Stephen Hawking might finally win a Nobel Prize, and he will probably refuse to celebrate with the academic who made it happen. This probably seems ridiculous, and that is because it is. For reasons that mystify me, Hawking is an academic who has partaken in boycotts of Israeli institutions, and the scientist who seems to have confirmed the phenomenon known as the Hawking Radiation Theory is a professor at Israel’s Technion.

[This] theory, first proposed by Hawking in 1974, suggests that subatomic light particles are sometimes ejected back out of a black hole, taking with them tiny amounts of energy, resulting in a gradual decrease in its mass over time until it evaporates completely.

This picture gives some amount of context for what Stephen Hawking's Theory discusses. Image via Universe Today.
This picture gives some amount of context for what Stephen Hawking’s Theory discusses. Image via Universe Today.

Professor Jeff Steinhauer’s experiment “simulated a black hole event horizon by cooling [rubidium] to just above absolute zero (-273.15°C or -59.67°F), and then heating it rapidly to create a barrier impenetrable to sound waves, similar to light from a black hole.” This is an obvious solution to Hawking’s theory.

Hawking’s boycott of Israel raises an interesting question that Legal Insurrection took a deep dive into. Surely the academic institutions that have boycotted Israel have expressed outrage at the recent crackdowns and suppression of their colleagues in Turkey, right? The answer is (un)surprisingly no.

Inside Higher Ed has reported that “a total of 4,225 academics and 1,117 administrative staff at public and private universities have reportedly been suspended from their positions as part of the government’s investigations into the failed coup.” This is certainly grounds for a boycott by the institutions who constantly single out Israel, right? Apparently it is not enough.

Several organizations that have boycotted Israel, including the American Studies Association (whose support for a boycott of Israel was widely criticized for, “morph[ing] from a scholarly association into a political action committee [that] has proved disastrous for the group and the discipline it purports to represent, undermining its credibility, alienating many of its practitioners and betraying what should be a bedrock commitment to the American values that used to define the field.”), signed onto a letter “not[ing] with profound concern the apparent moves to dismantle much of the structure of Turkish higher education through purges, restrictions, and assertions of central control, a process begun earlier this year and accelerating now with alarming speed.” However, I wonder why there is no organized call to take this letter to the next step and organize an academic boycott of Turkey by these institutions. If it’s good enough for Israel, it should be good enough for Turkey “in light of the widespread purge of Turkish academia after the failed coup, destruction of civil society including the judiciary and media, suppression of Kurdish self-determination, and complicity in the Syrian civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands, among other offenses.”

All of this context brings me back to an article that I wrote three years ago for The Lion’s Tale, my high school newspaper, about when Stephen Hawking announced his boycott of Israel at the time. It still rings far too true to this day. Maybe one day he will realize his folly and celebrate the success of Professor Steinhauer in Israel.

 

Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s greatest scientists, has been in the news recently for things that have nothing to do with science. For reasons that baffle me, Hawking has joined the academic boycott against Israel. Hawking in particular should understand that it is beyond hypocritical for him to reject the marvelous achievements Israel has made in the sciences.

Hawking has joined the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) group that hypocritically singles out the one democracy in the Middle East–Israel– while systematically ignoring the real and tragic occurrences of actual human rights abuses, such as those in Syria.

It is particularly ironic that Hawking has joined this boycott, since Israel is responsible for some of the technology, such as specific microchips that allow people with motor neurone disease, that he utilizes in order to be able to spew his criticisms.

Not so fast, some might say. Surely Hawking has stood up to other, actual atrocities, around the world since he seems to relish the role of a crusader for social justice. Surely he has stood up to the Iranian regime in which disabled people are hidden indoors in order to prevent ostracization. After all, there is virtually no free press in Iran, and no university on par with Israel’s.

Furthermore, he has obviously boycotted Chinese universities, in which freedom of press is as widespread as it is in Iran. China, a country in which millions of children’s lives have been snuffed out due to the brutal and barbaric one child policy, must be on his “boycott list.”

No and no. In fact, Hawking has been to both Iran and China, and has effusively praised both countries.

Make no mistake. Hawking is truly a genius, but he is far from beyond [reproach] here. It is a shame that someone as brilliant as Hawking, who ponders the very workings of the universe for fun, has proven so unwilling to look at the basics and understand that his “academic boycott” of Israel is in fact as unacademic in its simplicity as is possible.

Some people are good at history; others are good at math; others, like Hawking, excel at science, and this incident reminds me that Hawking should stick to what he knows best: pondering black holes instead of insinuating a moral equivalence between Israel and the countries whose brutal atrocities he has proven all too willing to ignore.

 

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