05/09/2013 10:41 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Where the Chips May Fall

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The news among the Jews is Prof. Stephen Hawking's boycott that was, then wasn't, then was. It began with a news item in the Guardian stating that Hawking, who was slated to attend the President's Conference in Israel one month from now, had canceled after some discussion with Palestinian academics who urged him to boycott the event. This news item was met with immediate outrage by Israelis and Jews everywhere.

But not long afterward, The Commentator came out with a piece entitled, "Prof. Hawking trip NOT canceled due to Israeli boycott," which denied that Hawking's cancelation had anything at all to do with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). In fact, this new news article put forth the idea that the BDS people had lied. Hawking, said The Commentator article, had canceled due to ill health!

Those of us who had swallowed the Guardian article whole were now forced to regurgitate it and retract our anger.

Well, it only made sense that the boycott was not a boycott. Hawking was too smart to fall for that BDS bull, said some including William A. Jacobson, who wrote, "That [earlier] report set off a furious response, since the academic boycott of Israel is anathema to almost all academics."

The bloggers had blogged and so had to update to keep up with the changing story, playing catch-up as best they could and making the best of a story that wasn't a story. But it was all for naught.

Today, we awoke to discover that the story had reverted to type. In fact, said Hawking, he was canceling his trip as a protest against Israeli "occupation," on the advice of his Palestinian colleagues.

We'd been ready to forgive him, us Jews and Israelis, knowing how very sick he was. It had seemed plausible: the great man was much too smart to fall for that (pardon me) crap. But, as it turned out, he had fallen for it. Hook, line and sinker.

That made the earlier articles we'd frantically tweeted and shared on Facebook once more relevant: the eloquent open letter to Hawking by Raheem Kassam, which read in part, "I cannot understand why your pivotal, inner question on the matter seems to have been, "Should I boycott?" rather than, "Why should I boycott?" and the poll at the Guardian, asking whether the public agreed with Hawking's decision to boycott the conference (these poll wars can never be won by the Jews, the numbers are royally stacked against us).

While we awoke to the reality that Hawking had fallen in with the BDS crowd, there was some mighty fine comfort in a statement by Nitsana Darshan Leitner, who heads up the Israel Law Center, Shurat HaDin, "Hawking's decision to join the boycott of Israel is quite hypocritical for an individual who prides himself on his whole intellectual accomplishment. His whole computer-based communications system runs on a chip designed by Israel's Intel team. I suggest if he truly wants to pull out of Israel he should also pull out his Intel Core i7 from his tablet."

What marvelous simplicity of logic! Darshan Leitner is absolutely correct. If Hawking wishes to join the BDS movement, he must immediately stop using all Israeli-made goods and services. If Hawking wishes his boycott to have real meaning, he should immediately remove the chip from his tablet that allows him to communicate his thoughts with the world. There is nothing he could do to match the impact of such a "brave" act.


After all, boycotting the conference closes an avenue for discussion that might lead to peace. Removing his chip means the same thing: no chip, no talk.

No chance of settling differences, no chance of making peace.

I mean, if that's what he really wants.