The campaign for an academic boycott of Israel in protest against its treatment of Palestinians got a boost on Wednesday after Stephen Hawking withdrew from a high-profile conference to be hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem next month.
The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (Bricup), which is leading the boycott, said the renowned physicist took the decision “based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there”.
He is the latest among a growing list of British academics, writers and filmmakers who have turned down invitations to visit Israel in recent years.
Prof. Hawking was due to address the annual Israeli presidential conference, Facing Tomorrow, which features prominent international figures and has been previously addressed by Tony Blair, George W. Bush and Henry Kissinger. This year it will celebrate Mr. Peres’ 90th birthday.
Cambridge University said Prof. Hawking “discussed it with fellow academics and has decided, for personal reasons, not to attend the conference”.
Conference organisers called the decision “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,” said Israel Maimon, chair of the conference.