Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking appears to be participating in an academic boycott of Israel, though there seem to have been some crossed communication wires at Cambridge University about the matter.
The Guardian and other outlets reported on Tuesday that the 71-year-old scientist was pulling out of a scientific conference hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres to signal his support for a broad academic protest against the country’s treatment of Palestinians.
On Wednesday, however, several outlets, including the Associated Press, reported that university spokesman Tim Holt said Hawking was pulling out of the conference for health reasons, not as part of the boycott.
But now a university spokesman has walked back that claim, saying that health reasons were not the primary reason for withdrawing from the conference.
“A letter was sent on Friday to the Israeli president’s office from Stephen Hawking regarding his decision not to attend the Presidential Conference, based on advice from Palestinian academics that he should respect the boycott,” the spokesman said in an emailed statement.
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London's Palestine Solidarity Campaign claims to have accessed the letter Hawking sent to the organizers of the Israeli conference and quotes him as saying, "Had I attended I would have stated by opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster."
The International Business Times is awaiting confirmation of the letter's authenticity from Hawking's representatives.