I’m not quite sure what the subliminal message of this Guardian report is: I suspect it is to imply that Stephen Hawking was bullied into joining the boycott of Israel. But that aside, it is pretty big news – assuming it’s true – that Noam Chomsky was one of those who signed a letter to Hawking urging him to respect the BDS call.
Previously, Chomsky – on the most charitable view – has been ambivalent about BDS. There are interviews, with Frank Barat, for example, where he has indicated that BDS against Israel, rather the settlements and firms in the occupied territories, is hypocritical and can justifiably be seen as anti-semitic. He also said: “It harms the Palestinians and it is a gift to the Israeli hardliners and their American supporters.”
But according to the Guardian, in the Hawking case, he has backed the BDS call to the hilt. Hawking, after all, was supposed to attend the Presidential Conference inside Israel.
According to the Guardian, the letter states unequivocally: “Israel systematically discriminates against the Palestinians who make up 20% of its population in ways that would be illegal in Britain”, its treatment of the people of Gaza amounts to “collective punishment”, the construction of Jewish settlements breaches the Geneva convention and “Israel places multiple roadblocks, physical, financial and legal, in the way of higher education, both for its own Palestinian citizens and those under occupation”.
“Israel has a name for the promotion of its cultural and scientific standing: ‘Brand Israel’. This is a deliberate policy of camouflaging its oppressive acts behind a cultured veneer.”
So it seems we have not only Hawking, possibly the greatest physicist of our generation, but Noam Chomsky, the greatest linguist and moral thinker of our era, on board with BDS. That’s some achievement!