Early on in his career, the now world-renowned British physicist Stephen Hawking felt unfairly slandered when media outlets reported that in reaction to his devastating diagnosis, he had begun to drink heavily. On his website, Hawking relates to these reports, writing that when he learned he was suffering from an incurable disease that would slowly cripple him, he “felt somewhat of a tragic character.”
“I took to listening to Wagner, but reports in magazine articles that I drank heavily are an exaggeration. The trouble is once one article said it, other articles copied it, because it made a good story. People believe that anything that has appeared in print so many times must be true.”
Hawking’s observations about the media are interesting, given that his recently announced support for the campaign to boycott Israel would seem to indicate that he has never realized that the British media tend to see anything that paints Israel in bleak colors as “a good story” that will appear “so many times” that lots of people start to think it “must be true.”
By succumbing to the pressure of BDS activists to cancel his participation in Israel’s upcoming Presidential Conference “Facing Tomorrow 2013,” Hawking has arguably provided a rather depressing contribution to the conference’s theme “The Human Factor in Shaping Tomorrow.” The “tomorrow” envisaged by the BDS leaders who now feel so empowered by Hawking’s support has no room for a Jewish state. Similar to Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, BDS campaigners want a “world without Zionism” – and Hawking may not have a problem with that: In 2007, less than two years after Iran’s regime hosted the notorious “conference” anticipating a “World Without Zionism,” Hawking planned to visit Iran, as the regime’s mouthpiece Press TV proudly announced in May 2007. Apparently, medical problems ultimately prevented him from actually visiting. Some two years later, Hawking denounced Israel’s attempts to put an end to the relentless rocket barrage from Hamas-ruled Gaza in an Al Jazeera interview. Ignoring the fact that Israel had completely withdrawn from Gaza in 2005 and that well over 90 percent of Palestinians were living either under Hamas- or Palestinian Authority-rule, Hawking reportedly talked about a right to resist occupation and endorsed the comparison between Israel and Apartheid-era South Africa. At the same time, however, he described Hamas as “the democratically elected leaders of the Palestinian people” and insisted that Israel had to negotiate with the terror group. Support for Islamist terror groups is indeed not uncommon among BDS advocates. According to a Guardian report, Noam Chomsky “helped lobby Stephen Hawking” to cancel his participation in the conference – and Chomsky is of course not only an ardent admirer of Hezbollah, but he also happily accepted an invitation from Gaza’s Islamic University last fall. Reportedly, Chomsky used his lectures in Gaza to clarify that his ostensible support for a two-state solution was only tactical and that he really had always been a supporter of the so-called “one-state solution” that would do away with Israel as a Jewish state.
Perhaps Professor Chomsky can arrange for an invitation to Professor Hawking?
Beyond lecturing about his academic work and about how much Israel deserves to be boycotted, Professor Hawking could also bring up a subject that should be very close to his heart. As Jonathan Kay has noted in the National Post, Hawking “was one of a dozen eminent individuals who signed the ‘Charter for the Third Millennium on Disability,’ which champions the rights of the world’s 600-million disabled people.” But as Kay points out, people with disabilities usually fare very badly in Palestinian society. According to the Christian charity “Pro Terra Sancta,”
“In Palestine, from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, there is no support in place for children with learning difficulties of for families with disabled children.
In the traditional mindset, disability is still seen as a form of divine punishment and brings shame on the family. It is particularly a problem for females, who struggle to marry and are therefore cast out of society.
Many families choose to isolate disabled family members, not allowing them to leave the house.
This is a very common problem in the independent Palestinian territories, made worse by the complete lack of training programs and facilities for dealing more difficult cases.”
Most recently, Israeli media reported on the sad story of Mohammed al-Farra, a severely disabled toddler who is a victim of the irresponsible practice of family intermarriage. Little Mohammed’s plight was first reported on Israeli TV a few weeks ago. I happened to see the report and, like some other viewers I talked to later, I was very moved to see the charming, lively child who was abandoned by his parents and is now learning to cope without hands and feet in the children’s ward in Israel’s Tel Hashomer Hospital. The fact that I have a sister with Down-Syndrome makes stories about the rejection of handicapped children perhaps more emotional for me, but I would imagine that this is also true for Stephen Hawking – not just because of his own severe disabilities, but also because he reportedly has an autistic grandson. But perhaps it is emotionally more satisfying for Stephen Hawking to slander the country where Palestinian children like Mohammed receive loving and dedicated care as a place that should be boycotted like Apartheid-era South Africa? As Eve Garrard has recently argued: “Antisemitism is much more than a cognitive error. It attracts by providing the deep emotional satisfactions of hatred, tradition, and moral purity.” Stephen Hawking has clearly been fond of the media’s favorite “good stories” about how bad Israel is – and since these stories keep appearing in the media “so many times,” he has apparently concluded that they “must be true.” Last but not least, Hamas has decided that the story of little Mohammed al-Farra mustn’t be true, and they have put out their own entirely predictable version: