May 8, 2013 – New York – AJC expressed shock and regret that Stephen Hawking, the British scientist, withdrew from an international conference in Israel. Hawking, who had been invited to join with world leaders at the fifth annual President’s Conference in Jerusalem, announced that he was declining the invitation in solidarity with Palestinian calls for a boycott.
“Professor Hawking, can it really be possible that you are unaware of Israel’s commitment to peace?” asked AJC Executive Director David Harris. “That you don’t know of the efforts of four consecutive Israeli prime ministers to reach a negotiated two-state deal with the Palestinians, only to be spurned time and again? That you are unconscious of the schism between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, or the glorification of terrorists who have killed Israelis, or the culture of incitement all-too-pervasive in Palestinian society? That you are playing into the hands of those who seek to delegitimize Israel and its very right to exist? Forgive me, but how can you be so easily duped?”
Hawking’s decision not to attend the President’s Conference, hosted by Nobel Peace Laureate Shimon Peres, initially was explained by Cambridge University as a health matter, namely, that doctors had advised him not to travel. But Britain’s Guardian newspaper published today the full text of Hawking’s letter to the conference organizers, in which he expressed his alliance with Palestinian academics urging academics to boycott Israel.
"I accepted the invitation to the Presidential (sic) Conference with the intention that this would not only allow me to express my opinion on the prospects for a peace settlement, but also because it would allow me to lecture on the West Bank.” wrote Hawking in his May 3 letter to the conference organizers. “However, I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this, I must withdraw from the conference.”
Some 5,000 people, including many world leaders, are expected to attend the Israel President’s conference in June.