It’s not clear why Stephen Hawking has repeatedly been the victim of fake claims by opponents of Israel that he is engaging in a boycott of the country. It may be because he is the world’s best known living scientist. And it may be because his disability makes it harder for him to rebut such claims and makes it easier to fake supposed messages from him.
What is notable is that this latest scam has gone beyond Al Jazeera and was picked up by the Guardian, the New York Times and the Washington Post.
The Guardian, which broke the story late last night, claimed that Hawking was due to boycott Israel after receiving an erroneous statement from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), apparently with Hawking’s approval.
The statement said that the move was “his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there”.
However, a Cambridge university spokesperson has confirmed to The Commentator that there was a “misunderstanding” this past weekend, and that Prof. Hawking had pulled out of the conference for medical reasons.
A University of Cambridge statement released Wednesday cited “personal reasons” for Hawking’s decision, according to The Associated Press. After the boycott allegation was reported, university spokesman Tim Holt told the media, “For health reasons, his doctors said he should not be flying at the moment, so he’s decided not to attend. He is 71 years old. He’s fine, but he has to be sensible about what he can do.”
Hawking had visited Israel several times before, despite even earlier claims that he was boycotting the country. BDS groups have repeatedly made false claims about boycott victories before, but Hawking has been a perennial target. YouTube is full of fake interviews with Hawking, some of which target Israel.