15 March 2018

Stephen Hawking – the Death of a True Friend of Palestine

As chance would have it I only finished reading ‘Beyond the Black Hole – Stephen Hawking’s Universe’ a week ago.  Hawking was the greatest theoretical physicist since Einstein and like him a political radical.  He was not only a brilliant mathematician and scientist but he also applied the scientific principle to the chaotic and unfair society we live in.  Politically he saw the State of Israel as a political black hole, nothing good could ever escape from it.

In particular Hawking was fiercely committed to the NHS and universal health care [Death of Stephen Hawking robs campaigners against 'backdoor NHS privatisation' of powerful supporter]  He sharply disagreed with the lugubrious Minister of Health Jeremy Hunt over Accountable Care Organisations, a device imported from the United States which are intended to put a financial cap on the NHS and thereby ration care.  Hawking was a fierce supporter of the Labour Party and although he criticised Corbyn he did that having accepted the received wisdom that Labour would perform disastrously under a Corbyn leadership.

What is most missing from all the tributes and eulogies is any mention of Israel and Palestine.  Hawking repeatedly made clear his views on Palestine and in 2013 he withdrew from an academic conference in Israel in deference to BDS.  He particularly condemned the murderous bombardment of Gaza in 2009-10, Operation Cast Lead, when 1,400 Palestinians were murdered by Israel.  As he said at the time about Israel:

‘The situation is like that of South Africa It cannot continue’

Below are tributes from BDS South Africa, an article by Ali Abunimah and an article today in Ha’aretz about Hawking’s relationship to Israel and Palestine.

Tony Greenstein

Palestine BDS activists saddened by death of ally, Stephen Hawking

14 March 2018

The human rights and Palestine solidarity organisation, BDS South Africa, joins fellow Palestinian solidarity activists from across the globe in expressing our condolences on the passing of world-renowned physicist and our ally, Professor Stephen Hawking. In particular our condolences to his friends and family.

We remember Hawking not only for the brilliance of his scientific mind and achievements but also as an impassioned campaigner who lent his voice to various causes for justice – including the Palestinian struggle against Israeli Apartheid.

– In January 2009, during Israel’s invasion of the Palestinian Gaza Strip, in which more 1000 Palestinians were killed, Hawking said: “A people under occupation will continue to resist in any way it can…the situation [in Palestine] is like that in South Africa before 1990, that cannot continue.” Click here for video.

– In 2013, Hawking withdrew from an Israeli conference stating that, based on advice from Palestinian academics, he had decided to respect the BDS academic boycott of Israel. Click here.
– In 2016, through a public video message, Hawking congratulated Hanan al-Hroub, a Palestinian woman who won the Global Teacher Prize. “From one teacher to another, you are inspiration to people everywhere.” he said. Click here for video.

– Last year in 2017 Hawking used his Facebook page to support scientists in Palestine, calling for his followers to donate funds to a Palestinian Advanced Physics School. Click here.

Stephen Hawking, may we continue where you left, in creating a better more peaceful and just world. As we continue to pledge out solidarity with the Palestinians and all other oppressed peoples, we will carry with us your wise words: “Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do. It matters that you don’t give up.” We will not give up, for the sake of the Palestinians, for your sake, and for the sake of a better world.

From South Africa, Hamba Kahle, Comrade Hawking!


A Brief History of Stephen Hawking's Complicated Relationship With Israel

Stephen Hawking was critical of Israel and supported BDS, but also visited Israel a number of times and based his revolutionary theory on the works of an Israeli scientist

Stephen Hawking speaks to students at the Bloomfield Museum of Science in Jerusalem, December 10, 2006. AP

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