It is a great disappointment to all of us that Professor Stephen Hawking has bowed to pressure from Palestinian academics not to attend Israel's Presidential Conference. Professor Hawking is a genius and has affected our way of thinking on the cosmos, physics and mathematics. His brilliant mind, powers of deduction and logic, will always be his legacy for all mankind.
Something has happened to his logic when it comes to attending this conference. Why has his sense of logic that has served the whole world of cosmology and science failed him in this case? He has been to Israel a few times and has always received accolades here.
It is possible that he was under pressure from Palestinian academics, who support BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) and Israel's total destruction. This comes from Prof. Norman Finkelstein, a controversial severe critic of Israel as illustrated in the video clip linked. It is surprising to all of us that Hawking does not realize this or maybe he does.
It is obvious that academic freedom does not exist in the Arab states as it does in Israel. There is no apartheid in Israel and the Israeli Universities have many Arab students and lecturers. Some are even heads of departments and professors.
When one visits an Israeli hospital, one meets many Arab doctors, nurses and pharmacists, who hold senior positions and in many cases are heads of departments as well. (My boss is an Arab Muslim pharmacist - a situation that would never occur in apartheid South Africa before ANC took over power) Most pharmacists in the sick fund clinics and pharmacy chain stores are Arabs. They also excel in other academic spheres such as law and the teaching profession.
Of course the occupation is bad for Israel. Most Israeli academics, to whom Hawking has given the sleight, are against the occupation and rightly so. Many Israeli academics even participate in movements against the occupation and for Palestinian freedom. The Palestinians do deserve a state side by side with Israel and Jerusalem being the shared capital of both states.
The illegal settler policies of the government, with its building policies in the occupied territories, are deplorable and unjustified. Many previous posts of mine are devoted to this subject and I shall not dwell on it here. Suffice it to say, a distinction must be made between the occupation and academic freedom in Israel. Academic freedom in Israel exists and nobody is prevented from attending congresses because of the country from which he comes.
I have been to meetings in this country where Palestinian academics have been invited to participate and address us on topics of which they have expertise.The security situation in Israel is very sensitive because of Islamist Jihadi extremists from Hamas and its allies that wish to infiltrate for the purpose of committing terrorist acts against Israelis. Palestinians, who come to Israel, undergo security clearance and this includes Palestinian academics unfortunately. However, Palestinian academics do get permits to participate in seminars and congresses. It is NOT apartheid, just a matter of security because of terrorist threats that have decreased significantly as the security forces are more beefed up these days than in the past.
If only the security checks were unnecessary. It would be wonderful were there an open border policy between Israel and Palestine so that both peoples could enjoy what each population group has to offer for the common good of both Israelis and Palestinians.
Even Hawking relies on Israeli technology such as the Intel chip that is an essential part of his life supporting equipment and means of communication. It seems illogical when this very brilliant and logical scientist pays heed to Palestinian academics whose goal is the "final solution" - the destruction of Israel. Apart from that these Palestinian academics keep silent on the lack of academic freedom in Palestinian Universities and the absence of human rights and democracy in their country of origin. Surely they are masters of double standards and hypocrisy. There is no other way of looking at it.
Where is Hawking, and for that matter, the moral stand of the rest of the world on the Syrian War, when innocent people are murdered in their tens of thousands on a daily basis? What about l "academic freedom" and "human rights" in Gaza under Hamas and for that manner in the PA controlled West Bank? Why is there no hue and cry on these issues? The brutality of the Syrian Bashar El Assad regime, his Iranian allies Ahmadinajad and Hezbollah of the "great Shiite humanist" Sheik Hassan Nasralla, stoking the flames of hate and bloodshed in Syria and their hope for the destruction of the"Zionist Entity" - Israel. The world says very little about this and, least of all Hawking, who apparently has joined the ignominious group of Israeli academic bashers. So much wasted energy and for what? Palestinian academics preventing Hawking from addressing enlightened Israeli academics, most of whom are against the occupation, is appalling and hypocritical.
It would be wonderful if this brilliant professor would reconsider his decision and come to address the 2013 Presidential Congress.