Physicist Stephen Hawking joins boycott of Israel over treatment of Palestinians

Stephen Hawking, world-renowned physicist and a former math professor at the University of Cambridge, has hopped aboard the boycott bus of Israel, in protest of the nation’s perceived poor treatment of Palestinians.

He’s pulled out of a June conference that’s being hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, The U.K. Guardian reported. Mr. Peres hosts an annual Facing Tomorrow event that attracts thousands from around the world — and is headlined by world-famous personalities.

Mr. Hawking initially agreed to speak, but last week wrote a letter to Mr. Peres, saying he’d changed his mind, The Guardian reported.

The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine said the statement — which Mr. Hawking has not yet released publicly — 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,” The Guardian reported.

The boycott of Israel, which targets its academic institutions, has been gathering steam. Musical talents Elvis Costello and Roger Waters recently announced they would stay away from the nation, to show solidarity with the Palestinians’ plight. The Teachers’ Union in Ireland called for an academic boycott of Israel in April, and the Association for Asian American Studies in the United States voted to boycott shortly after.

Boycott supporters reportedly bombarded Mr. Hawking with emails and social media messages for the past four weeks, when he first announced participation in the event, The Guardian reported.

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