Issue is substance of Hawking’s protest, not its form

This letter was originally published in The Boston Globe

Letters to the Editor
The Boston Globe

To the Editor:

In a recent editorial, The Times of London concludes that physicist Stephen Hawking’s decision to boycott a conference in Israel was “drearily simplistic” and, indeed, “obtuse.” For the Globe, however, such criticism is perplexing since Hawking “aims to place pressure on Israel through peaceful means” (“Stephen Hawking: peaceful protest, angry outcry”).

The Globe’s May 11 editorial rests on the straw man that the criticism of Hawking’s position is because of its form. The reason the boycott movement is widely rejected is that it is both unprincipled and unjust.

The movement is unprincipled because its supporters have historically remained stonily silent when it comes to the appalling regimes that populate Israel’s neighborhood, such as Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, and do not emit so much as a peep when large-scale bombings of Israeli civilians emanate from the West Bank or when rockets from Gaza target these civilians.

It is unjust because the premise that pressure on Israel is what is required to bring about peace is profoundly misplaced. It was Israel whose offer of an independent Palestinian state was rejected in 2000 and again in 2008, and it has been the Palestinian leadership that has refused to even participate in peace negotiations for the last several years.

Hawking’s position is notably ill-informed.

That is the reason it has generated criticism.

Jeff Robbins
New England board of the Anti-Defamation League

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