Last night, May 8, the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood and Matthew Kelman ‘broke’ a story claiming that Stephen Hawking was joining the academic boycott of Israel, and that he was “pulling out of a conference hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem as a protest at Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.”
The report, based it seems on claims made by British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), was picked up by news sites around the world, was featured prominently on the Guardian website and was followed up with a poll asking readers if they agreed with Hawking “decision” to boycott Israel.
Here’s how the Guardian’s Israel page looks at the time of this post:
As you can see, the original story was read by quite a few Guardian readers:
There was just one problem.
The Guardian evidently didn’t check their facts, as information has been released strongly suggesting that the world-renowned theoretical physicist and former Professor at Cambridge pulled out of the Israeli academic conference purely for health reasons.
The Commentator reported the following:
…a Cambridge university spokesperson has confirmed to The Commentator that there was a “misunderstanding” this past weekend, and that Prof. Hawking had pulled out of the conference for medical reasons. A University spokesman said: “Professor Hawking will not be attending the conference in Israel in June for health reasons – his doctors have advised against him flying.”
Further, a spokesman for Cambridge University sent the following email to a CiF Watch reader in response to an inquiry, which is consistent with the following story in the Cambridge News:
The only questions which seems to remain is how long it will take for the Guardian to issue a mea culpa on their faux scoop.
Update: The Guardian’s Matthew Kalman is now claiming that the Cambridge denial is untrue, and that Hawking indeed supports the boycott.
Update II: It now appears that the original denial by Hawkings spokesperson was not accurate, and that Hawking indeed cancelled his trip as an expression of support for the boycott of Israel.