x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Hawking's Israel boycott adds to momentum

An Arab writer says Stephen Hawking's refusal to participate in an Israeli conference will add momentum to the BDS campaign. Other digest topics include: Sudan, Syria.

Hawking's boycott of the Israel conference is an exceptional endorsement of Palestinian cause

The recent decision by the physicist Stephen Hawking to boycott an Israeli academic conference slated for June is a monumental slap on the face of occupation and the fascist Israeli government, wrote the columnist Jihad Al Khazen in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

The Cambridge University professor was invited to address as a key speaker the "Facing Tomorrow 2013" conference, to be held under the patronage of Shimon Peres, the president of Israel.

Prof Hawking initially accepted the invitation because, as he explained, he saw it as an opportunity to explain his views on a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. However, he received a number of letters from renowned Palestinian academics urging him to boycott the event. His decision was communicated in a statement by Cambridge University.

"Had he attended the conference, he would have said that the policies of the present Israeli government would eventually lead to disaster," the writer suggested.

The boycott, championed by scholars from prestigious universities such as Cambridge, Leeds, Southampton, Newcastle and York, among others, is part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that was started in 2005 by 171 Palestinian non-governmental organisations in support of the Palestinian cause.

Christian churches, especially American Protestant churches, and student unions from the US and Europe have since joined the drive.

The campaign's effectiveness was humble until recently, but now it is expected to gain momentum with the endorsement of Prof Hawking. His stance is a turning point for the BDS campaign.

The boycott has certainly elicited a counter-campaign from Israelis and pro-Israelis that are trying to use the BDS drive to heighten the Israeli government's rhetoric of anti-semitism.

"The fact is, Jews around the world are no more discriminated against than any other minority in any country in the world. They are certainly not persecuted. If there was indeed any discrimination against them or hatred towards them, whether tacit of explicit, it is first and foremost due to the Israeli government's crimes against Palestinians and their relentless efforts to derail the peace process," the writer added.

The fierce verbal attacks on Prof Hawking and other intellectuals who support Palestinian rights are expected to increase animosity towards Israel around the world.

Some of the scientist's detractors, tweeting their opinions, went as far as poking fun of his illness that has him wheelchair-bound.

"If I were to post a tweet of my own, it would simply say: 'Thank you, Professor Hawking,'" Al Khazen concluded.

Two Sudans must find a common ground

Nearly two years after the south's secession, many of the issues between Sudan and South Sudan remain unresolved, said an editorial on Thursday in the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan.

The border dilemma and the Abyei region remain among the two most contested issues for the two countries.

Recent diplomatic moves on both sides were seen as signs of an imminent rapprochement, as Omar Al Bachir, the president of Sudan, visited the South Sudanese capital, Juba, last month in an effort to restore confidence between the two states and find ways to rescue their respective economies.

However, the Umm Ruwaba rebel attacks earlier this month, followed by the assassination of a prominent Abyei tribal chief, set in motion a series of mutual accusations between Khartoum and Juba that brought matters back to square one.

"Both countries' leaderships are required avoid falling into the trap of accusations as it threatens to destroy what little agreement they have achieved so far," opined the paper.

The South Sudanese president's visit to Khartoum in the near future could be taken as an opportunity to start a new chapter in joint economic and political effort.

"Commonalities between the two countries indeed outnumber their differences. What lacks, however, is the bridges of accord," the editorial concluded.

UN should not allow Al Assad's man in

It is unfathomable that Syrian president Bashar Al Assad's delegate to the UN is still allowed to speak in defence of the regime and to insult Syrian rebels unhindered, said the columnist Tariq Al Homayed in the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

"The United Nations is an organisation which is supposed to enforce international peace and security, and safeguard international laws. How could it allow Bashar Al Jaafari, the representative of the Syrian regime that has killed more than 90,000 Syrians so far, to lecture the international community and blatantly insult the Syrian opposition," Al Homayed asked.

The UN must urgently grant Syria's seat to the opposition and to the rebels, he added.

That would send a clear message to Mr Al Assad and his supporters that the game is over. The only negotiation that should take place now is over Mr Al Assad's departure, even though talks of a safe exit for him at this time seems to be too late.

"His crimes are unforgivable. His regime has been killing everyday for the past two years. Safe exit would be a reward for the dictator," Al Homayed said.






* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem