academic freedom

Stephen Hawking boycotts Israeli conference

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After Stephen Hawking embraced the multiverse and “came out,” if you like, as an atheist, he became more forthright with his opinions. One of them is a recent decision to boycott Israel. As Mona Charen reports,

“I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this, I must withdraw from the conference.”

It’s an odd world isn’t it? By what inverted moral calculus does someone of Hawking’s stature find it morally problematic to set foot on the soil of the region’s only democracy? One wonders how many other nations has Hawking declined to visit in order to express his disapproval of their policies?

A glance at his CV reveals that Hawking visited the Soviet Union in 1973. Russia is no human rights picnic today (it is one of two chief sponsors of the Assad regime in Syria, for example), but those were the bad old days of Brezhnev, when uprisings for freedom in Hungary and Czechoslovakia were ruthlessly suppressed, the KGB inspired terror and scientists who displeased the regime were packed off to the Gulag.

Bad old days? Winston Churchill liked to say that democracy is the worst system except for all the others, and its decline can have only one result.

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