As can be imagined there have been a wide range of Israeli responses to Stephen Hawking’s decision to boycott the Israeli Presidential conference. While it would be a stretch to imagine a majority of Israelis would support the move, the baseness of some of the right wing responses is still rather shocking.
Israeli Presidential Conference Chairman, Israel Maimon issued a response on Facebook:
“the academic boycott against Israel is in our view outrageous and improper, certainly for someone for whom the spirit of liberty lies at the basis of his human and academic mission. Israel is a democracy in which all individuals are free to express their opinions, whatever they may be. The imposition of a boycott is incompatible with open, democratic dialogue.”
Settler news service Arutz Sheva asks “Would Stephen Hawking Survive Under an Arab Regime?“:
Professor Hawking certainly knows that researchers at Tel Aviv University have launched clinical trials on a revolutionary new technology intended to protect the human brain from neurodegenerative disorders such as the one from which the famous scientist suffers and that at Ben Gurion University, they have found an enzyme that so far delays Lou Gehrig’s disease in mice.
Would Professor Hawking boycott a possible Israeli breakthrough in treating the disease?
Or more to the point –
Would Professor Hawking ever survive in any Arab country or under the Palestinian autocracy he shamefully defends?
While in the Arab world disabled people have been called “the invisibles,” because they are segregated and hidden from the public eye, Israel’s work with illness and disabilities would merit a book in itself.
The Israeli “lawfare” organization Shurat HaDin takes the cake. The organization called on Hawking to “pull out his Intel Core i7 from his tablet” which enables him to communicate because the chip was designed by a Israeli lab.
The Guardian reports:
According to Shurat HaDin, an Israel law centre which represents victims of terrorism, the equipment has been provided by the hi-tech firm, Intel, since 1997.
“Hawking’s decision to join the boycott of Israel is quite hypocritical for an individual who prides himself on his whole intellectual accomplishment. His whole 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,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Shurat HaDin.
Intel could not be reached for comment, but their website quotes Justin Rattner, chief technology officer, as saying earlier this year: “We have a long-standing relationship with Professor Hawking.” He added: “We are very pleased to continue to … work closely with Professor Hawking on improving his personal communication system.”
It hasn’t just been the right-wing that has lashed out at Hawking. Liberal Zionist Haaretz writer Carlo Strenger takes Hawking to task in an open letter:
Professor Hawking: how can you and your colleagues who argue for an academic boycott of Israel justify your double standard by singling out Israel? You are simply denying that Israel has been under existential threat for most of its existence. To this day Hamas, one of the two major parties in Palestine, calls for Israel’s destruction, and its charter employs the vilest anti-Semitic language. To this day hardly a week goes by in which Iran and its proxy Hezbollah do not threaten to obliterate Israel, even though they have no direct conflict with Israel about anything.
Singling Israel out for academic boycott is, I believe, a case of profound hypocrisy. It is a way to ventilate outrage about the world’s injustices where the cost is low. I’m still waiting for the British academic who says he won’t cooperate with American institutions as long as Guantanamo is open, or as long as the U.S. continues targeted assassinations.
In addition to the hypocrisy, singling out Israel’s academia is pragmatically unwise, to put it mildly. Israel’s academia is largely liberal in its outlook, and many academics here have opposed Israel’s settlement policies for decades. But once again, British academics choose the easiest target to vent their rage in a way that does not contribute anything constructive to the Palestinian cause they support.
+972’s Noam Sheizaf responds to Strenger in a strong post titled “Stephen Hawking’s message to Israeli elites: The occupation has a price“:
I will not go into all of Strenger’s rationalizations for the occupation – his claims that the Palestinians answered Israel’s generous peace offers with the second Intifada; that as long as Hamas is in power there is nobody to talk to, that Israel is fighting for its survival against an existential threat, and so on. I don’t think that a fact-based historical analysis supports any of these ideas, but Strenger is entitled to his view. If you think the occupation is justified, or at least inevitable, you obviously see any action against it as illegitimate and uncalled for.
Yet the thing that made Prof. Strenger jump is not “any action” but rather something very specific – the academic boycott. Personally, I think that his text mostly portrays a self-perception of innocence. Israel, according to Strenger, doesn’t deserve to be boycotted and the “liberal academics” – like himself – specifically, don’t deserve it because they “oppose the occupation.”
At this point in time, I think it’s impossible to make such distinctions. The occupation – which will celebrate 46 years next month – is obviously an Israeli project, to which all elements of society contribute and from which almost all benefit. The high-tech industry’s connection to the military has been widely discussed, the profit Israeli companies make exploiting West Bank resources is documented and the captive market for Israeli goods in the West Bank and Gaza is known. Strenger’s own university cooperates with the army in various programs, and thus contributes its own share to the national project.
I would also say that at this point in time, paying lip service to the two state-solution while blaming the Palestinians for avoiding peace cannot be considered opposing to the occupation, unless you want to include Lieberman and Netanyahu in the peace camp. We should be asking ourselves questions about political action as opposed to discussing our views: where do we contribute to the occupation and what form of actions do we consider legitimate in the fight against it?
Prof. Stephen Hawking responded to a Palestinian call for solidarity. This is also something to remember – that the oppressed have opinions too, and that empowering them is a worthy cause. In Strenger’s world, the occupation is a topic of internal political discussion among the Jewish-Israeli public. Some people support it, some people – more – are against it; the Palestinians should simply wait for the tide to change since “it is very difficult for Israeli politicians to convince Israelis to take risks for peace.” And what happens if Israelis don’t chose to end the occupation? (Which is exactly what they are doing, over and over again.) I wonder what form of Palestinian opposition to the occupation Prof. Strenger considers legitimate. My guess: none (code phrase: “they should negotiate for peace”).
It’s well worth reading the whole post here.