Stephen Hawking boycott: British physicist Stephen Hawking has dropped plans to attend a major international conference in Israel in June, citing his belief that he should respect a Palestinian call to boycott contacts with Israeli academics.
The University of Cambridge released a statement Wednesday indicating that Hawking had told the Israelis last week that he would not be attending “based on advice from Palestinian academics that he should respect the boycott.”
The British Committee for the Univerisites of Palestine confirmed, posting on its website that Hawking declined to attend. “This is his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there,” it read.
University officials said they had “previously understood” that Hawking’s decision was based solely on health concerns — he is 71 and has severe disabilities — but had now been told otherwise by Hawking’s office.
The conference, the Israeli Presidential Conference, has traditionally drawn hundreds of the world’s leading figures, including Tony Blair and George W. Bush. Israeli President Shimon Peres is hosting the conference.
The decision means that one of the world’s most famous scientists has joined a boycott organized to protest Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
Hawking’s office may release the letter sent to Jerusalem organizers, but hasn’t yet.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.