The world's most famous scientist, Professor Stephen Hawking, was supposed to arrive in Israel in June. Hawking, 71, a world-renowned theoretical physicist, was invited to participate the high- profile Presidential Conference in Jerusalem titled "Facing Tomorrow," which will also include a 90th birthday celebration for our President, Shimon Peres.
Everything was settled, and the excitement was high. I mean, not every day one of the most respected people in the world clears his schedule to visit Israel. My cousin, who is a fan, told me this means the world to her, that her idol would travel all the way from England to Israel. It wasn't even a month later when Hawking changed his mind.
Like many before him, the Cambridge University Professor joined the boycott of Israel, and cancelled his visit in protest of "the treatment of Palestinians." Like many before him, Hawking did not check facts come and see what is really going on here for himself, but decided it is much more convenient to believe the horror stories about ethnic cleansing, a second holocaust, abuse, apartheid and other lies. Turns out that him being a scientist, and more than that, a person who suffers from motor neuron disease and uses Israeli technology to communicate, does not make him think how stupid, empty and hypocritical this whole thing is.
This new trend of boycotting Israel is catching like a fire in a hay field. Musicians, scientists, universities and public figures fall in love with the idea of becoming heroes and supporting an important cause, and without thinking twice, jump on the bandwagon. One by one they fall into the picture drawn to them by haters and liars, as we, just like in some twisted horror movie, are forced to watch everything from afar, not able to say a word of truth without being called "liars."
Every time I hear about a new guest at the "boo Israel" party, I can't help but wonder what they are trying to achieve, and why they don't even bother checking the facts. I mean, the situation here is very complex, and I understand why some who have been here would support an independent Palestinian country. Supporting this is legitimate. It is a political argument, just like the issue of the US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. But there is a long way from this to making accusations about ethnic cleansing, or comparing Israel of 2013 to Germany of 1940.
Those who call for a boycott want to look good, like peace activists, but instead of trying to make the world a better place, they are doing the exact opposite. I'm sure many of them, Hawking included, did not take the time to Google Israel and see its extraordinary contribution to the world in many fields, from science and medicine to high-tech and entertainment. I bet they don't know that many people worldwide, Palestinians included, have been treated by inventions that changed the face of medicine. I bet they have no idea that the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology, which has recently fallen under the boycott radar, stands behind Rasagiline, a drug effective in the treatment of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, the "Snake Robot," an innovative search and rescue robot invaluable to earthquake survivors, and more.
Joining the boycott of Israel does not bring the world forward, but takes it backwards. It stifles progress and hurts us, the Israelis, personally. I don't kill Palestinians for fun, honestly. I checked twice. The same goes for my friends, which some of them are Arabic. While we sometimes have our political differences, we all believe in progress and we all believe in peace. And when we hear about yet another public figure canceling a visit, we feel excluded.
We feel as though we are doomed to hear terrible lies about us, without being able to defend ourselves. We stand aside, boycotted, as the world is being filled with more and more hate with every cancellation. Those people call for peace, but they are so caught up in this new wave, that they don't take a moment to look back on the trail of damage they are leaving behind.
I want to use the very little power I have here, as one little person against a raging crowd, and ask Hawking and his friends to take a moment, check the facts (which means listening to the other side as well, or even stopping by for a visit) and rethink the damage they are doing. Branding us as killers is easy, because dealing with the real killers, including the one next door, is a difficult task. It requires action, and a true struggle for peace. So, boycotters, please stop doing what you're doing. You are not taking the high road. It is the road of twisted lies and a struggle for nothing. Check the facts, then agree or disagree, but don't hate for nothing and don't fall for lies. This is not what peace is made of.
Noga Gur-Arieh, a journalist, currently writes the blog "Israelife" at www.jewishjournal.com, and is a contributor for The Jewish Daily Forward
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