Cambridge University: Stephen Hawking to boycott Israel conference

Stephen Hawking (Photo: Doug Wheller)

Stephen Hawking (Photo: Doug Wheller)

The University of Cambridge has confirmed that Stephen Hawking is not attending a conference in Jerusalem as part of an academic boycott.

The acclaimed physicist who works at the university was due to be the keynote speaker at the fifth annual "Facing Tomorrow" conference hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres next month.

The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine issued a statement this week that Professor Hawking’s decision was based on his support for the boycott.

"His independent decision is based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there", it said.

The group said the statement had been approved by the professor of mathematics.

Initially a university spokesman had said the 71-year-old scientist had withdrawn on “health grounds, having been advised by doctors not to fly.”

The conference Chairman Israel Maimon said : "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… The imposition of a boycott is incompatible with open, democratic dialogue."

Last updated: 4:07pm, May 8 2013