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Is Stephen Hawking right to boycott a high-profile conference in Israel?

(32 Posts)
Riverwalk Wed 08-May-13 12:44:00

I'm no friend of Israel but can't help feeling that it would be better if he attended and spoke his mind.

Also, I wonder what other countries he's visited that have dubious regimes?

Boycott Israel

gracesmum Wed 08-May-13 13:12:36

It's a tricky one. It seems to me he's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. Boycotts as opposed to attending and speaking one's mind are always difficult. Would he be able to speak his mind? Is this academic boycott something wider reaching than mentioned in the article? Israel is such a sensitive area (in every sense) anybody who speaks ou against aggressive Zionism seems in danger of being labelled anti-Semitic and we all know that is not the same thing.

LullyDully Wed 08-May-13 14:01:45

I think this should bring publicity to the worst excesses of the Israeli government and restart discussion. I agree with gracesmum

Aka Wed 08-May-13 14:04:02

He has the right to boycott if he so wishes.

JessM Wed 08-May-13 14:20:57

Yes accept, let them publicise he is coming and then drop them in it by backing out. Sounds about right Prof. Sounds like a bit of a self congratulatory junket rather than an academic conference?
And it cannot be easy travelling with his disability - probably easier to go into space than to put up with the indignities of air travel. grin

Lilygran Wed 08-May-13 14:46:51

Seems odd to me that the academic boycott seems only to be targeted on Israel. There are other more repressive regimes.

JessM Wed 08-May-13 14:52:06

But none as influential maybe lilygran with its many wealthy sympathisers who make political donations in the US.

Lilygran Wed 08-May-13 16:22:16

Sounds like conspiracy theory to me

Riverwalk Wed 08-May-13 17:27:22

As the event is an 'Israeli Presidential Conference', as opposed to an academic event, it might have been an opportunity for Prof Hawking to speak out against Israeli excesses.

Eloethan Wed 08-May-13 17:44:19

Yes, I think he's right.

FlicketyB Wed 08-May-13 18:47:31

Israel has a democratically elected government, which implements policies that have the backing of the electors. I do not agree with many of those policies but compared with many other countries that I am sure Stephen Hawking has visited it is a model government.

However I do think there is a difference between attending an academic conference and attending the 'Israeli Presidential Conference' and I think under the circumstances he is right to stay away.

j08 Wed 08-May-13 20:52:33

This is a bit unfair. accusing him of hypocrisy

j08 Wed 08-May-13 20:54:43

I think it's a shame he didn't decide this for himself at the beginning, rather than being persuaded by Palestinian academics. Bit disappointing really.

FlicketyB Wed 08-May-13 20:58:02

But has he joined the boycott or just refused to speak at this conference?

See my post above.

Were I an academic, and I have one in the family so have some understanding of the conference system, I would be willing to attend a conference organised by an Israeli university on a subject of common interest but unwilling to take part in anything that smacked of being a government gala, which the overarching name of this conference suggests it is.

Bags Wed 08-May-13 21:20:03

Makes sense to me, flickety. Who are we to judge anyhow, without knowing all the details? I'm sure he's done what he thinks is right in the circumstances, even if he did have to be persuaded by people more knowledgeable than himself.

nanaej Wed 08-May-13 21:49:43

As someone staunchly pro Palestine I am pleased to see a high profile figure taking a stand against the Zionist regime. We had boycotts for S African apartheid and it did contribute to a change there.

I am not sure he would have been able to speak out against the repressive actions of Israel if he had gone.

JessM Thu 09-May-13 13:36:16

Conspiracy theory lilygran ?
It is hardly a secret that the US has backed Israel enthusiastically over the years and hardly a secret that they do this because there are lots of rich Zionists that have made huge donations to political campaigns. And no secret that the US political system works on the basis of donations to political parties. In order to have a conspiracy theory there has to be some kind of secret element doesn't there?
So not unreasonable to suppose that this is one reason why UK academics are particularly peed off with the Israeli government's version of democracy and single out Israel for a boycott.

Lilygran Thu 09-May-13 16:24:54

Not anti-

Lilygran Thu 09-May-13 16:25:27

Sorry! Not anti-semitism, then?

Riverwalk Thu 09-May-13 17:02:37

No Lilygran I don't think it's anti-Semitism.

Boycotting South Africa wasn't anti-white, just anti-apartheid.

nanaej Thu 09-May-13 17:42:29


I do not hate Jews but I strongly oppose the Zionist policies as do many Jewish people.

JessM Fri 10-May-13 06:47:13

Well no, of course not, lilygran. Anti-Americanism, possibly. A particular version of imperialism.
The UK has a lot to answer for in the role they played in setting up the state of Israel on land that was owned and occupied by Palestinians. Guilt about the holocaust probably played a part at the time I guess. Though I am sure at the time no one envisaged what would follow in terms of trying to expand the original territory. So this may be another reason why academics feel a boycott by UK academics appropriate.
I don't suppose many academics would choose to go to a presidential conference in Zimbabwe either.

Lilygran Fri 10-May-13 12:13:28

It is perfectly true that a lot of Jews oppose the way Palestinian refugees are treated by the Israeli government and I hold no brief for this or for the activities of the 'settlers'. But I do not think the situation is simple or straightforward with 'baddies' on one side and 'goodies' on the other. That is one reason why I suggest a tinge of anti-Jewish sentiment , rather than anti-Israeli, in the academic boycott. The other is that of all the repressive regimes in the world, it is the Israeli government that attracts the attention of the boycotters.

granjura Sun 27-Jul-14 12:59:36

If a huge part of your own land is given to someone else- the best parts even- and then not only you are taken out of your own land forcibly and locked out- but then the parts that were left to you are then occupied forcibly- and the homes left to you bombed - are you a baddie if you defend yourself- Does that make you a 'terrorist'?

Nelliemoser Sun 27-Jul-14 14:00:04

Lilygran Of course its not anti semitic. That is just the sort of propaganda soundbite the extreme Zionists like to claim about anyone who opposes their views.

Like the line that even if you don't agree with the far left Militant tendency or the Red Brigade, or the actors workers revolutionary party you must be a fascist of a bloated capitalist lackey.

Many Jews are appalled by their government's actions in the occupied territories and some have been arrested for saying this in public protests.