Of course, the story then spread throughout the mainstream media although one aspect caught my eye in the Daily Express, which ran the headline:
However justified we may feel in our anger towards Hawking, there is no justification for attacking him in this offensive and tasteless manner. Having said that, I am still amazed that a mainstream media outlet could consider the rantings of an unrepresentative few as worthy of a story in itself.
Would the Daily Express care to address the regular torrent of offensive remarks that appear in the comments sections of any Israel-related content online, some of which crosses the line into outright anti-Semitism?
I thought not.
This incident should also serve as a wake up call. Hawking had previously visited Israel (and the Palestinian territories) without any problem. So what has changed?
Presumably, the boycotters were able to effectively get Hawking to change his mind. But it’s not only Hawking who has adopted a different policy. Palestinian academics may, in the past, have found it acceptable for visitors to “balance” trips to Jerusalem with a trip to Ramallah. Not anymore. With a blanket policy of boycott in effect on the part of the Palestinians, Israel will have to learn that invitations to academics and others may not meet with a positive response and prepare to better argue its case.
Ultimately, while Stephen Hawking has given the BDS movement a shot in the arm, we must not forget that this anti-Israel movement’s failures far outweigh its successes. Clearly, for an intelligent man, Hawking was unable to recognize the real nature of BDS – not a tool to pressure Israel into making concessions for peace but a weapon to bring about Israel’s demise.
We should redouble our efforts to ensure that this should be the story that the media report the next time BDS breaks out into the mainstream.
Image: CC BY-SA HonestReporting.com, flickr/badastronomy.