The British paper The Guardian reported that Noam Chomsky, together with another 20 academics, sent the renowned physicist a letter urging him not to accept the invitation and cancel his participation in the conference.
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According to the report, Chomsky and 20 other academics wrote Hawking that they are very disappointed that he had accepted the invitation since "Israel systematically discriminates against the Palestinians who make up 20% of its population in ways that would be illegal in Britain."
Chomsky is considered one of the most outspoken critis of Israeli policy, and had in the past been denied entrance into Israel.
The report claimed that Chomsky joined the efforts to pressure Hawking after receiving a request from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, active in promoting the academic boycott campaign against Israel.
Hawking in Israel in 2006 (Photo: Mati Milstein)
The motives behind his cancelation were initially unclear and succeeded in confusing even Cambridge's spokesperson. Earlier, the university had rejected claims reported by the Guardian, and claimed that Hawking had canceled his participation solely for medical reasons.
However, Cambridge later withdrew its denial and confirmed that the physicist's motives for canceling his performance stemmed from his support of the boycott movement.
“We have now received confirmation from Professor Hawking’s office that a letter was sent on Friday to the Israeli President’s office regarding his decision not to attend the Presidential Conference, based on advice from Palestinian academics that he should respect the boycott.
“We had understood previously that his decision was based purely on health grounds having been advised by doctors not to fly,” the statement said.
Hawking. Health or political concerns? (Photo: AP)
The Guardian first reported that in the four weeks since Hawking's participation in the Jerusalem conference was announced, he had been bombarded with messages from Britain and abroad as part of an intense campaign by boycott supporters trying to persuade him to change his mind.
In the end, Hawking, who is in very poor health, told friends he decided to follow the advice of Palestinian colleagues who unanimously agreed that he should not attend.
By participating in the boycott, the report said, Hawking joins a small but growing list of British personalities who have turned down invitations to visit Israel, including Elvis Costello, Roger Waters, Brian Eno, Annie Lennox and Mike Leigh.
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