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Noam Chomsky Pushed Stephen Hawking to Boycott Israeli Conference

The veteran supporter of anti-Israel causes joined British academics who shared with Hawking their disappointment with his going to Jerusalem.

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Professor Noam Chomsky

Professor Noam Chomsky



Professor Noam Chomsky of the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT was the force behind a group of 20 academics who lobbied Professor Stephen Hawking to boycott an Israeli conference where he was expected to be a keynote speaker, the Guardian reported. (See: Stephen Hawking Boycotting Company Working on his Cure and Resolved: Cambridge U ‘Misunderstood,’ Hawking Actually Hates Israel.)

Chomsky, a veteran supporter of anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian causes, joined British academics from the universities of Cambridge, London, Leeds, Southampton, Warwick, Newcastle, York and the Open University to who all shared with Hawking how “surprised and deeply disappointed” they were that he had accepted the invitation to speak at next month’s presidential conference in Jerusalem, which will chaired by Shimon Peres and attended by Tony Blair and Bill Clinton.

On Friday the liberal academic David Newman, dean of the faculty of humanities and social sciences at Ben Gurion University in Israel, warned that the academic boycott “just destroys one of the very few spaces left where Israelis and Palestinians actually do come together.”

Incidentally, the boycott on Israeli goods hurts thousands of Palestinian farm workers, and the boycott on Israeli tourism hurts thousands of Arabs working in that industry. But they make leftist Europeans and Americans feel better, and, after all, that’s what really counts.

But Chomsky, an old-time backer of “boycott and divestment of firms that are carrying out operations in the occupied territories,” was not concerned with gray shades, and to prove just how righteous he is, he added his considerable weight to the pressure on Hawking, according to Jonathan Rosenhead, chair of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine campaign group (BRICUP).

The letter to Hawking was in the ancient spirit of “It all started after Israel retaliated. It pointed out that Israel’s “treatment of the people of Gaza amounts to ‘collective punishment,'” meaning that should an Arab terrorist shoot a rocket at your children’s kindergarten, but he does it from the midst of his housing project, you are not permitted to fire back, lest you be guilty of collective punishment.

Just lie back and enjoy it, seems to be the BRICUP general attitude.

The letter also repeated the age old lie that “the construction of Jewish settlements breaches the Geneva convention” – it doesn’t, since the GC deals with areas occupied from a sovereign owner and no power had a recognized sovereignty over Judea, Samaria, or Gaza.

Finally, the letter accused Israel of placing “multiple roadblocks, physical, financial and legal, in the way of higher education, both for its own Palestinian citizens and those under occupation.” That may be the most terrible lie of them all, since no other Arab country even comes close to the number of institutions of higher education in the territories, as well as the percentage of academics among Arab citizens of Israel.

It is stunning that while in the rest of the region half the population, namely women, can’t walk freely in public, much less attain higher education, the one country those bizarre little men and women are attacking is the Israeli democracy.

Their letter had something to say about all that positive hogwash, too: “Israel has a name for the promotion of its cultural and scientific standing: ‘Brand Israel.’ This is a deliberate policy of camouflaging its oppressive acts behind a cultured veneer.”

In other words, don’t confuse us with all those “facts” about Israeli achievements, and Arab progress within the Israeli system – we all know it’s nothing but a lie.

Many of us have experienced the dubious pleasure of arguing with these characters and their hordes of disciples. You can’t reason with them because they’re not interested in reason. They are intellectually violent leftists.

Tom Hickey, a member of the UCU’s executive committee who put forward the draft motion, told the Guardian: “It is brave of Hawking for the straightforward reason that someone who has his prominence will be targeted for vilification. If he can do that then all of us should think of doing it. This isn’t about targeting Israeli scholars but targeting the institutions.”

Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the BDS who studies philosophy at Tel Aviv University, told the Guardian that Hawking’s decision to withdraw from the conference in the country that facilitates Barghouti’s career “is one of the starkest indicators yet that the tide is changing in the western mainstream against Israel’s occupation, colonization and apartheid, and that the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement is fast reaching its South Africa moment of maturity and impact.”

British author Ian McEwan, who was criticized two years ago when he visited Israel to accept the Jerusalem Prize, said: “My feeling [in 2011] was that I wished to engage with the best elements of Israeli society and I don’t want to isolate those people,” he said.

He said there were dozens of countries “whose governments we might loathe or disapprove of” but “Israel-Palestine has become sort of tribal and a touchstone for a certain portion of the intellectual classes. I say this in the context of thinking it is profoundly wrong of the Israeli government not to be pursuing more actively and positively and creatively a solution with the Palestinians. That’s why I think one wants to go to these places to make the point. Turning away will not produce any result.”

And he’s, supposedly, Israel’s friend…

Yori Yanover

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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