JERUSALEM: Renowned British physicist Stephen Hawking has pulled out of a June conference hosted by Israel's President Shimon Peres, joining an academic boycott of the Jewish state, event organisers and his university said on Wednesday.
“Hawking joined the academic boycott of Israel and pulled out of the Israeli Presidential Conference: Facing Tomorrow 2013, under the auspices of President Peres,” the organisers said in a statement. The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BCUP), which supports the academic boycott of Israel and opposes its occupation of Palestinian territories, said Hawking had decided to observe the boycott and as a result had “declined his invitation. 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,” it said on its website.
Britain's Cambridge University, where Hawking has worked since 1962, initially said Hawking, who suffers from motor neurone disease, had pulled out for health reasons on the grounds that doctors had advised him against flying. But it later confirmed it was because of the boycott.
“We have now received confirmation from Professor Hawking's office that a letter was sent on Friday to the Israeli president's office regarding his decision not to attend the Presidential Conference, based on advice from Palestinian academics that he should respect the boycott,” the university said in a statement quoted by British media.
Conference chairman Israel Maimon slammed the boycott as “Outrageous."
"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,” he said in a statement.
The June 18-20 conference will host diplomats, politicians and academics, and its speakers include former British prime minister Tony Blair, ex-US president Bill Clinton and American songstress Barbra Streisand.