Stephen Hawking canceled plan to attend Facing Tomorrow 2013 conference angers Israelis

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking canceled plan to attend “Facing Tomorrow 2013,” a prestigious Israeli conference in late June angers the Israelis. His decision not to attend the annual event organized by President Shimon Peres was to protest against Israeli’s 46-year occupation of the Palestinian lands. University of Cambridge spokesman said that Hawking’s decision was solely based on health reasons. Steven Hawking, 71, is a world-renowned physicist who suffers from Lou Gherig’s disease, a motor neuron disease in the brain and spinal cord that made him completely paralyzed for 50 years.

The Israeli Presidential conference is presently on its fifth year, and its goal is to bring together leading experts and statesmen to identify world’s problems, discuss ways to address them and propose solutions.

Stephen Hawking was a frequent attendee of the conference and his recent visit was in 2006. His endorsement to boycott the conference angered the organizers. The conference Chairman, Israel Maimon, expressed his disappointment by saying Hawking’s decision was “unjustifiable and wrong.”

Hawking supports the goal of the Palestinians to create an independent state on the land seized during the 1967 war. The breakdown of peace talks between the two countries in 2010 was over the issue of Jewish settlement building on these lands.

According to Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Shurat HaDin, “Hawking’s decision to join the boycott of Israel is quite hypocritical for an individual who prides himself on his intellectual accomplishment. His 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.”

Stephen Hawking was supposed to be a major speaker at the conference, with former U.S. President Bill Clinton, as well as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. While Hawking’s decision to snub the conference was applauded by his colleagues and contacts, it angered the Israelis who designed the chip that allows him to function.

Cambridge University declined to comment on allegations of Hawking’s hypocrisy regarding his communication system. Intel cannot be reached for comment on the matter, but Intel chief technology officer Justine Rattner, was quoted on the website saying, “We are very pleased to continue to work closely with Professor Hawking on improving his communication system.”

In recent years, numerous figures from the arts and entertainment world, including the U.S. indie rock band the Pixies and British singer Elvis Costello have refused to perform in Israel to help promote the Palestinian cause.

Today, a growing number of supporters will boycott the conference, including Annie Lenox, The Pixies, Elvis Costello, and many others.

Former US President Bill Clinton, Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Mikhail Gorbachev will attend the conference and President Peres’ 90th birthday.

Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas

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