Oped: Would Prof. Hawking Survive an Arab Regime?

Would Professor Hawking ever survive in any Arab country or under the Palestinian autocracy he shamefully defends?

Giulio Meotti, Italy ,

Wheelchair basketball
Wheelchair basketball
Israel news photo: screenshot from IPC

World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking joined the boycott of Israel. Hawking, who has Lou Gehrig's disease, uses a wheelchair. He communicates through a computerized voice system.

Professor Hawking certainly knows that researchers at Tel Aviv University have launched clinical trials on a revolutionary new technology intended to protect the human brain from neurodegenerative disorders such as the one from which the famous scientist suffers and that at Ben Gurion University, they have found an enzyme that so far delays Lou Gehrig's disease in mice.

Would Professor Hawking boycott a possible Israeli breakthrough in treating the disease?

Or more to the point -

Would Professor Hawking ever survive in any Arab country or under the Palestinian autocracy he shamefully defends?

While in the Arab world disabled people have been called “the invisibles,” because they are segregated and hidden from the public eye, Israel’s work with illness and disabilities would merit a book in itself.

Israel’s dedicated determination in tackling head-on the physical problems that arise either from natural causes, terrorism or war is astounding and says much about Israel’s moral lesson to the world beyond the headlines on how it deals with terror, drones and suicide bombers.

In the world’s consciousness, the word “Israel” has become equated with fear, but for people like Hawking, the Jewish state is in fact the world's most important laboratory for healers of disease. There is an amazing quantity of research, of inventions, of newfound techniques for curing and helping the ill, the blind, and the paralyzed to return to normal life.

Scientists at Hebrew University have developed the drug Exelon for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and traumatic brain injuries.

The Weizmann Institute had led to the development of promising new therapies for acute spinal cord injuries. Indeed, the late actor Christopher Reeve described Israel as the “world center” for research.

In Israel it is very common to see children with Down syndrome in television programs, a group of challenged children went to the March of the Living, and there are many special parks for disabled people. Paraplegic war heroes are the protagonists of many television series and Israel's disabled athletes are extremely successful, like brave swimmer Keren Leibovitz.

Five major wars and frequent terror attacks since Israel’s founding in 1948 have resulted in thousands of disabled veterans and civilian survivors of suicide attacks. Each morning, these people wake up to the worst nightmares: brain injuries, birth defects, paralysis. But they epitomize Israel’s joy de vivre. They are a microcosm of the unfailing spirit so many of us in the West associate with being Israeli.

There is one image that explains Israel better than an abundance of words: it is the dance for disabled members of the army. During the grand opening ceremony for the celebration of Israel's Independence, the disabled dance in their wheelchairs, led by young people who leap around them, take them by the hand, dart away and back again.

There is joy, not sadness, on those faces that are at once so young and so mature. Their pain, their disabling, is part of Israel, a citadel state that for more than half a century has tragically walked between life and death.

One of the most important tumor suppressor genes was cloned in 1983 by scientists at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot (defective copies of this gene are found in more than half of all human cancers).

A non-invasive diagnostic method for detecting breast and prostate cancer was developed by another Weizmann’s pioneer.

Israel developed the early diagnosis of “Mad Cow” bovine disease in Creutzfeldt Jakob genetic disease in humans with a urine test instead of a brain biopsy.

The list of inventive Israeli medical miracles includes a revolutionary supportive metal in a coronary arteries to prevent a heart attack, a vaccine that prevents the development of juvenile diabetes and the discovery of a gene linked to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Israel's miracle is epitomized by Professor Reuven Feuerstein, the pioneer who has dedicated his life to pushing Down people beyond their supposed limits. He has said that “chromosomes will never have the last word” and has helped people with this syndrome to achieve a level of functioning that most people who work with them thought impossible.

Feuerstein’s method has been adopted by many European countries. Another example is the 2,248 “children of Chernobyl” who have been brought to Israel for treatment.

In Palestinian Arab society, the most famous disabled person was Hamas founder and arch murderer Ahmed Yassin.

In Iraq, terrorists used disabled women for suicide attacks.

In Israel, Down syndrome youth can ask to be inducted into the army. One leader in this work was Moshe Gottlieb. I interviewed his life for my book "A New Shoah". In Israel, Moshe was known as the healer of Down syndrome children and someone who could help people deemed by others to be untreatable.

Moshe was murdered on his way to another day’s work of charity in behalf of the sick and disabled. Moshe was one of the nineteen victims of the suicide bomber attack in Jerusalem on June 18, 2002. After leaving a high paying job at a fur coat factory in New York, Moshe in 1978 went with his wife and children to live in Jerusalem, where he expanded his medical practice and began an intensive study of the Torah. It was in a Jerusalem clinic for the chronically ill that he saw most of his patients.

Every Tuesday, Moshe took the bus to Bnei Brak, the poor suburb of Tel Aviv inhabited by hareidi religious, and worked free of charge in a center for children with Down syndrome. He chose Tuesdays because in the Jewish tradition it is a day that God called  “twice as good,” and therefore one must give twice as much glory to the Lord. Every other day, Gottlieb saw patients in his office. Many of them were desperate cases, chronic patients and the seriously disabled.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Moshe worked with seriously ill patients at Tel Chai. He cared for a woman in a vegetative state for thirteen years, with impressive dedication. He also worked at Aleh, a residential care facility for disabled children, always bringing gifts; and he did charity work for orphans.

This is the story of the Middle East conflict and the moral abyss the BDS will never be able to fill: death cult vs. Israel’s right to life.

In Gaza and Ramallah, Stephen Hawking would be just another human shield. In Israel, he lives!