Tony Greenstein | 15 March 2018 | Post Views:

As chance would
have it I only finished reading ‘Beyond the Black Hole – Stephen Hawking’s
Universe’ a week ago.  Hawking was the greatest
theoretical physicist since Einstein and like him a political radical.  He was not only a brilliant mathematician and scientist but he also applied the scientific principle to the chaotic and unfair society we live in.  Politically he saw the State of Israel as a political black hole, nothing good could ever escape from it.

In particular Hawking was
fiercely committed to the NHS and universal health care [Death
of Stephen Hawking robs campaigners against ‘backdoor NHS privatisation’ of
powerful supporter
]  He sharply disagreed with the lugubrious Minister
of Health Jeremy Hunt over Accountable Care Organisations, a device imported
from the United States which are intended to put a financial cap on the NHS and
thereby ration care.  Hawking was a fierce supporter of the Labour Party
and although he criticised Corbyn he did that having accepted the received
wisdom that Labour would perform disastrously under a Corbyn leadership.

What is most missing from all the
tributes and eulogies is any mention of Israel and Palestine.  Hawking repeatedly made clear his views on Palestine
and in 2013 he withdrew from an academic conference in Israel in deference to
BDS.  He particularly condemned the
murderous bombardment of Gaza in 2009-10, Operation Cast Lead, when 1,400 Palestinians
were murdered by Israel.  As he said at
the time about Israel:
situation is like that of South Africa It cannot continue’
Below are tributes from BDS South
Africa, an article by Ali Abunimah and an article today in Ha’aretz about
Hawking’s relationship to Israel and Palestine.
Tony Greenstein

BDS activists saddened by death of ally, Stephen Hawking

14 March 2018
The human rights and Palestine
solidarity organisation, BDS South Africa, joins fellow Palestinian solidarity
activists from across the globe in expressing our condolences on the passing of
world-renowned physicist and our ally, Professor Stephen Hawking. In
particular our condolences to his friends and family.
We remember Hawking not only for
the brilliance of his scientific mind and achievements but also as an
impassioned campaigner who lent his voice to various causes for justice –
including the Palestinian struggle against Israeli Apartheid.
– In January 2009, during
Israel’s invasion of the Palestinian Gaza Strip, in which more 1000
Palestinians were killed, Hawking said: “A people under occupation will
continue to resist in any way it can…the situation [in Palestine] is like that
in South Africa before 1990, that cannot continue.” Click
here for video.
– In 2013, Hawking withdrew from
an Israeli conference stating that, based on advice from Palestinian academics,
he had decided to respect the BDS academic boycott of Israel. Click here.
– In 2016, through a public video
message, Hawking congratulated Hanan al-Hroub, a Palestinian woman who won the
Global Teacher Prize. “From one teacher to another, you are inspiration to
people everywhere
.” he said. Click here for video.

– Last year in 2017 Hawking used
his Facebook page to support scientists in Palestine, calling for his followers
to donate funds to a Palestinian Advanced Physics School. Click here.

Stephen Hawking, may we
continue where you left, in creating a better more peaceful and just world. As
we continue to pledge out solidarity with the Palestinians and all other oppressed
peoples, we will carry with us your wise words: “Be curious. And however
difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do. It matters that
you don’t give up.”
We will not give up, for the sake of the Palestinians, for
your sake, and for the sake of a better world.
From South Africa, Hamba Kahle,
Comrade Hawking!


Brief History of Stephen Hawking’s Complicated Relationship With Israel

Stephen Hawking was critical of Israel
and supported BDS, but also visited Israel a number of times and based his
revolutionary theory on the works of an Israeli scientist

Ha’aretz Judy

14, 2018 10:16 AM

Stephen Hawking speaks to
students at the Bloomfield Museum of Science in Jerusalem, December 10, 2006. AP
In 2013, his decision to boycott
a conference in Jerusalem honoring Shimon Peres
, the late Israeli
president, made international headlines, sparking outrage in Israel and much of
the Jewish world.
conference, which was meant to mark the 90th birthday of the Israeli leader,
was attended by world leaders and celebrities, among them former U.S. President
Bill Clinton and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Hawking’s decision
to back out was first reported in The Guardian.
initially notified the organizers that he would attend, but under pressure from
the international Boycott, Divest
and Sanctions
 movement, he reneged. At first, his associates said that
Hawking would not be attending because of his failing health. Only later did it
emerge that his decision had been prompted by pressure from the boycott

A brief history of Stephen Hawking’s
complicated relationship with Israel

In a letter to the conference organizers, Hawking wrote: “I
have received a number of letters from Palestinian academics. They are
unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this, I must withdraw
from the conference.”
Responding to his decision, the conference organizers issued an angry statement
saying: “The academic boycott 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.”
Although many musicians
and artists have declined to visit Israel
 as a way of
showing solidarity with the Palestinians, Hawking was the first scientist of
his stature to embrace the boycott movement.
Many opposed to his decision took to social media at the time to vent their
anger, some accusing him of outright anti-Semitism and others going so far as
to ridicule his physical condition. Much ado was made at the time of the fact
that the computer-based system through which he communicates to the world runs
on a chip designed by Israel’s Intel team.
Writing in Time Magazine then, David Wolpe, the prominent Los
Angeles rabbi, voiced his indignation. “As Hawking must know,” he wrote, “he is
boycotting precisely those most likely to agree with his political stance, the
left-wing academic community in Israel. It’s hard to believe he endorses a
theory that if he can make some academic conferences a tad less prestigious,
peace will bloom.”

US President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House, 2009 JEWEL SAMAD/AFP
It was not the first time that Hawking had taken sides with
the Palestinians against Israel. In 2009, in an interview with Al Jazeera, he
condemned the recent Israeli military operation in Gaza, saying it was
“plain out of proportion… The situation is like that of South Africa
before 1990 and cannot continue.”
As recently as last year, Hawking urged his millions of followers on Facebook
to donate
money to help finance a series of lectures
in physics for Palestinian
graduate students in the West Bank.

Hawking visited Israel four times, most recently in 2006, when
as a guest of the British embassy in Tel Aviv, he delivered public lectures at
Israeli and Palestinians universities.
Arguably the most famous scientist in the world, Hawking
enjoyed a special relationship with a now-deceased Israeli physicist
, Jakob
Bekenstein, who died in 2015. Bekenstein, who was a professor at both
Ben-Gurion University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem before moving back
to the United States, is considered to be the man who taught
Hawking a thing or two about black holes
. Hawking was initially one of
Bekenstein’s detractors, but he eventually embraced the Israeli scientist’s
groundbreaking ideas, which served as the basis for his own revolutionary
theory that black holes give off radiation.

Ali Abunimah Guardian
Comment is Free 9.5.13.
Boycotting Israel as a stance for
justice is going mainstream – Israelis can no longer pretend theirs is in an
enlightened country

‘Professor Hawking’s decision to respect the
Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has forced Israelis
– and the rest of the world – to understand that the status quo has a price.’
Photograph: John Phillips/UK Press via Getty
A standard objection to the
Palestinian campaign for the boycott of Israel is that it would cut off
“dialogue” and hurt the chances of peace. We’ve heard this again in
the wake of Professor Stephen Hawking’s laudable decision to withdraw from Israel’s
Presidential Conference in response to requests from Palestinian academics –
but it would be hard to think of a more unconvincing position as far as
Palestinians are concerned.
One of the most deceptive aspects
of the so-called peace process is the pretence that Palestinians and Israelis
are two equal sides, equally at fault, equally responsible – thus erasing from
view the brutal reality that Palestinians are an occupied, colonised people,
dispossessed at the hands of one of the most powerful militaries on earth.
For more than two decades, under
the cover of this fiction, Palestinians have engaged in
internationally-sponsored “peace talks” and other forms of dialogue,
only to watch as Israel
has continued to occupy, steal and settle their land, and to kill and maim
thousands of people with impunity.
While there are a handful of
courageous dissenting Israeli voices, major Israeli institutions, especially
the universities, have been complicit in this oppression by, for example,
engaging in research and training partnerships with the Israeli army. Israel’s
government has actively engaged academics, artists and other cultural figures
in international “Brand Israel” campaigns to prettify the country’s
image and distract attention from the oppression of Palestinians.
The vast majority of
Palestinians, meanwhile, have been disenfranchised by the official peace
process as their fate has been placed in the hands of venal and comprised
envoys such as Tony Blair, and US and EU governments that only seem to find the
courage to implement international law and protect human rights when it comes
to the transgressions of African or Arab states.
When it comes to Israel’s abuses,
governments around the world have offered nothing but lip service; while dozens
of countries face US, EU or UN sanctions for far lesser transgressions, it has
taken years for EU governments to even discuss timid steps such as labelling
goods from illegal Israeli settlements, let alone actually banning them. Yet the peace process train
trundles on – now with a new conductor in the form of John Kerry, the US secretary of state – but with no greater
prospects of ever reaching its destination. So, enough talk already.
The Palestinian-led Boycott,
Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) aims to change this dynamic. It puts
the initiative back in the hands of Palestinians. The goal is to build pressure
on Israel to respect the rights of all Palestinians by ending its occupation
and blockade of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; respecting the rights of
Palestinian refugees who are currently excluded from returning to their homes
just because they are not Jews; and abolishing all forms of discrimination
against Palestinian citizens of Israel.
These demands are in line with
universal human rights principles and would be unremarkable and uncontroversial
in any other context, which is precisely why support for them is growing.
BDS builds on a long tradition of
popular resistance around the world: from within Palestine itself to the Montgomery
bus boycott
in Alabama to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
Historically, boycotts work.
During the 1980s opponents of
sanctions against apartheid South Africa – including, notoriously, the late
Margaret Thatcher – argued instead for “constructive engagement”.
They were on the wrong side of history. Today, Palestinians are lectured to
drop BDS and return to empty talks that are the present-day equivalent of
constructive engagement.
But there can be no going back to
the days when Palestinians were silenced and only the strong were given a
voice. There can be no going back to endless “dialogue” and fuzzy and
toothless talk about “peace” that provides a cover for Israel to
entrench its colonisation.
When we look back in a few years,
Hawking’s decision to respect BDS may be seen as a turning point – the moment
when boycotting Israel as a stance for justice went mainstream.
What is clear today is that his
action has forced Israelis – and the rest of the world – to understand that the
status quo has a price. Israel cannot continue to pretend that it is a country
of culture, technology and enlightenment while millions of Palestinians live
invisibly under the brutal rule of bullets, bulldozers and armed settlers.

The Atlantic May 7 2013

Stephen Hawking is known for a
lot of things — theoretical physics, quantum mechanics, general relativity —
but being an an activist for peace in the Middle East is hardly one of them.
Not any more!
Stephen Hawking is known for a
lot of things — theoretical physics, quantum mechanics, general relativity —
but being an an activist for peace in the Middle East is hardly one of them.
Not any more! On Tuesday, the Cambridge professor made a bold move when he
joined a larger academic boycott of Israel in the name of Palestinian justice.
Hawking had previously agreed to attend a conference hosted by Shimon Peres,
one that marks the Israeli president’s 90th birthday, but after being bombarded
by messages from friends and fans decided against going. Although he explained
his decision in a brief letter to Peres last week, Hawking hadn’t made the news
public until The Guardian reported
on his decision Tuesday night
Though private, Hawking was
hardly vague about why he was backing out of the conference. The
wheelchair-bound 71-year-old said that “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 news was
reported quickly
and soberly by the Israeli press
, as Hawking joins a small but growing list
of British celebrities who are taking a stand against Israel’s treatment of
This isn’t the first time that
Hawking’s spoken out against Palestine, though. While he hardly ever chimes in
on global politics, the physicist has actually been turning up the volume on
his criticism of Israel. In 2011, he told Al Jazeera that Israel must
engage with Hamas
to put an end to the violence. “If Israel wants
peace, it will have to talk to Hamas, like Britain did with the IRA. Hamas are
the democratically elected leaders of the Palestinian people, and cannot be
he said. “The situation is like that in South Africa before
1990. It cannot continue.” 
This statement came after Hawking made
a famous visit to the region
, one that piqued his interest about the
Palestine issue.
It appear that Hawking’s not
with his latest defiant statement. On Tuesday, Google tweaked the
language on its homepage in the occupied Palestinian territories to read as
Palestine” rather than “Palestinian Territories.” This
small adjustment of verbiage had a big impact with Israeli authorities. Israel
responded immediately with a power play of its own. “I think that the
Google decision from the last few days is very, very problematic,”
Israeli foreign minister, Zeev Elkin told Israel’s
Army Radio
. “When a company like Google comes along and supports this
line, it actually pushes peace further away, pushes away negotiations, and
creates among the Palestinian leadership the illusion that in this manner they
can achieve the result. Without direct negotiation with us, nothing will

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