Early last week, when it came out that British physicist Stephen Hawking had decided to not attend a late-spring conference in Jerusalem, he went quickly from being a cult hero in the Israeli high tech sphere to pariah. Although he has been to Israel several times in the past – and to the occupied territories of the West Bank, now called “Palestine” by a growing number of countries, agencies and notable individuals – he was encouraged by British academics, Palestinian scholars and American linguist, Noam Chomski, to back out.
His entire letter of cancellation to Israeli President Shimon Peres hasn’t yet been published. An important part of it has been:
I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this, I must withdraw from the conference. Had I attended I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster.
The most shocking aspect of the backlash against Hawking coming out of Israel and Israeli apologists to me, from the very beginning, were the claims that if it weren’t for the genius, pluck and ingenuity of Israeli scientists, he wouldn’t even be able to communicate:
if one decides to Boycott Israel, then one must be consistent, if Mr. Hawking decides to boycott us he should also refrain from using his means of communications as he is using products that were invented and produced in Israel. it is very interesting though that we continue to hear him isn’t it.
This inaccurate meme was repeated again and again, in articles published in Israel, the USA and elsewhere. To be more specific, the claim was somewhat along these lines:
Hawking’s decision to join the boycott of Israel is quite hypocritical for an individual who prides himself on his own intellectual accomplishment. His whole computer-based communication system runs on a chip designed by Israel’s Intel team. I suggest that if he truly wants to pull out of Israel he should also pull out his Intel Core i7 from his tablet” – this according to Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center.
Darshin-Leitner’s claim, inaccurate as it was, was also very questionable morally. After all, the Germans perfected the jet turbine during the height of the 3rd Reich, using slave labor, some of which was comprised of Jewish and other slave laborers. Don’t get me started.
The inaccuracy and hubris of the many claims that Hawking is somehow an ingrate are very easy to refute, and have been:
The i7 was designed by Intel’s architecture design team in Hillsboro Oregon. The claims the i7 was designed in Israel are also lies.
For the i7 in particular, the Sr. Principal Engineer’s name is Ronak Singhal. He is an Indian. The design team does not consist of Israelis and is not located in Israel.
Hawking’s sentence construction software, EZ Keys, was designed and built by an american company, Words Plus, which was based in Palmdale, California. Hawkings speech synthesizer, NeoSpeech, is produced by a company based in Fremont, California and backed by Voiceware Co of Korea. It has nothing to do with Israel either.
Hawking’s laptop which ran the software used AMD chips. This was an embarrassment to Intel. Intel’s CEO at the time Gordon Moore (now retired) personally negotiated with Prof. Hawking to participate in a marketing arrangement where Hawking would use Intel provided off-the-shelf laptops.
i7 microprocessors have no more to do with Israel than do many such items developed by increasingly multinational scientific teams. Intel’s facilities in Israel are increasingly important to the firm, but less so than their operations in one county in Oregon. They could pull out next month with little or no adverse impact to the high tech giant’s global footprint.
It is interesting that it has just come out over the weekend that Noam Chomsky was one of those who urged Hawking to reassess his conference attendance. How many Israelis and American Zionists now denigrating Hawking made a fuss three years ago this week, when this happened: