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Another landmark: ‘Boston Globe’ honors Hawking’s boycott as nonviolent effort to pressure Israel

on 33 Comments

Friends have been passing around the amazing editorial in The Boston Globe expressing “respect” for Stephen Hawking’s decision to boycott an Israeli conference and honoring the BDS movement. Here’s the editorial:

When the esteemed physicist Stephen Hawking announced his decision to boycott Israel’s Presidential Conference, a gathering of politicians, scholars, and other high-profile figures scheduled for June, the response was as predictable as the movement of the cosmos that inspired Hawking’s career. The conference chair, Israel Maimon, called the move “outrageous and improper,” while Omar Barghouti, a founder of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement that advocates protests against Israeli policies, declared, “Palestinians deeply appreciate Stephen Hawking’s support.”

In fact, the decision to withdraw from a conference is a reasonable way to express one’s political views. Observers need not agree with Hawking’s position in order to understand and even respect his choice. The movement that Hawking has signed on to aims to place pressure on Israel through peaceful means. In the context of a Mideast conflict that has caused so much destruction and cost so many lives, nonviolence is something to be encouraged. That is equally true of attempts to inspire cooperation on the Palestinian side.

Chances for a peaceful solution in Israel and Palestine are remote enough without overreactions like Maimon’s. Foreclosing nonviolent avenues to give people a political voice — and maybe bring about an eventual resolution — only makes what is already difficult that much more challenging.

The editorial  is especially noteworthy for its endorsement of the BDS movement as a nonviolent means of pressuring Israel and of giving “people a political voice”– just ten years after former Harvard President Lawrence Summers smeared a similar effort as anti-Semitic in effect if not intent. The Globe is obviously concerned about Palestinians living under occupation; and its editorial is another big moment in the mainstream discussion, and follows on Ben Ehrenreich’s surprising/stirring defense of Palestinian resistance in the New York Times Magazine in March.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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33 Responses

  1. Mike_Konrad on May 12, 2013, 5:21 pm

    Hawkings should not have gotten involved in this.

    • Bumblebye on May 12, 2013, 6:26 pm

      Should BDS involvement be restricted to near non-entities, or celebs so that you can sneeringly dismiss them?

    • justicewillprevail on May 12, 2013, 6:53 pm

      Who are you to tell him what he can or cannot do? Your repeated denialism is boring, and irrelevant.

    • Blank State on May 12, 2013, 6:58 pm

      “Hawkings should not have gotten involved in this”

      I would be interested in why you say that. Because he is not singing praises for the Jewish State? Because great minds have no business taking moral stands? Because he is respected and his opinion carries weight? Let’s see…eenie meanie…miney moe..who am I gonna listen to…Dershowitz….or Hawkins……

      Kind of a no brainer, ain’t it?

    • Sumud on May 12, 2013, 7:13 pm

      Well that is progress from your previous statement along the line of Hawking should “Not have been brought into this”…

      But you still haven’t explained why, despite repeatedly being asked.

      Hawking is a highly intelligent sentient being, and is free to makes choices as he sees fit. What is your problem with this?

    • Shingo on May 12, 2013, 7:16 pm

      You’ve already said that MK. You have yet to explain why.

    • Talkback on May 12, 2013, 8:22 pm

      Why not? He was invited to Israel and declined for political reasons.

    • Jethro on May 12, 2013, 8:44 pm

      Oooo. How cryptic. Care to elaborate?
      And it’s “Hawking.”

    • Inanna on May 12, 2013, 9:14 pm

      Translation – ‘this is bad for Israel’.

      • Woody Tanaka on May 13, 2013, 1:21 am

        Correction: “This is bad for israel and the usual libels, slanders, slurs, blackmail and other assorted villainy by the zionists that happen whenever anyone criticizes their criminal enterprise or tells the truth about their ethno-religious Apartheid state just isn’t working on Hawking.”

    • seafoid on May 13, 2013, 12:52 am

      BDS is like an opportunistic infection targeting the weakening body of Zionism.
      Israel is bad for Israel. Too much torture and excessive exposure to hasbara make a stone of the heart and turn the critical faculties to mush.

    • Ecru on May 13, 2013, 1:45 am

      Why not?

    • Taxi on May 13, 2013, 4:08 am

      The Nakba “should not have gotten involved in this”.

    • Kathleen on May 13, 2013, 12:10 pm

      No response from Mike Konrad because there is no logical response.

  2. richb on May 12, 2013, 5:23 pm

    Much has been made here and elsewhere concerning how Israel does not make or design the Intel Core I7 supposedly inside of Hawking’s communication device. Here’s a smoking gun where it’s clearly made and designed in Oregon and note the comment by the engineer that not only is the I7 designed in Oregon but also pretty much all of Intel’s research and manufacturing process is in Oregon, too. (at 0:30 in).

    • Light on May 12, 2013, 7:23 pm

      Debunking these claims ends up being a game of wack-a-mole. The first heart transplant was done in South Africa. That didn’t excuse the apartheid there. Even if the Core I7, the cell phone and cherry tomato were invented in Israel (which they weren’t), it wouldn’t justify the Nakba and the ongoing occupation.

    • Henry Norr on May 13, 2013, 12:26 am

      @richb: the “smoking gun” video you link to is about the first chip that Intel marketed as the Core i7, which was codenamed (and known in the industry as) Nehalem. There’s absolutely no doubt it was designed in Hillsboro, Oregon – your video is only one of dozens of authoritative sources attesting to that.

      The problem is that “Core i7” is actually just a marketing term – it’s the brand Intel has since 2008 slapped on its most powerful PC processor at any given point in time, even though the design changes every couple of years. There have now been three generations of chips branded as i7, and while the first was designed in Oregon, the second i7 (“Sandy Bridge) and the third and current version (“Ivy Bridge”) were designed in Israel – specifically, at Intel’s Haifa Design Center. Sandy Bridge was originally codenamed Gesher, after a small, now-defunct party that split off from the Likud.

      A fourth-generation i7, code-named Haswell, is due out next month, and the lead designers of that one apparently were in Oregon, though Intel is said to be moving to a model that moves more collaboration in new designs among its various design centers, and I’m sure the Israelis helped with Haswell.

      So if Hawking has the latest i7 that’s on the open market today, the fact is that it was designed in Israel. But since Intel apparently supplies him with equipment (to make sure he doesn’t adopt something with AMD processors, as he did once before), it’s quite possible that he already has a pre-release “Haswell” i7; if not, he’s likely to get one soon. When he does, he’ll no longer have a chip designed primarily in Israel – until/unless Intel comes out with another one for which Haifa took the lead.

      Politically, all this is meaningless, IMO. It’s indisputable that Intel’s facilities in Israel have made important contributions to the company’s fortunes, especially over the last decade. So what? It’s no excuse for apartheid.

      See my comment at
      for more on the history of the i7 line, including links to Intel sources.

      • richb on May 13, 2013, 10:09 am

        I work for a multinational semiconductor company. The key reason we operate outside the U.S. is cost. Intel was able to build Fab 28 on stolen land and uses stolen water. Israel’s economic “miracle” was wrought on the backs of the occupied indigenous populace. I believe that it would be appropriate to boycott Intel and have them abandon Kiryat Gat. That being said who and what is boycotted is the up to those doing boycotting and even more so the Palestinians who are being oppressed.

        The reason why this is getting legs is because of the overreaction of the Hasbarists. People instinctively see that the accusations against Hawking were overblown and start considering that maybe the other talking points are similarly overwrought. For Dr. Hawking and myself it was our visiting Israel that changed our minds but most people cannot see things first hand so this helps. The real power of BDS is not economic but the moral contrast that it draws.

      • richb on May 13, 2013, 10:40 am

        Another thing is this may push Hawking to boycott Intel also. Are there Palestinian organizations encouraging him to do so? It seems that he is receptive to listening to Palestinian civil society. Hawking boycotting a small conference is largely symbolic but tarnishing the Intel brand would be even more powerful since I’ve seen estimates that Intel contributes 2-3% of Israel’s GDP.

    • Avi_G. on May 13, 2013, 12:52 am


      Much like the Intel i7 chip, Israel also invented the cherry tomato, the cell phone and ……stand by….OK, I’m being told Israel also invented the wheel. We’d all still be riding horses if it weren’t for Israel.

  3. ToivoS on May 12, 2013, 5:35 pm

    This is a major change. With the NY Times corp owning the Boston Globe one would not have thought that the editors would not have been given that much freedom. What does this mean?

    The explanation I prefer is that the lobby has suddenly lost much of its influence. Maybe it was one very courageous editor that is nearing retirement and wants to do the right thing as he leaves. Another factor, is that advertising revenues are not as important to profitability so the paper is less vulnerable to boycotts. Whatever, this represents something new.

    • Ellen on May 12, 2013, 5:43 pm

      The pressure against a dam is gradual and builds slowly, but surely. Sometimes ever so slowly. Then the dam weakens. More and more.

      Pressure builds against this ever-weakened dam. Then the pressure meets no or little resistance as it has become so weak against the prevailing forces. Then the dam suddenly breaks. And it is over.

    • Daniel Rich on May 12, 2013, 8:00 pm

      Totally off topic:

      Q: Maybe it was one very courageous editor that is nearing retirement and wants to do the right thing as he leaves.

      R: Like in ‘a woman wouldn’t be up to it?’

    • on May 13, 2013, 8:04 am

      Not quite like that I don’t believe.

      I read the editorial. I believe the underlying message was that Hawkings’ views are wrong…but he has the right to express them. Pretending to take a liberal stance while actually re-enforcing the official narrative.

  4. Daniel Rich on May 12, 2013, 5:36 pm

    When [and why] nonviolent adds are ‘biased,’ ‘misleading’, ‘fundamentally anti-israel’ and of course… … ‘anti-semetic.’

    “The truth should burn in hell” – Babe Foxman

  5. doug on May 12, 2013, 5:36 pm

    Does the NYT still own the Globe? ( Yes, I see)

    This is encouraging given the multi front pushback attacking Hawking.

    Faster, Please.

  6. Citizen on May 12, 2013, 6:05 pm

    First comment under Boston Globe’s (paid subscriber article):

    05/11/2013 07:31 AM
    Not wanting zionists to lead the rest of the western world around by the nose is not being antisemetic. Israel needs to stop poking the hornests nest with their expanionist settlements. Until they do they are going to keep losing sympathy and support.

    • gingershot on May 12, 2013, 9:21 pm

      The more virulent Zionists are kicking in with comments dripping with all the usual venom…

  7. David Doppler on May 12, 2013, 8:46 pm

    First Hawking, now the Boston Globe. Reasonableness seems to be breaking out all over. Thanks to Mondoweiss, Walt & Mearsheimer, and others who have led the way.

    • just on May 13, 2013, 9:42 am


      (Thanks to President Carter and Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, as well)

  8. seafoid on May 13, 2013, 12:55 am

    The world has been waiting for israel to do the decent thing since oslo.

  9. pabelmont on May 13, 2013, 9:58 am

    “Harvard President Lawrence Summers smeared a similar effort as anti-Semitic in effect if not intent.”

    This is not news, but raises an important question:

    If BDS has multiple effects, and one of them, generally unintended, is an antisemitic effect, but the principal and intended effect is to unwind Israeli imperial control over the Palestinian people and some of their territory, then why should ANY weight be given to the unintended (collateral?!) effect of increasing antisemitism? After all, Israel can cure that effect by correcting its behavior.

  10. NoMoreIsrael on May 13, 2013, 12:45 pm

    This is a baby step forward. We need much more effort directed at confining Israeli leaders and IDF members to their home base out of fear of international arrest. Stop their movement and cut off their oxygen supply. Turn them into North Korea.

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