Stephen Hawking has joined a boycott that sees the famed astrophysicist skipping out on a conference to be hosed in Israel in June.
Hawking was originally invited to speak at a conference hosted by Israel's President Shimon Peres. His boycott of the event is part of a larger academic boycott encouraged by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, a group strongly opposed to the occupation of Palestine.
The Committee provided the following statement on Hawking, which he later endorsed:
"Hawking joined the academic boycott of Israel and pulled out of the Israeli Presidential Conference: Facing Tomorrow 2013, under the auspices of President Peres. This is his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there."
Hawking, and the boycott as a whole, was derided by the conference chairman:
"The academic boycott against Israel is in our view outrageous and improper, certainly for someone for whom the spirit of liberty lies at the basis of his human and academic mission," said Israel Maimon.
Even without Hawking, the conference is expected to attract quite a few well-known people from around the world, including former British PM Tony Blair and former president Bill Clinton.[h/t: AFP]