LONDON – Amidst the uproar over Stephen Hawking boycotting an academic conference in Israel, there are those who say the move should’ve been predicted considering that the British physicist promised not to speak until Palestinians are afforded rights equal to Israelis.
“Citing the senseless, increasing violence between Israel and Palestine, I renounce my ability to converse and express myself,” Hawking announced in 1985. “Until there is a respectful dialogue between both parties that ends in an enduring peace, it is equally senseless for myself to have a voice.”
Adding, “I will, however, use a computer that can speak for me when necessary. It sounds like a robot, but I imagine as technology progresses, its harsh tone will soften and become a bit more pleasant.”
The fifth annual Israeli Presidential Conference brings together statesmen and experts in various disciplines to discuss how to address the global concerns, with the ultimate goal being to find solutions. By boycotting the conference, Hawking becomes one of the most prominent figures to participate in the strategy that, according to organizers, will pressure the Israeli government to reform its treatment of Palestinians.
Chairman of the conference Israel Maimon—no relation—called Hawking’s decision “unjustifiable and wrong.”
“The academic boycott against Israel is in our view outrageous and improper,” said Maimon. “Furthermore, Mr. Hawking only punishes himself by refusing to engage in open, democratic dialogue. You are a coward who hides behind the voice of a machine—a coward, sir.”
Not one to shy away from politics, Hawking is also well known for leading some of the most successful and prolonged sit-ins with the Black Panthers.