Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has decided to withdraw from the fifth annual Israeli president conference headed by Shimon Peres, a pro-Palestinian organization said Wednesday.
“Professor Stephen Hawking has declined his invitation to attend the Israeli Presidential Conference Facing Tomorrow 2013, due to take place in Jerusalem on 18-20 June,” a statement published on the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) website read.
“This is his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there.”
The Israeli Presidential Conference is a near-yearly event created by Israeli President Shimon Peres bringing together high-profile speakers to “engage the central issues that will influence the face of our future.” Past speakers have included former US President Georges W. Bush, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Israeli Presidential Conference officials said Hawking’s decision is seen as “unjustifiable and wrong.”
Hawking has joined a small but growing academic boycott of Israel, becoming its most high-profile member. While he had traveled to occupied Palestinian territories four times, according to The Guardian, he had expressed some criticism of Israeli policy in the past.
In a 2009 interview with al-Jazeera, Hawking urged Israel to open talks with Hamas, and had denounced the ongoing attack on the Gaza Strip.
“If Israel wants peace, it will have to talk to Hamas, like Britain did with the IRA,” Hawking had said. “The situation is like that in South Africa before 1990. It cannot continue.”
Hawking’s withdrawal was met by angry slurs and personal attacks online, but many took to Twitter and Hawking’s Facebook pages to praise his decision.
__title__A user comment on a Stephen Hawking Facebook page