The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today criticized the decision by British professor Stephen Hawking to withdraw from the Israeli Presidential Conference on political grounds, calling it “a slap in the face to academic freedom.”
In a letter to conference organizers, Hawking said he came to his decision after Palestinian academics urged him to comply with calls for an “academic boycott” of Israel.
While Hawking’s boycott of Israel has been confirmed, initial reports noted that the physicist's decision to cancel his visit to Israel stemmed merely from health reasons. Such reports were immediately disqualified, with a released statement reading that the British physicist affirming his protest to what he described as "Israel's treatment of Palestinians".
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued a statement in response saying:
:Dr. Hawking has bought into the anti-Israel ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions’ campaign, which relies on an abhorrent and false comparison of Israeli democracy to apartheid. It is sad that a man of Dr. Hawking’s immense intellect is unwilling to see the double standard and demonization which are the hallmarks of this anti-Israel movement.”
“The fact remains that the vast majority of academics and other public figures throughout the world do not succumb to the entreaties of a bigoted few.,” he said. “Hawking has joined a relatively small group of closed-minded academics, entertainers and other public figures who show their lack of respect for academic freedom and the promotion of the free exchange of ideas.”
“Had Dr. Hawking gone ahead with his trip, he likely would have met many Israelis, including leading academics, who share his political views. Instead, he has delivered a slap in the face to academic freedom, Foxman added. “We are heartened by the fact that so many other public figures continue to visit Israel and choose to engage and experience, rather than boycott, demonize and discriminate.”