BDS-ers for not living up to their own propaganda. As one humorous meme that has made the rounds on Facebook illustrates, anybody who really intends to boycott made-in-Israel goods and ingenuity has to be prepared to dwell in a cave, rubbing twigs together for heat. Indeed, Hawking, like his Palestinian apologists, would be living in physical conditions that are as primitive as their political mindset.
This is something they all know, but don’t like to talk about. Just as members of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority send their loved ones to Israeli hospitals for medical care – even while calling for the destruction of the Jewish state – members of the European Union enjoy all the fruits of Israeli labor and know-how, while demanding that merchandise made by Jews in the West Bank be labeled for boycott purposes. Such behavior gives chutzpah a bad name. But it pales in comparison to that of Hawking and the Palestinian professors who have his ear.
What the great icon in the science world ought to know, even if his BDS-supporting friends in academia are not telling him, is that he of all people would have been treated like a pariah in Palestinian and other Arab societies, where deformities are viewed as shameful.
The story I recounted at the time of Hawking’s emergence as a willful ignoramus was about three-and-a-halfyear- old Mohammed al-Farra, born in Gaza with a genetic disease. Because of the seriousness of his condition, he was rushed to a children’s hospital in Israel, where it became necessary to amputate his hands and feet. His mother abandoned him when her husband threatened to take another wife if she refused. The only person who stood by him was his grandfather, who continued to live with him at the hospital. There, the little boy was given a mini-wheelchair designed especially for him, and was taught to use Israeli prostheses. His Israeli doctors not only treated him for years, but raised money to cover the costs of his care – something the Gaza authorities did not agree to do.
Had Hawking resided in any of the cities or villages where his Palestinian colleagues were born and raised, he likely would have died long ago of neglect, medical incompetence and societal scorn. He certainly would not have been heeded along the way. Nor would he have had the tools with which to attempt to be heard. No, he would have been forced to live in an impermeable black hole of existence.
Let us keep this in mind if Steinhauer’s breakthrough leads to a Nobel Prize for Hawking, since the latter is not liable to want to give an Israeli any credit.
The writer is the managing editor of The Algemeiner and a columnist at Israel Hayom.