An Open Letter to Stephen Hawking

Prof. Hawking's boycott of Israel proves that even the world's greatest minds can be inherently flawed

Prof. Hawking cancelled a trip to Israel
On 8 May 2013 01:21

Dear Professor Hawking,

I am writing to you today to express the deepest dismay that struck me when moments ago, I read that you were the latest casualty of group-think and misinformation.

Your decision to boycott Israel I'm sure is one that you believe to be correct, given the statement put out on your behalf, due to the "advice of [your] own academic contacts" in the region.

I must let you know that as someone whose upbringing was steeped in the dogma of groupthink and mysticism, it was in part your work that made me realise what more there was in life. What questions the universe raised, why we should be skeptical of over-simplified and lazy explanations, and importantly, to never stop asking these questions.

Your approach to rationality, as well as that of your contemporaries, has opened up new doors for millions of people. The way we think, the way we act, the way we go about our lives, have all been impacted by the work you have dedicated your life to. 

Sadly, however, I now believe that you are the latest in a line of celebrities, academics and politicians who are being misled by the closed-minded, closed-shop style of debate that I know you to have rejected over the majority of your life.

You see, you taught people to question things - but your involvement with the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine reflects that you have either abdicated your commitment to the scientific method, or you simply have abdicated your sense of morality. 

I cannot fathom why, if neither of these were true, you would be involved with an organisation which has a director who presided over an entire nation of historically persecuted people being wiped off a map [PDF]. 

I cannot understand why your pivotal, inner question on the matter seems to have been, "Should I boycott?" rather than, "Why should I boycott?

The answer to both questions of course is easily answered, but it depends on how far beneath the surface you are willing to scratch in order to obtain any semblance of truth on the matter. You could take my word for it, or you could take the words of Al Quds University and the Hebrew University, one Palestinian, and one Israeli organisation in agreement

"Our position is based upon the belief that it is through cooperation based on mutual respect, rather than through boycotts or discrimination, that our common goals can be achieved. Bridging political gulfs – rather than widening them further apart –between nations and individuals thus becomes an educational duty as well as a functional necessity, requiring exchange and dialogue rather than confrontation and antagonism"

You see, it was like very likes of your work that helped me break through a regurgitative stupor. I stopped believing what I read in chain e-mails, I began to question what even the loftiest of news organisations and non-governmental organisations told me. You and many others made me realise that everyone has their own agenda, and my response should not be to shun things, but to get to the bottom of the issues for myself, attempting to leave a positive impact along the way. Something I could say I "achieved".

So I did, for example, here.

In part, this is why I have visited Israel and the West Bank multiple times in the past year. This is why I have met with Palestinians and Israelis alike, heard each side out, and come to conclusions about the ongoing conflict. It is of course far easier to attribute the blame to the country supported by the United States. We Brits love a good underdog and in this fight it certainly seems like the Palestinians are such. But consistently, one entity appears to have no inclination towards peace agreements or compromise. And my conclusions on such matters are not without thorough research and continuous reflection.

That is not to say that the Palestinian people should be demonised due to the failures of their leaders. All I am asking is that you do not punish Israelis, and academia itself, if your conclusions lead you to believe that Israel is more at fault.

Professor Hawking, I believe you might once have said that science is not only a disciple of reason but, also, one of romance and passion. But much like science, morality cannot be solely about romance and passion - it must also and primarily be about reason.

I fear that in failing to uphold your commitments to the Facing Tomorrow conference in Israel, you are abandoning reason, and operating solely on the basis of misplaced passions, and romantic notions of solidarity with anti-Israel campaigners. I believe this to be an abandonment of the very basis upon which academia and science is founded. 

I encourage you to change your mind about your attendance at the conference in June - and I declare that I have no financial or other interests in beseeching you to do so. 

I think it would be an incredible shame for you to use your stature for something so negative, fruitless and inherently discriminatory.

If you want to make a point about your views on the conflict in the Middle East, there could be no better platform than within the region itself. As it stands, you have simply aligned yourself with a fringe, anti-peace lobby that is concerned primarily with the demonisation of an entire people, and which is devoid of constructive ideas with which to move forward.

If your health allows, I urge you to reconsider your decision.

UPDATE: Prof. Hawking now states he is not boycotting Israel, but rather is not flying for health reasons

Kind regards,


Raheem Kassam

Executive Editor, The Commentator

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