Stephen Hawking’s Decision to Withdraw From Israeli Conference ‘A Slap in the Face to Academic Freedom’

New York, NY, May 8, 2013 … 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, Dr. Hawking said he came to his decision after Palestinian academics urged him to comply with calls for an “academic boycott” of Israel. 

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:

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.  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.  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.  

The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all. Today it is the world’s leading organization combating anti-Semitism, exposing hate groups, training law enforcement on hate crimes, developing anti-bias education programs for students, countering cyber-hate and relentlessly pursuing equal rights for all.

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