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How Stephen Hawking Is Wrong

Let us count the ways

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(NASA)

Now that the Stephen Hawking controversy has died down and the usual suspects have traded their predictable barbs, it would serve us well to examine, coolly and without prejudice, the contours of the affair. If for no other reason, we’re likely to see similar cases pop up in the near future, and rather than being swept anew each time by the powerful gales of resentment and rage, we would do well to try and define the contours of useful conversation. Let us steer clear of the blowhards on either side, whom we’ve lost long ago. Let us also avoid nudging the conversation towards absolute terms like legitimacy, and assume, bluntly, that any human action that is not illegal is a legitimate and permissible one. What we aim for is something much more practical and far less illustrious, namely some common ground for us, the majority of people who see the nuance in this situation and who strive to settle reason, justice, and common-sense. Towards that end, I propose, the following four principles apply:

The Priority Principle: As soon as news broke of the esteemed physicist’s snubbing of the Jerusalem conference, defenders of the Jewish State argued that Hawking’s response was nonsensical given the rush of brutalities surging everywhere from Damascus to the Democratic Republic of Congo. To the extent that it implies that one ought to focus on one conflict at a time, the argument is false; as Noam Sheizaf rightly pointed out in +972, “the genocide in Cambodia was taking place at the same time as the boycott effort against South Africa,” and any claim that we ought not to focus on one when there’s another going on may very well lead to inaction. This, however, is where the priority principle comes into play: to the extent that one chooses to be an engaged and responsible global citizen, one is expected to set priorities and act on them. Such is the mark of maturity: while we are all surrounded by a constellation of stimulations, we must, if we wish to lead a morally balanced life, concentrate our attention on those challenges that are most pressing, which, as all but the most hardened cynics would agree, means that priority ought to be given to any crisis involving the loss of human life. There is little doubt that, for many, living in the occupied West Bank is cruel and tragic. But 70,000 human beings have been slaughtered in the last two years just a few kilometers to the north in Assad’s inferno. Anyone, then, is free to protest Israel’s policies, but as long as they remain silent on other, and far more pressing, catastrophes, reasonable observers will be right to question whether singling out Israel mightn’t be guided by ulterior, and dishonorable, motives.

The Categorical Imperative Principle: Arguably the foundation of much of our moral and legal system, Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative states that one must only act if one’s action may apply as a universal law. Hawking, then, is welcome to boycott these regimes that are engaged in what he believes are severe violations of human rights. But, as the Israeli political scientist Shlomo Avineri insightfully argued, if Hawking was following his own logic, not to mention Kant’s, he would have to place similar constraints on his relations with official parties in Britain and the United States, having famously called the military campaign in Iraq a “war crime.” If this is what Hawking believes, and there’s no reason to doubt him, then President Obama—patron of predator drones, which have killed, by some estimates, anywhere between 3,500 and 4,700 people, of whom at least four were Americans shot without trial—must be equally as morally tainted as President Shimon Peres, whose invitation Hawking refused. This, of course, wasn’t the case: Hawking was pleased to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. Avineri is absolutely correct in claiming that in turning down one invitation and embracing another, Hawking violated not only the categorical imperative but also good, old-fashioned common sense.

The Principle of Consequence: While on the subject of common sense, advocates of any political cause mustn’t lose sight of a simple realization, namely that actions have consequences, and that if one is engaged in a pursuit to improve conditions here on earth—any other sort of political undertaking is messianic, and is almost certain to inflict wounds rather than heal them—one should be concerned with outcomes just as much as with abstractions. The theory among supporters of BDS holds that massive isolation of Israeli society would eventually lead to the Jewish State’s downfall, just as it had ended the segregationist regime in South Africa. Without discussing the merits of comparing the occupation to apartheid, it is not too difficult to admit that, under the existing geopolitical conditions, attempts to isolate Israel internationally are very likely to have an adverse effect. With strong American support in the foreseeable future, Israel is never likely to suffer a blow crucial enough to undermine its well-being; boycotts, then, serve as little but fodder for the worst elements in the Israeli political landscape, already grim. The narrative that posits Israel as a small and persecuted nation having no choice but to sacrifice all hope on the altar of vigilance is, arguably, a greater threat to that nation than all of Tehran’s missiles. It’s a line of thinking that leads to nothing but despair, and Hawking, in his refusal, feeds right into it. He might’ve used his clout to travel to Jerusalem and offer some harsh and inconvenient truths from his podium. He might’ve taken the opportunity to urge his pal Obama into playing a more decisive role in pressing for the rekindling of negotiations. He might’ve even met and spoken with young Israelis, promising them—as the American president had during his recent visit to Jerusalem—that a better tomorrow is possible if only they held their leaders accountable. Instead, Hawking wasted all his clout on a purely symbolic, utterly useless act. It’s more than just a shame.

The Proust Principle: Too often understood, often by people who had never read him, to be a chronicler of high society for whom the aesthetic always trumped the political, Proust offers us as many insights into politics as he does into any other realm of the human experience. One in particular resonates: political convictions, he argued, are like kaleidoscopic visions, constantly shifting and intricately linked to a host of other emotional, social, even artistic criteria. Rather than seek absolutes and fortify barriers, he advocates keeping in mind that the next shift in focus is just around the corner, and that we, if we’re alive at all, are constantly changing creatures. This profound insight is not without its prescriptions: following the master’s teachings, a Proustian political activist would therefore seek to establish coalitions not necessarily with those who hold similar opinions—these opinions, history and Proust’s great novel both show us, are apt to change—but with those towards whom one feels, to borrow the phrase Christopher Hitchens and Bill Buckley used to describe their (at times unlikely) friendship, a “consanguinity of spirit.” It is easy to see all of Israeli society as playing a part in the occupation, and coarse arguments insist that as the army plays a major part in the lives of individuals and institutions in Israel the nation entire is morally tainted. Proust, as conflicted about the implications of Jewish identity as anyone, would brush off such dogma, insisting that there are conflicted, attentive minds inside every political thicket eager to listen and interact, and that it’s the task of the artist, not to mention the activist, to make them heard. This is what’s lost when we stop talking, a loss that makes life poorer.

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TJtruthandjustice says:

“The Presidential Conference is not an academic event: it’s an annual celebration of the Israeli business, political and military elites, whose purpose is unclear at best, and which has little importance in Israeli life (it didn’t exist until five years ago). The pro-occupation Right has a heavy presence at the conference…”

~ Noam Sheizaf, 972 Magazine, May 8, 2013

    Jacob Arnon says:

    Stuff, it TJ. The conference has been and is attended by Palestinian officials and Business people.

    You are an anti-Jewish bigot and quoting 972 only proves it.

      TJtruthandjustice says:

      Jacob Arnon, the real damage to the Jewish people is done by people like you who so blithely make unwarranted charges of antisemitism so that if and when antisemitism does rear its ugly head, the world will accuse you and all Jews (through guilt by association) of crying wolf. And that really pisses me off.

        The REAL damage to the Jewish people most of whom live in Israel is by people like you who want to deny Jews the right of self determination.

        I have never read comments by anti Israel fanatics who quote 972 that didn’t turn out to be inspired by antisemitism of some kind.

          TJtruthandjustice says:

          There are 13.5 million Jews in the world. 6 million live in Israel. Therefore the majority of Jews live in the Diaspora. I support Israel’s right to exist. That’s precisely why I am against Netanyahu and the hard right. Another 300 houses are being built in the West Bank thanks to these nut jobs. That’s not a good faith effort toward peace. It’s crazy Bible thumpers using the Torah to justify the violation of international law.

          HappyandProud says:

          Why do you object to Jews living in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria? Do you support apartheid and ethnic cleaning? That’s what your comment indicates.

          TJtruthandjustice says:

          For decades, U.S. presidents of both political parties have strongly urged Israel to stop building settlements in the occupied territories. The settlements are in direct violation of international law according to the Fourth Geneva Convention. The United Nations Security Council, the United Nations General Assembly, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Court of Justice and the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention have all affirmed that the Fourth Geneva Convention does apply here. Israel owes its very existence to the United Nations and to the United States. By continuing to build the illegal settlements, Israel thumbs its nose at the world.

Royq says:

He’s wrong in billions and billions of ways.

    John Salisbury says:

    Nobody is suggesting that governments of USA GB and Australia show any support for Syria.However Israel actually insists that we support them.
    We should not be complicit,even in a peripheral way,with expropriation of other people’s land based on religious entitlement.

      Royq says:

      Woefully incorrect, John Salisbury. Bashir Assad has repeatedly asked for the assistance of the West, but we’ve sagely decided to rebuff his offers, partly on the basis of the fact that he’s already murdered many more Arabs in three years than have died in conflicts with Israel since its inception in 1948. Wide angle perspective is always fatal to anti-Israel arguments.

      Secondly, the state of Israel does not justify its occupation on religious grounds. In point of fact, it does not justify it all, and rather has attempted repeatedly to give the land back, only to be spurned by the Palestinian leadership. Should it still give the land back. Yes, but if the Palestinian response is to repeatedly dodge negotiations in favor of an end-run supported by a motley crew of despots and anti-Western agitators, it’s not going to get what it wants. Not to mention Hamas and their barbaric campaign of terror. All the Palestinians had to do was say yes at Camp David, or to Ehud Olmert. Read Bill Clinton. Read Condoleeza Rice. Read the Palestinians themselves, and their defiant refusal to accept an Israeli offer. They snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

      Thirdly, Australia, the U.S.A. and Great Britain. Are you f—ing serious when you talk about land expropriation? Why don’t you ask what the aboriginal peoples, the native Americans and the Irish have to say about that? Good God.

        John Salisbury says:

        Settlers believe that all the land west of Jordan River was promised to them by the old boy upstairs.

          HappyandProud says:

          How would you know what “settlers” (most call them “people”) think? And why do you mock other people’s religious beliefs? Muslim claim that they ‘own’ Jerusalem and other parts of Israel based (supposedly) on their religious beliefs, even though the Koran never mentions Jerusalem or anywhere else. Why is the Muslim position o.k. with you but the very same Jewish position is not?

          John Salisbury says:

          None of the parties of god have any credibility for me.
          I am not religious.

        hypnosifl says:

        “Thirdly, Australia, the U.S.A. and Great Britain. Are you f—ing serious when you talk about land expropriation? Why don’t you ask what the aboriginal peoples, the native Americans and the Irish have to say about that? Good God.”

        I’d say the issue is ongoing land expropriation, not what happened decades in the past (I’m sorry for the Palestinians who lost their land then, but justice wouldn’t be served by kicking out the current Israeli occupants who weren’t responsible for what happened, any more than justice would be served by kicking all non-Native-Americans out of the USA). What’s done is done, but that’s no excuse for Israel permitting continued settlement-expansion in areas beyond ’67 borders. Until they put a stop to that, they can’t really claim to be making a good-faith effort to negotiate a settlement with the Palestinians. Of course even if they did, that’s no guarantee that the Palestinians would accept a reasonable negotiated treaty which left out any “right of return”…however, if the Palestinians were unwilling to negotiate on that point, there’d always be the option of unilaterally pulling out of the occupied territories and allowing the Palestinians to govern themselves there, something that has been suggested by Ehud Barak, among others.

          HappyandProud says:

          Please be specific about how those evil Israelis (aka Jews) ‘expropriated’ Arab land. The vast majority of land in what is now Israel, Jordan, and Judea and Samria/West Bank was owned by the state (Israel or Jordan) at the time of Israel’s creation; previously most of it had been held by the Ottoman empire itself or absentee landlords living in the Ottoman empire.

          There was a very good system of land registration during the later Ottoman years, and anyone who actually purchased land during that time would have a deed. The vast majority of Arabs who claim they own land in J&S/WB are neither listed as owners or have deeds. They were tenant farmers whose land reverted to the state after the fall of the Ottoman empire (Ottoman citizens who owned land were reluctant to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to claim what was essentially worthless and unproductive land).

          All those who claim disputed holdings can go to court to prove their ownership. They usually lose as there is no records of them holding land and no deed, because they never actually brought the land in question.

          Claims that private land was ‘expropriated’ are invariably a hoax as described above. The Israeli government does not expropriate land without compensation. If you are aware of instances where land was appropriated unlawfully, please bring them up. Otherwise, your claims are just another antisemitic lie.

          hypnosifl says:

          I said specifically I was talking about “ongoing expropriation”, i.e. new settlement construction in areas beyond the 1967 borders, which most of the international community has condemned–do you deny this has been happening, or are you suggesting that because Israel currently controls the occupied territories, nothing they do there can count as “expropriation”? If you want to talk about the past (even though I said I don’t think past violence can justify a “right of return” which evicts current residents from their homes), then although it’s true that most of the expansion of Israel’s borders happened when they secured territory in wars that were initiated by Arab neighbors, and the Palestinian residents of those areas mostly left of their own accord to escape the fighting, it’s also true that during that war there were plenty of examples of Israeli militants targeting civilians which contributed to their leaving rather than sticking around, see wikipedia’s article on killings and massacres during the 1948 Palestine War. For example, the 1948 Deir Yassin massacre was condemned as terrorism by many prominent Jewish leftists, including Albert Einstein (perhaps relevant given that this was originally a discussion of Stephen Hawking!)

          Also, grow up with the paranoid fantasy that anyone who condemns Israel for any behavior must be pushing an “antisemitic lie” or must be thinking in terms of “those evil Israelis (aka Jews)”. Although anti-semitism does exist among those who criticize Israel (as often shows up in the comments of Tablet articles), many critics (like myself) are just leftist anti-imperialists who equally condemn other countries like America or Britain for land grabs in the past, not to mention terrorist atrocities directed at civilians during wars, like Hiroshima. Do you think Einstein was an anti-semite because he signed that letter which condemned the terrorism of Israeli militants and said that Menachem Begin’s party (Likud) “openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state”? Not that I should even need to bring this up in order to defend myself from baseless accusations of anti-semitism, but I, like Einstein, am a secular leftist Jew.

          HappyandProud says:

          Your “facts” are wrong. Although Einstein was not at first a supporter of Zionism, from 1919 on he was a very strong supporter and actively fundraised for Zionist causes. As for the supposed “quote”, I don’t believe it’s true. False anti-Israel “quotes” from various parties abound, and the ONLY places I have seen this quote is on anti-Israel and anti-semitic websites.

          No one here has said that anyone who criticizes the Israeli government is anti-semitic; if that were the case pretty much every Israeli Jew and most diaspora Jews would be called anti-semitic. What IS anti-semitic is using made-up “facts” to condemn Israeli and holding Israel to different standards than other nations. I suggest you learn the definition of ‘anti-semitism’. The U.S. has accepted the E.U.’s definition, and Alan Dershowitz has an excellent definition as well. By their standards, much of what you are saying can fairly be considered anti-semitic.

          I’m not going to respond to any more of your comments because there’s no point in arguing with someone who will use false “facts” to support their anti-Israel position, and furthermore you obviously haven’t done much (if any) research on this issue if you believe Einstein was anti-Zionist.

          hypnosifl says:

          Um, I never said Einstein was “anti-zionist”–are you intentionally misrepresenting my argument, or do you really see everything in such black-and-white terms that you think anyone who argues that Israel has expropriated land must therefore be opposed to the existence of Israel itself? I think America certainly expropriated land from Native Americans in the past, but that doesn’t make me an “anti-American” who wants to see the state of America destroyed (though plenty of right-wingers would accuse me of being anti-American for less; black-and-white thinking seems to be very common to right-wingers)

          Also, I like how you immediately jump to the accusation that “what IS anti-semitic is using made-up ‘facts’ to condemn Israel” even though you presented zero evidence that my facts were actually made up, and you admitted yourself that you were merely suspicious that the Einstein letter was made-up since you had only seen it on anti-Israel websites. (If you mainly read political sites, those would be the only ones with reasons to highlight it–have you ever tried researching Einstein’s views using anything other than stridently political sources?) But other than those suspicions, your comment made it pretty clear that you hadn’t bothered doing any, y’know, actual research to check whether the letter was real. Historical information like this is very easy to check using google books–you can verify that Einstein did sign this letter condemning the Deir Yassin massacre, and denouncing Likud as having engaged in fascist rhetoric, by looking at p. 153 of the historical book “Einstein on Israel and Zionism”, a page which is available on google books here. And as noted in this wikipedia article, Einstein’s views on Zionism were more nuanced than you make them out to be, and the book I referred to above draws on his writings to make the case that ‘Einstein was a Cultural Zionist who supported the idea of a Jewish homeland but opposed the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine preferring a bi-national state with “continuously functioning, mixed, administrative, economic, and social organizations.”’

          I also note that you did not even attempt to refute the various instances of Israeli militia groups having used terror to drive Palestinians out in the past, which support my original comment about expropriation having taken place which you so vehemently denied. If you don’t want to respond to me any more because you are too horrified that any Jew could take a position to the left of Alan Dershowitz (the noted torture-defender), that’s fine with me; anyone reading this will be able to see who makes their case with factual information and links to credible sources, and who makes their case with hyperbolic rhetoric and McCarthy-esque accusations based on unsubstantiated suspicions.

        Dafna Yee says:

        For your information, the Israelis didn’t “expropriate” ANY land from the Palestinians! Israel took its land back from Jordan.

        Jordan was formed out of approximately 75% of the Palestine Mandate which was controlled by Britain. (Before that, the Palestinian TERRITORY had been owned by Turkey as part of the Ottoman Empire.) “Palestine” was NEVER a sovereign nation!!

        The border of Jordan stopped on the EAST BANK of the Jordan River! In 1948, during Israel’s War of Independence, Jordan conquered Judea, Samaria, and the eastern part of Jerusalem which was heavily populated by Jews, and named the area the “West Bank” to erase connection by the Jews. Jordan forced every one of the thousands of Jews to leave their homes in the newly named “West Bank”! In the 19 years that followed, neither Jordan nor Egypt (who had won Gaza in 1948 as well) made any move to create a separate homeland for the Palestinians, which were composed of a diverse population of Arabs from all over the Middle East.

        In 1967, Israel WON BACK its land from Jordan and Egypt . It was Jordan and Egypt that fought; not the Palestinians! From 1967, Israel has been repopulating its land but has not displaced any of the Arabs that lived there or moved there in the 65 years that followed.

        If you want to verify anything that I have written, I suggest you check out newspapers that were printed prior to 1967. You will not find anything referring to the Palestinians as a separate nation with its own culture because they didn’t exist as such. It was the PLO led by Arafat, an Egyptian, who gained recognition for the Palestinians as a separate political entity, in 1974, at the Rabat Summit Conference. For the record, the destruction of Israel and killing all the Jews was the stated aim of the PLO; it was not creating a separate country to give the Palestinians a home. Ironically, only Israel is truly concerned with creating a homeland for the Palestinians!

          vorten says:

          If you want to verify that Native Americans did not have a culture or nation state before Columbus I invite you to read any newspaper before 1492.
          Look if Palestinians lived in Israel before the 1948 and 1967 wars I am sure they had a culture and identity. So you claim that Jordon and Egypt “won” the land then Israel “won” the land. You mean took by violent means, with guns and blood spilling and death.
          Israel has disenfranchised Palestinians and thereby cannot claim Israel is a democracy. Israel has restricted the free movement of Palestinians therefore they are the prison wardens of an enslaved people. Israel took a big gamble in creating a nation state in a land that was no longer theirs. The immorality of that cannot be washed away.

          Beatrix17 says:

          Both Arabs and Jews lived in Palestine before 1948– 2,000 years before. Palestine was the name the Romans
          gave to Israel after they conquered her. Palestine remained a
          territory for two thousand years under the control of the Roman
          Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the English Empire. In 1948, the UN created two nations out of the territory of Palestine. The Jewish Palestinians named their nation Israel. The Arab Palestinians went to war, eventually losing their land in wars they started to Jordan and Israel. Israel is now offering the Pals, their former countrymen, the West Bank and Gaza to finally build a Palestinian nation.

          The Arabs still call themselves Palestinian, but that doesn’t mean that the land just belonged to the Arabs.

      HappyandProud says:

      You’re completely wrong. The Israeli government has not “insisted” that any other nation ‘take sides’ in this situation or others. Do you really believe that Israel bosses other nations around? Sounds like the old “Jews control the world” canard.

      Also, please provide some support for your false and anti-semitic claim that Israel (a.k.a. Jews) ‘expropriates land based on religious entitlement’. Over 85% of land is both the ‘West Bank’/Judea and Samaria is state land, and was so since at least the Ottoman empire. Just because someone claims they own land doesn’t make it true. If I claim that a piece of land is mine but have no deed and am not listed in the land registry, do you think I should be given it based on my say-so? In that case…your home is mine!

        John Salisbury says:

        Heard of AIPAC?

        Heard of the Bible?

          HappyandProud says:

          Every group has a lobby, including Arabs. BTW, Saudi Arabia lobbies extensively in its interests and endows multi-million dollar ‘institutes’ at colleges which support ONLY the Arab perspective.

          Going back to the land issue…please provide evidence that the government of Israel illegitimately expropriated land.

          John Salisbury says:

          Those Bronze Age texts still impede our progress.
          We would be better off if we grew out of them.
          We would be better off if we had grown out of them a long time ago.

Yechiel Gordon says:

Hawking is being criticized, while Bill Clinton, who famously destroyed the Sudan’s primary pharmaceutical plant, supported Israeli (and much other) terror throughout his terms, and maintained an embargo that ended up killing 200,000 -850,000 is receiving an award from conference officials.

    Jacob Arnon says:

    Your numbers are rubbish, Yechiel.

      Yechiel Gordon says:

      Hi Jacob,

      Please provide correct numbers if you believe that the numbers I provided are incorrect. See the Lancet and UN reports for accurate numbers, based on peer-reviewed work. Also see the ORB study estimating about 700,000 to 1,400,000 civilians dead as a result of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. A majority, of course, are women and children. Of course, we will never have precise numbers, because the US government does not consider our official enemies as people, and so does not include them in death tolls.

      By the way, the numbers I provided are under-estimates. I ignored, for example, the 1,400 or so civilians killed, hospitals intentionally destroyed, and the targeting of UN food compound supplies by Israel during the Cast Lead slaughter (see B’Tselem report); I’ve left out Israel’s long and happy relationship with the apartheid regime; left out Israel’s arming of Rios Montt, convicted last week of genocide, left out Israel’s support for Mobutu, Savimbi and Amin, who killed millions.

        Hephie says:

        Ya notice how Jacob got quiet all of a sudden. The hasbarats can only bleat the same old tired formulae. When they get caught out, they shout ‘anti-semite’, give us a taste of good ol’ down home bigotry or, as in Jacob’s case, turn tail and hide.

          hypnosifl says:

          If you don’t want to be perceived as an anti-semite, maybe you shouldn’t be throwing around the slur “hasbarat”? I hadn’t heard that one before, but googling it, the first few pages of results were nearly all from blatantly anti-semitic sites which use language like “hasbarat jewboy”, “stinking jew hasbarats”, and so forth.

          Hephie says:

          ‘Hasbara’ is the commonly used term for Israeli propaganda. The term is derived from the Hebrew and is used by government officials in Israel. One of the hallmarks of hasbara is its staleness. Sixty-five years after the first wave of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to make way for apartheid, hasbarats are still shouting ‘anti-semitism’ at anything that moves. Don’t like what I’m saying? Shove it up your butt!

          hypnosifl says:

          Yes, and turning “hasbara” into “hasbarat” is something that seems to be popular on anti-semitic websites–maybe you got the term from reading those websites, or maybe you more innocently got it by reading someone else who got it from them by some chain of links, I dunno. I’m just suggesting that given the pedigree of the term, it might be a good idea to avoid it if you want to avoid giving the impression of anti-semitism. But do what you want dude, you’re obviously an opinionated loose cannon who shoots from the hip, and no one can box you in!!!

          HappyandProud says:

          Describing people who are pro-Israel as ‘bleating’ sheep certainly shows Hephie’s contempt for anyone who doesn’t agree with her. Aren’t you on the wrong site, Hephie? I think the one you want is called ‘Stormfront’.

          Hephie says:

          PEOPLE who are pro-Israel are simply ignorant and they don’t bleat. Hasbarat shills flogging the same ol’ hasbarat crap day in and day out do indeed bleat. They bleat the same kind of crap as they do on Stormfront. In fact, the similarities between Nazi and Zionist propaganda memes are really quite striking. Remember how it was supposedly Poland that attacked Germany in September of 1939?

          Hephie says:

          The pedigree of the term is that Israeli propaganda is so mendacious, repetitive, unrelated to reality and such a cesspit of bigotry and victimhood that it has earned the disrespect it deserves–thus hasbarat, hasbarim, Zio-bot, Zio-nazi etc. I’m Jewish, so now it’s time for you to make the one-hundred percent standard hasbarat pivot and start talking about ‘self-hating Jews’, right? Tell you what you hasbarat shill–just keep shouting ‘anti-semitism’. You strike a blow for Palestine each time you bleat it.

          Dan says:

          self hating? Nah. Just another version (and we’ve seen them throughout history) of Proud-to-be-ashamed-to-be-Jewish.

          Yours is simply a kneejerk slam of Hasbara. We see it all the time. Hasbara is simply an attempt to explain the facts. Facts like the Al Dura sham. Facts like the Jenin non-massacre. But all too often, Israel haters, and kneejerk leftists, and Jews who are proud to be ashamed to be Jewish simply don’t want to hear facts.

          In the cold light of day, examine the facts and it’s clear Israel wants peace (e.g., the Gaza pullout, which seems to have been conveniently forgotten). And the arabs want what is now Israel.

          Hephie says:

          See? You morons are all the same! Even when I say they’re going to turn to the ‘self-hating Jew’ meme and the most creative the best the hasbara shills can do–their very most creative–is a reformulation of…? ‘Self-hating Jew’! Bleat like freaking sheep and haven’t got an original idea in your head! Israel wants peace like a drunk wants to be sober. Please just keep repeating your tired, stale fantasies. Each time you do, your stale propaganda strikes another blow for Palestinian liberation from apartheid, as it shows just how divorced from reality you are and how much like a Nazi you think. Seig Zion!

          Dan says:

          hahaha! Strange how you seem to think YOURS are the “original” ideas! I could go to Mondoweiss or Electronic Intifada and see the same tired crap. Liberation from apartheid?! HAHAHA! And then, of course, out comes the Nazi card!!! How predictable! And how ignorant! Accusing ME of being a sheep! Pot? Kettle!?!

          Clearly, then, if you can equate ANYTHING Israel does with Nazism, you have absolutely NO CLUE as to what the Nazis did. Which is EXACTLY why Jews need a secure and prosperous Israel.

          There will always be people like you….Useful Idiots. An “as-a-Jew” who thinks she is somehow more “enlightened” about things than she really is. Not even a little, actually. How young and how stupid you are, in reality.

          Guess what? There have always been “enlightened” Jews like you, all throughout the ages. I can guarantee there were quite a few, sitting in a bar in Germany laughing at the older generation, thinking their parents were blowing this Nazi thing all out of proportion.

          You live in an echo chamber, unencumbered by facts and reality. Must be nice.

          Hephie says:

          ‘We became cruel and acted like the Germans in Poland’–Avraham Shalom—Head of Shin Bet 1981-86, in the film The Gatekeepers

          ‘So let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against all anti-Zionists….’– Manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik

          South African Jewish former supreme court justice, Albie Sachs, spoke of his dismay that ‘any Jew who speaks out with an independent voice, especially with the conduct of the State of Israel, is regarded as a self-hating Jew … Why should someone be made to choose between being a Jew and having a conscience?’

          http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/27/far-right-philozionism-racism

          Natan79 says:

          Exactly what I thought. You are a complete Islamic Nazi, complete with reverence for Hitler. You are the kind of person who supports terrorism. Hephie, you are the reason for which I am glad the FBI monitors websites. I hope they notice you as you certainly deserve your name on the same potential terrorist database that had the Tsarnaev brothers.

          I also hope the French police looks at these. Writing Hasbarat instead of Hasbara is the kind of mistake a stupid French person with zero grammar makes. The demented anti-Semitism you exhibit also has a French flavor to it.

          Hephie says:

          Sorry, your fevered Zio-nazi imagination is running away with you, and of course, as a Zio-nazi, you give free rein to the insanity of your fantasies–French indeed! Me, I’m a secular Jew, a professional, a veteran of the South Africa anti-Apartheid movement, a child of the US civil rights struggle. A tree was planted in Israel in my name when I was a child–only years later did I learn that the function of those trees was to hide the more than 500 Palestinian villages destroyed in the Zio-nazi ethnic cleansing. I’m a democrat with a small ‘d’. I believe in things like one person one vote and that human rights are universal. Zionism, a movement with shared genetics and a shared outlook as German Naziism, believes in ethnic supremacy and domination, blood and soil, a master race.

          As far as the terminology used to describe the Goebbelesque propaganda coming out of Israel and its chickenhawk tribalists in the States, ‘hasbarat’ is an invented Hebrew singular to jokingly refer to morons posting Zio-nazi crap. (You know, like the mindless hate you post.)

          hypnosifl says:

          I’m Jewish, so now it’s time for you to make the one-hundred percent standard hasbarat pivot and start talking about ‘self-hating Jews’, right?

          You seem to have mistaken me for the cookie-cutter mustache-twirling Zionist villain that lives in your head. The concept of the “self-hating Jew” is a stupid smear invented by right-wingers to throw at anyone who shows a lack of “loyalty”, I’m a big leftist who thinks morality should be based on universal utilitarian principles (which is why, unlike you apparently, I don’t think of private property rights as sacrosanct), and I find the whole idea that one owes any special loyalty to one group of humans over another to be idiotic. You may be surprised to hear it, but I find nothing offensive about your political positions in themselves (I am actually sympathetic to the idea that Israel should lose its Jewish character in the long run, I mostly just don’t want it to lose its character as the sort of secular society where atheism/feminism/homosexuality etc. are accepted in the public sphere, which I think would be unlikely to remain true if it became Palestinian-majority in the immediate future, though I hope the Muslim world will become more secular in a generation or two). But your enthusiastic use of rhetoric that comes from Stormfront-like sites, and your tendency to assume any Jew who disagrees with you on any point with you must match some crude stereotype of a narrow tribalist, makes me doubt that you are actually Jewish in the sense of having grown up around people who were noticeably religiously or culturally Jewish (maybe you could have a single Jewish grandparent or something, but you might just be making it up)–it’s a lot easier to engage in blanket stereotypes of a group that is “other”, if you really had any connection to Jewish culture you would probably recognize that not all Jews think exactly the same way, not even the ones who oppose particular political solutions you favor (like the right of return).

          Natan79 says:

          You’re no self-hating Jew, Hephie. You’re a piece of shit who loves herself and hates OTHER Jews. That makes you an anti-Seemite. Jewish history has plenty of these evil shits like yourself. It has them now too.

          Natan79 says:

          Fuck yourself, shitty bitch. That is when your dog isn’t going strong at it.

          Hephie says:

          hypno–you are living proof that the Goebbels-inspired propaganda of the hasbarim is finished. You see, the idea of the Big Lie only works if there’s no way to check. These days, we can check.

          The only record of the phrase “hasbarat jewboy” that Google can find is your post. “Stinking jew hasbarats” gets you and one other wacko.

          I realize that lying is second nature to you. I understand that you feel that inventing slander is good for the cause. I’m sure you feel the long tradition of hasbara lying.

          I’m just here to tell you that it no longer works.

          Try to turn away from hate.

          hypnosifl says:

          Nah, it’s just that when I typed out the phrases I neglected to put the “s” at the end, doing another search for “hasbarat” I see the exact phrases were “hasbarat jewboys” and “stinking jew hasbarats”, you can see them at http://incogman.net/2010/05/here-ya-go-hasbarat-jew-boys/ and http://incogman.net/2011/05/stinking-jew-hasbarats-wont-sink-me/ which both showed up on the first page of results for me. And you can find plenty more anti-semitic pages on the first few pages of google results for “hasbarat”, assuming google sorts them the same way for you (google nowadays features personalized search, but I tried the “hasbarat” search again on another browser where I’m not signed into google, and still got those same anti-semitic results on the first page).

          Hephie says:

          I am not responsible for your paranoia or inventive etymology. Your pluralized search now gets you and the wacko.

          hypnosifl says:

          Yes, because “the wacko” was the one whose words I was using as examples, since both of those two pages of his come up on the first page of google results (I don’t remember noticing at the time that they were both from the same person, I was looking over the results quickly to find phrases to quote). Were you under the impression I was saying many different people were using those exact same phrases? Of course not, I listed them as examples of anti-semitic comments involving “hasbarat”, that’s why I said ‘the first few pages of results were nearly all from blatantly anti-semitic sites which use language like “hasbarat jewboy”, “stinking jew hasbarats”, and so forth.‘ You can indeed find a bunch of other examples in the first few pages of google search results for hasbarat that use language like that (in the sense of being anti-semitic), even if no one else uses those particular phrases. Have you actually tried the experiment of typing “hasbarat” into google and seeing what comes up, or are you afraid it might spoil your little fantasy that I’m a propagandistic liar? Some other individual examples of choice descriptions involving “hasbarat” from the first few pages of google results, though none quite as pithy as the examples from the wacko above, are “Jew-Hasbarat – The enemy Jew must resort to subversion and trickery” (from zioncrimefactory), “We are all aware of the Hasbara trolls, the Wikipedia Jews and the Israeli Neocon smear outlets” (from UnitedAryanFront), “The WORST thing in Jewish canon that a Jew can ever do is go Christian. Period. Brother Nathanael, if he is a hasbarat, has chosen the unlikeliest of paths. Still, Jews are known for their tortuous paths and frauds, so nothing’s beyond them” (from here), “Gee! G + Gall + Oy Vey => George Galloway :D – Hasbarat extra bucks don’t come easy for FOEs aka Friends Of Ezrahell” (from here)…and those are all from the first two pages of search results. Also on those first two pages are a number of results that quote from a site called gregfelton.com, who may not use blatantly anti-semitic phrases about “Jews” like the above, but certainly uses a lot of language of imagery that seems to draw on anti-semitic tropes, like his book about Israeli influence on U.S. politics titles “The Host and the Parasite”, or like this image from his main page (also, the “about the author” section of his book’s amazon page, which he presumably wrote or at least approved, mentions that his writings have appeared on the holocaust-denial site rense.com)

          Hephie says:

          Gee! It seems really important for you to prove that anti-semites use the term. OK. They do. They also use words like ‘blue’ and ‘sky’. This does not make ‘blue’ and ‘sky’ anti-semitic words. ‘Hasbarat’ as a disparaging word for a shill spewing Goebbelsesque Israeli propaganda is just a word you’ll just have to get used to. Can’t say I’m sorry.

          Hephie says:

          It seems really hard for you to understand that your linguistic sensitivities are, at best, completely irrelevant to me, the readers here and just about everybody else in the world. Lump it.

          hypnosifl says:

          Calling someone a liar or a Goebbels-like propagandist is an insulting slap in the face, not a “linguistic sensitivity”. Hardly anyone else is probably reading at this point since the Hawking story isn’t on the front page any more, but you’re sociopathically deluded if you think “everybody else in the world” would consider that kind of behavior no big deal if they came across it. I’m pretty much beyond caring personally about this stuff since your behavior is so predictable at this point; I highlight such rhetoric mostly because your Sarah-Palin-like absolute refusal to walk back from any outrageous things you say serves to discredit yourself with any non-sociopathic readers who might be sympathetic to your political views (also because your habit of stereotyping everyone who disagrees with you with the same crude caricature of an ethnocentric lying “Zionist”, and your continued use of a slur that’s been adequately shown to be used almost exclusively by anti-semites, may bring doubts to readers’ minds about your claim that to be Jewish yourself).

          Natan79 says:

          Idiot, you only come here to show hatred for Jews. Maybe Arnon is silent because he works at a job, while you have more time frying burgers.

    Natan79 says:

    You dislike the embargo because it made it harder to Saddam Hussein to kill Kurds. You LIKE he killed Kurds by the hundreds of thousands. You LIKE that Saddam Hussein openly said that he would nuke Israel. Kapo boy, is there a murderer you DON’T like? Tell us.

Royq says:

By the way, Hawking might also have had some genuine courage and, rather than cater to modish anti-Zionism, told the Palestinians that they need to expunge that element endemic to Arab political culture that allows despotism to thrive at the expense of genuinely democratic movements. Whitewash the facts however they may, the fact is, there is still no true Arab democracy and there never has been, notwithstanding the broad-based desire for reform that exists among Arabs.

    Yechiel Gordon says:

    Correct. As long as the US opposes democratic reforms and provides massive financial and military support to dictatorships such as those of Mubarak in Egypt and the Saudi royal family in Saudi Arabia, and overthrows democratically-elected governments such as that of Mossadegh in favor of dictators like the Shah, provides people like Saddam Hussein the reconnaissance needed to gas Kurds, etc., it will be very difficult for Arabs to create democracy.

    Of course, the Palestinians held democratic elections, but the US and Israel decided they had voted wrongly, so re-invested in attacking them.

      HappyandProud says:

      And after those democratic elections, both the PA and Hamas kept power after their terms expired, which is the situation today. The also executed or expelled their political opponents. You’re friends are really something, Gordon – and I don’t mean that as a compliment.

        vorten says:

        So let the Palestinians have the vote is Israel same as you have given the vote to Jews. Let the voter decide the fate of Israel.

          Beatrix17 says:

          Arab Israelis have the vote in Israel. Palestinians are Palestinian, not Israeli. They have no more right to the vote than the Canadians have to vote in America.t

          vorten says:

          Palestinians are Palestinians, not Israeli.

          Now you are arguing in circles. What does it mean to be a Palestinian if no ship is allowed to make port. There is no Palestinian state and you know it. There is no freedom of movement in Palestine, no jobs just brutal oppression. Any low level Palestinian leader that comes forward is arrested or shot for his/her effort.

          Beatrix17 says:

          Vorten:

          For 2,000 years Palestine (formerly Israel) was a territory ruled by Rome, the Ottoman Empire and England. In 1948, the UN formed two countries one for the Jews and one for the Arabs.
          The Jewish Palestinians called their country Israel. The Arab Palestinians went to war, eventually losing their land to Jordan and Israel.

          The West Bank and Gaza strip belonged to Jordan and Egypt. Israel won them in the 6 day war and has offered them to their former countrymen, the Arab “Palestinians” as a homeland. Until there is peace, you’re right, the Arab “Palestinians” have no home.

      Lawrence Jurrist says:

      Hitler also came to power after a democratic election. The modality of democracy means very little if the result is anti-democratic.

    Beatrix17 says:

    Settlements aren’t groups of RVs sitting in the desert, they’re communities made up of homes, schools, hospitals, businesses, paved roads and a quarter million people. Israel has offered the Palestinians an equal amount of Jewish land in order to keep the largest settlements contiguous to Israel. Bibi isn’t expanding this space—he’s building new homes and offices within existing communities.

    The land has never belonged to the Palestinians. They were exiled here by Jordan after Arafat tried to overthrow the Jordanian King. Israel won the land from Jordan and Egypt in the 6 day war, and inherited the Palestinian exiles who weren’t offered a homeland by either Jordan or Egypt nor initially by Israel. Now Israel is the only nation willing to give this land to the Palestinians for a home.

    But Abbas is holding out for the right of return because there are a total of 10 million Palestinians looking for a homeland. Abbas can’t handle the more than 2 1/2 million in the West Bank, was voted out of office by over 1 1/2 million people in the Gaza strip and has formed no connection with the 5 1/2 million Palestinians in exile. How can he lead 10 million people? As usual he places the burden of his shortcomings onto Israel, but the truth is that peace will come when the Palestinians acquire decent leadership. (Hamas, a group of fraternity brothers turned violent, is worse).

    Arab propagandists win the left by using propaganda appropriate to South Africa and the American Civil Rights era of the 20th century and try to apply it to Israel’s unique 21st century experiences. The point of the propaganda isn’t to solve problems; the point is to destroy Israel.

    Hawking’s naivete is irrelevant.

      Dafna Yee says:

      Many of your points are correct and well-written. My only objection is to your conclusion that peace will come when the Palestinians have decent leadership. The Palestinians don’t want peace with Israel; they want all of Israel! Just look at their maps! Also, an entire generation has been brought up and deliberately taught in school and in the media, nothing but hatred for Israel and all Jews. They have absolutely no idea of even the concept of a Western democracy and they have all been brought up to hate the US as well as Israel! Therefore, a “decent leadership” is an impossibility!

      How can the Palestinians offer/accept peace with Israel when they, and indeed none of the Arab counties, have ever known or understood peace among themselves? Have you thought of the reactions of the other Arab countries, if a miracle happens and a real peace took place? One or more of those countries would immediately conquer “Palestine” and set out to destroy Israel — if there is still an Israel left by then!

        Beatrix17 says:

        You’re absolutely right in your assessment of today’s issues, and what I mean by good leadership is a Palestinian leader who views the situation differently. Abbas is not a leader, he’s a propagandist whom America made a leader because he isn’t violent like Arafat. Arafat was a warrior and any time there was a chance for peace, he’s start another intifada. Unfortunately, with Abbas, any time there’s a chance for peace, he starts another round of propaganda.

        We need a Palestinian leader who wants to lead a country and who feels that the more people he has to lead, the better. If the issue between Israel and the Pals were decided, I think there are Arab countries who would be glad to start doing business with Israel: Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Morocco, etc. Not to mention China.

        Europe is in more danger than Israel.

      vorten says:

      On your point ‘the land never belonged to the Palestinians’ for reason
      a). land never belonged to Palestinians.
      In America we say the Native Americans never owned the land and don’t we look silly.
      b.)they were exiles.
      Jews were exiles too in ancient times and depended on the right of return. That is the basic tenet of Zionism, right of return.
      C. Egypt, Jordon indeed no one will give the Palestinians any of their land so Palestinians should be grateful for the slums we have created for them.
      What nation state will give any one else some of their land. If the Jews lost control of Israel who in the world would take them in. If you can see that no one would then you can see that the Palestinians are not welcome for the same reason. Again what good is land if you cannot freely come and go. The checkpoints make Gaza and West Bank a concentration camp.
      d) inherited exiles
      You can not inherit human beings.

      e. Israel only nation wiling give land to Palestinians for home.
      WHAT kind of home to you give a people and then brocade their ports, roads restricting all commerce and trade.
      If you claim to be a democracy give the people the right to vote.

      Hawking’s Naviete is Irrelevant.
      The Palestinian people are still relevant and you will have to give them freedom or you will have to murder them all.

        Beatrix17 says:

        We agree that the Palestinians shouldn’t be suffering, we disagree on why they suffer. You think it’ s the Israelis, I think it’s lousy Palestinian leadership. Arafat was a warrior, not a leader. Abbas is a propagandist–America made him a “leader.” His only qualification was that he wasn’t Arafat.
        Barghouti would probably have made a good leader if he hadn’t been stupid and become a terrorist. Faayad is an accountant. Palestinians have to come up with better leadership than this.

Jacob Arnon says:

As long as the Jewish people are united, not in endorsing, Israeli policy, but in endorsing Jewish sovereignty, Israel will never be isolated.

While a Stephen Hawking shuns Israel, the Chinese government is reaching to the belittled and beleaguered nation. Which is more important.

Yes, a peoples views individually are conflicted, and so are the views of parties like Labor, and Yesh Atid. Has Liel Leibovitz| asked himself why they are conflicted? Does it have anything to do with fear of a Palestinian State which like Gaza would fire missiles at Israel.

Are the Palestinians not conflicted? And they are conflicted about whether to make a temporary peace or try to destroy the Jewish State now?

Liel seems to have been influenced too much by the critics of Israel.

mishamb says:

I could say a lot about this article, but I will just point out one thing about “The Priority Principle.” The BDS movement’s silence on Syria is troubling not just because the greater carnage in Syria (more dead in the last two years than in the entire history of the Arab – Israeli conflict), but because until the protests and then civil war broke out, the BDS movement was more than happy to use the Syrian people and Syrian government to promote its cause.

The BDSers deny this of course since it cuts against their argument that they are interested in “law” or “morality.” In reality, those in the BDS movement share consanguinity of spirit with murderous thugs. Again, the BDSers will argue this isn’t the case, but those protests ring hollow next to the fawning letters to Assad from George Galloway, the “aid” convoys to Gaza that passed through Syria, and all the Syrian groups (groups controlled by or at least authorized by Assad’s Baathist government) listed as supporting the call for BDS.

So when Syria and the Syrians were useful, the BDSers were happy to have Syria. Now that the Assads are devouring the Syrian people, BDS only silent. The BDSers may as well throw the Syrian people to the lions themselves.

It is this abandonment of the very people the claim to stand with that shows BDSers and their movement for what they really are.

    Solipsistic liberalism is always looking for ways to assert its moral superiority by certifying “victims”. With Syria, they just got no skin in that game (or is it dog in that fight? Whatever.). Whereas they can always point to Israel as America’s (or the West’s) Original Sin.

      Natan79 says:

      They also like haters of Jews. Kills Jews? Good, let’s leave them alone.

Jared S says:

That first paragraph is a bit preachy and self-important, wouldn’t you think?

    Natan79 says:

    Leibovitz likes to think he’s smart. I know him from New York. His broom is smarter.

David L. Mandel says:

With an incredibly smug pretense of moderation, Leibovitz misses the point entirely in his search for credible arguments against Hawking’s principled stand.

Invoking the carnage in Syria, he ignores how easy it is to pick on a ruler who most agree is a villain, and how little meaning there would be to boycotting a similar event in Damascus. Any “priority principle” worth considering must gauge not only the relative evil, but also the relative effectiveness of a given act to oppose it.

Similarly with the “categorical imperative.” Leibovitz quotes Noam Sheizaf’s sensible observation that no one criticized anti-apartheid activists for giving less attention to the simultaneous massacre in Cambodia. But a paragraph later he reverts to challenging the validity of one act of protest if one doesn’t protest other evil at the same time.

Regarding “consequence,” Leibovitz disqualifies himself from opining on the efficacy of Hawking’s (and others’) boycotts when he utterly mischaracterizes the campaign: “BDS holds that massive isolation of Israeli society would eventually lead to the Jewish State’s downfall.” Wrong in so many ways: “BDS” doesn’t “hold” anything. It’s not a person or an organization; it’s shorthand for a variety of strategies, adopted in different ways by different actors, designed to change Israeli policies by exerting pressure while aiming to win public support — all non-violently. Proponents of the “academic and cultural boycott” go to great lengths to explain that they don’t target individual Israelis, nor the “society,” but institutions that are complicit in the targeted policies by virtue of their granting material support to occupation and/or other denials of civil or human rights or their participation in events designed to promote “brand Israel.” The boycotted event here is as good an example of the latter as there could be.

Finally, the alleged “Proust principle:” Hawking and others no doubt will continue speaking out on the issue and have no qualms about participating in authentic conversation on the subject with anyone. It’s participation in an event that uses a celebrity’s presence to score propaganda points that we deem treif.

    “Wrong in so many ways: “BDS” doesn’t “hold” anything. It’s not a person or an organization; it’s shorthand for a variety of strategies, adopted in different ways by different actors,”

    All people and organizations who support BDS have as an ultimate goal to weaken the Jewish State in order to make it disappear.

    Most BDS’s want say so out loud but when you confront them they will admit that their ultimate goal is the disappearance of Israel.

    This is why the same people who endorse BDS are silent about all other outrages and murders in the Arab and Muslim world.

    Not a pip about Assad murders not a pip about the oppression of women in the Muslim world. Not a pip about a pip about Hamas internal oppression of its own people. Not a pip about the Muslim Brotherhood take over in Egypt. Not a pip about hundreds of thousands of Algerian murdered in the 1990’s by Islamists fighting their government. The list goes on.

      David L. Mandel says:

      Mr. Arnon is so obsessed with his demonizing definitions of BDS that he has lost sight of reality. I and everyone I know who supports some campaign of boycott or divestment targeting Israel’s human rights violations has also protested a wide variety of other wrongs at home and in the world. Is Israel being single out? Yes, but by Arnon and his ilk who ignore or absolve it of behaviors they wouldn’t tolerate anywhere else. Moreover, many of us who are Jews feel a special obligation to speak out against crimes being committed in our name by a regime we didn’t choose. And last I heard, the U.S. government wasn’t sending $3+ billion in military aid to Hamas or Algerian Islamists.

        Natan79 says:

        Show us what else you protested. Let’s see that variety. I did an analysis of signatures on boycotts. There is very little common between Israel-haters like yourself and those who boycott China’s occupation of Tibet.

        And last I head the US government is sending money than that to Egypt and Pakistan, your favorite terrorist countries who gave America 9/11. Clearly what you regret is that those terrorists don’t receive more from the US.

      hypnosifl says:

      “All people and organizations who support BDS have as an ultimate goal to weaken the Jewish State in order to make it disappear.”

      Propagandistic nonsense! I am a secular Jew who supports at least certain parts of BDS (like Hawking’s boycott of a government-sponsored conference, though I hope he wouldn’t have a problem with going to a non-government-affiliated scientific conference in Israel) because I think pressure on Israel is needed to end the occupation and force them to see reason so that they finally allow the Palestinians control their own territory. But I also completely oppose the “right of return” as that would lead to the end of Israel in its current form (not so much that I care about it remaining a Jewish state in the long run, but I do care about it remaining a liberal democracy with all the freedoms of any other secular society enshrined in its government, which I think would be unlikely if it were dominated by Palestinians in our current era). As for Assad/Hamas etc., of course I decry them, but I don’t think there’s any real chance that dictators or theocratic organization would respond to the sort of “peer pressure” that BDS is meant to represent (similarly if Israel were dominated by the ultra-Orthodox, there would be no point applying such pressure).

        Hephie says:

        The Right of Return is a right. It doesn’t belong in scare quotes. It represents a danger only to apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

          hypnosifl says:

          There is no generally-agreed-on “right” to take back land that you or your ancestors once owned many years ago, if you were displaced during war and the current residents bear no personal responsibility for displacing you. Do you in fact think Native Americans have a right to kick descendants of European colonists out of any area they once lived on? Do you agree with this action by the Israeli governments where they evicted a bunch of Palestinians from their neighborhood on the basis of the fact that the properties had belonged to Jews before 1948, when it came under Jordanian control and the Jews had to leave? Do you think it would be a good idea if all the Bosnians and Croatians displaced during the wars in the former Yugoslavia started agitating to be allowed to reclaim former property in the other country, displacing current residents, even if this would quite possibly shatter the peace there and restart the ethnic conflicts? If you trace back any property far enough, there was likely some point where it was forcibly taken by one group from another, such is the sordid history of humanity–a peaceful status quo should be favored over an attempt to return the situation to how it was long ago, in the name of some abstract ideal we have invented for ourselves. But of course, the current occupation of Palestine does not qualify as a “peaceful status quo”, which is why the Palestinians need to be given sovereignty in the occupied territories.

          Hephie says:

          There IS a right to go back to your private home after the smoke of battle clears. You home. The one that’s been in your family for three or four or five generations? If you can’t get that back, property of equal worth and quality. These people have all the documentation they need. This is the universally recognized right of return. It is NOT a privilege.

          Ahh! The Shamasane family (your ‘bunch of Palestinians) eviction! Goodness gracious, you really ARE complete filth, monster! The UN and other agencies are doing everything they can to return refugees back home in Former Yugoslavia as well as settling compensation claims. The people who want to go home are being enabled to go home. Just going to show how backward, primitive and Nazi-ideology-inspired Israel really is.

          I also forgot that travelling back in time is solely Jewish preogative–Native Americans can’t try to reset history–they’re to brown and too little chosen?

          hypnosifl says:

          “Ahh! The Shamasane family (your ‘bunch of Palestinians) eviction! Goodness gracious, you really ARE complete filth, monster!”

          “Bunch of Palestinians” because I was speaking casually of a large group of people who I assumed would have multiple surnames, I could just as easily talk about the “bunch of Jews” who used to live there before 1948. And you are being evasive about answering my actual question here, do you think that the fact that the fact that a bunch of Jews lived there pre-1948 justifies evicting the Palestinians? In case you missed it, I was arguing against evicting the Palestinians in that case, whereas your blanket statement about the “right of return” would seem to imply you would be the first to kick them out of their homes (assuming you are not an unprincipled hypocrite who only invokes the right of return when it’s convenient, of course).

          “The UN and other agencies are doing everything they can to return refugees back home in Former Yugoslavia as well as settling compensation claims.”

          By evicting the current residents? I doubt it, if you claim that’s what’s going on please provide a link to support it.

          “I also forgot that travelling back in time is solely Jewish preogative–Native Americans can’t try to reset history–they’re to brown and too little chosen?”

          WTF are you talking about? I don’t believe the Jews are a “chosen” people, and I am arguing against anyone being allowed to “reset history” by evicting current residents from their home based on past ownership many years ago–including any Jews who wish to do that (like the ones in Sheikh Jarrah). I would be just as opposed to Holocaust survivors or their descendants evicting German families from their homes based on such prior ownership claims. Again I note you are being evasive about my question–do you in fact think Native Americans should have the right to evict descendants of European settlers from any area that used to be lived on by them, yes or no?

          Hephie says:

          OK. You’re just confused. There is something called ‘legal title’. The only way around it that I know of is eminent domain. The colonists exploit it, even though they mainly get their properties through forged documentation and fraudulent purchases. In this specific case, they got lucky and a court found for them. That’s property law. And yes, the titleholder has the right to take back property. The Israeli government, however, does not have the right to throw a protected person under GCIV out onto the street. Legal title holds. The holder is entitled to a return of the original property or compensation. That’s pre-law basic.

          I’m not evading anything with the red-herring, moronic question about Native Americans. It’s just too idiotic. An idiocy almost as insane as a bunch of white Europeans thinking that they can turn back the clock two-thousand years and take over someone else’s country.

          Hephie says:

          By coincidence I came across a discussion of the Sheik Jarrah family. The point made was that the Zio-nazi colonists use of original title will prove a poisoned chalice. The use of original title is restricted to outside of the Green Line. In other words, while it can be used in the Occupied Territories, the laws enacted to codify the land theft won’t allow it. The Israeli court’s acceptance of the argument here set a dangerous precedent for those stolen properties inside Israel proper.

          Further, you really should try to argue law based on facts and not on what you imagine the facts should be. Title is the legal right to land. The history of its transfer is the history of its ownership. If the property is stolen, the holder of the title has the right to its return or to compensation. What is it that you think Germany is still paying off, hurt feelings? Yes indeedy people are thrown out of homes when a title search shows the title is not clear. That’s because they don’t own the property. Now they can turn around and sue the person who sold the property to them and/or seek other redress–but they have 0 right to the property.

          Palestinian intellectuals and others interested in justice have long discussed the practicalities of dealing with stolen Palestinian property inside the colonial entity. They are clear that this would be a long, drawn-out LEGAL process. No one is contemplating a fiat expulsion of Jews–ethnic cleansing is, after all, a Zionist specialty.

          hypnosifl says:

          I wasn’t trying to “argue law” at all–I thought we were discussing whether “right of return” should be recognized as a universal ethical right, regardless of the laws on the book in any particular country (I would continue to believe in a ‘right to free speech’ even if I lived in a country where this was not considered a legal right, for example). I thought I made clear that I was discussing ethical universals, not particular laws, by bringing up all those other cases from multiple regions and time periods, and in arguing in each case that although monetary compensation might be a good idea, there should be no right for the people who lived there earlier to evict the current residents (holocaust survivors evicting German families, Native Americans evicting European-descended people, Jews evicting Palestinians from the Sheik Jarrah neighborhood). If you want to discuss laws, which country’s laws would you be using as a basis for deciding whether the Palestinians have a right to take back homes currently occupied by Israelis? Presumably you wouldn’t want to use Israeli law…

          Hephie says:

          Until the world learns to live without private property, I think I’ll settle for a system of laws that punishes theft and protects ownership, thank you.

          hypnosifl says:

          I am specifically arguing against right of return in cases where the current residents of the place, who would have to be evicted, bear no personal responsibility for the former residents losing their homes–if they were personally guilty of “theft”, of course I’d be all for evicting them. And the issue of how we should deal with property rights in the present world (as opposed to the post-scarcity world I hope will come about within the next century or two) isn’t all-or-nothing–for anyone like me who does’t see private property as an inherently sacred value, it seems pretty natural to evaluate property disputes in a purely utilitarian way, in terms of what is likely to produce the best overall result, not in terms of absolute property-rights principles. In an individual case where one person is clearly responsible for taking another’s property then property rights should be enforced, but with mass property losses due to events like wars that shift borders, and where years later the current residents aren’t guilty of taking the property and the former residents have long since settled in other areas, I think less unhappiness is created by just letting things ownership stand as it is, though government compensation for the people who lost the property would be only fair. And in Israel’s case there’s the additional issue that a universal right of return would radically and abruptly change the population of a country and almost certainly lead to a lot of internal violence and quite likely civil war, not to mention the issue of probably eliminating Israel’s character as a secular society which tolerates ideas that religious conservatives strongly opposed; given the other option of a two-state solution which would give Palestinians sovereignty in their own territory, I think the latter is likely to produce better results in practice.

          tendilla says:

          You walked away….you done lost it….tell it to ham-ass!!!!!

          Natan79 says:

          Ham in your ass, shithead.

          tendilla says:

          I assume the Ham in your Ass was for Hippie not me…is that correct Natan?

          Natan79 says:

          Do you protest against the Right or Return of Germans or Italians? No, it’s just the Jews that bother you, dirty Jew-hater.

          tendilla says:

          There is NO RIGHT of return guaranteed by anyone!!!
          …soooo…Hippie…you can shove that where the terrorists keep their brains!!!!!

        Natan79 says:

        More than 10 European countries, including Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Romania and Lithuania have a Right of Return.Yet you are not bothered by that. You only are bothered by the Jewish Right of Return. To you, any nation can have that right, but not the Jews.

        That makes you an anti-Semitic Jew. Mind you, certainly not a self-hating Jew. You certainly don’t hate yourself. No. You just hate other Jews.

          hypnosifl says:

          Apparently you didn’t read any of the discussion except my last comment–the whole “right of return” topic came up because I was arguing against the Palestinian right of return to Israel, and I also made clear that I disagree that this should be a basic right in any country. But thanks for rushing to accuse me of anti-semitism without even bothering to read the context, schmuck!

          Also, as I tried to make clear in the previous discussion, I am using a universal moral standard I apply to everyone (no right of return if it requires evicting innocent current residents), unlike a lot of people who employ “right of return” in a purely partisan way (on both sides of the Israel-Palestine issue). Is the same true of you? If you think Jews should have the right of return in the case of holocaust survivors or pre-1948 Jewish residents of Sheik Jarrah (even though this would mean kicking the current residents out, who in most cases bear no personal responsibility for what happened to the former Jewish residents), do you also agree with the universal right of return for all Palestinians who only intended to temporarily leave their homes for fear of their own safety during a war? Or are you just another crude us-vs.-them thinker who only treats the right of return as sacrosanct when it applies to your own favored “us” (Jews), but not to “them” (Palestinians)?

Hawking’s legacy will be of an Israel boycotter. All of his other accomplishments will be forgotten

    Hephie says:

    Little provincial, don’t you think? Oh wait! I forgot! The universe revolves around Israel! Silly that Hawking didn’t figure that one out!

Leave aging Hawking, the physicist, alone. He must be given the opportunity and right to decide for himself what is best for him, to do or not to do. Why the need to conjecture his intention? (btt1943)

Re: Most of the comments. So much for focusing on the content of this very well-reasoned essay. I am always trying to find rational arguments to use in order to discuss boycotts of Israel with my friends, Jewish and non-Jewish; I tend to just get upset. You’ve provided those arguments, for which I thank you.

Taking a step back — for me, for Jews and for Israel — the lesson is that there will always be a “Stephen Hawkings”. There will always be those who are all too ready to condemn us based on few, select facts (or untruths). It has always been the case, no matter how well we lay out the facts. We can argue about why that is, whether it’s because of anti-semitism, kneejerk blame-the-west leftism, ignorance, jealousy or what have you, but we should also admit that it will not go away. It never has, and there’s no reason to believe we live in some sort of “enlightened” time (Jews throughout history probably thought they were living in “enlightened” times, no doubt). We may experience some respite as we did after the Holocaust, but earning empathy that way is too high a price to pay.

So, we’re left with just a few options. First, we should continue to try to explain, but when others refuse to see the truth, we should stop wringing our hands and trying harder. Enough of that. It gets us nowhere and it causes us to self flagellate. Definitely not worth it.

Second, we must simply redouble our efforts to assure a strong, vibrant, secure Israel. THAT is our sanctuary. Political allegiances will come and go, but Jewish self determination and Jewish self-managed security is our only real option.

    Brian Henry says:

    If Hawking wants to boycott Israel, he needs to turn off his voice synthesizer. He should also avoid all hospitals – they’re full of miracles invented by the evil Zionists.

      Hephie says:

      Hasbarats are so cute when they claim that Israel invented everything! They’re rather like Cold War Russians that way. Actually, it’s being small and essentially irrelevant to the world that makes Israel and its hasbarat supporters make these inflated claims. I’ve lived in small countries that inflate their national egos by touting a grandmother’s genes in an international figure. The ‘Israeli technology’ is bunk. The Intel i7 was designed in Hillsboro Oregon. Its lead designer, an Indian. Listen to his discussion of the chip’s development and watch ‘Israeli technology’ disappear: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0bp-wKh828.

      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.

      But please don’t let that stop you. Hasbarats are fond of lying and it’s just soooo damned cute when you claim to have invented everything!

To argue in an editorial directed at Jews that what happens in the West Bank is unworthy of being highlighted by Mr. hawking, or anyone else, because of the Priority Principle, is a travesty. We Jews ought to be singularly concerned with the actions taken by our State in our name. To argue that things are worse in Syria or elsewhere is an utter abdication of our moral responsibility to take care of our own souls. What Jew would accept his son or daughter turning to a life of crime with the excuse that other kids in other families are worse criminals? As Jews, there is no higher priority for us than that our people conduct themselves on the world stage with the highest morality. The Categorical Imperative Principle is likewise a dodge. As an American, I do not excuse my own country’s failings, but this does not give me license to turn a blind eye towards Israel’s policies and the injustices its young soldiers are asked to carry out each day against an occupied people. The Principle of Consequence argues that one should not boycott, but rather engage, since a boycott will ultimately fail. I’m sure the leaders of South Africa felt the same way. Just because there may be additional better ways to effect change does not mean that Hawking is wrong to do this small act. Bringing the matter to the attention of his followers is a very significant act, and dismissing or belittling it is foolish and shortsighted. Likewise, the Proust Principle argument assumes that Hawking’s act has no further ramification. I’ve read it in comments by my fellow Jews on this matter, who say “who does he think he is?” and “why should anyone care what he thinks?” But the truth is that many people care what he thinks, and many people are talking about this, and sticking your head in the ground, or in the clouds, as Liel Leibovitz has done, does not make the talk go away, or provide good answers to the moral questions being raised in the West Bank every day.

    Funny comment coming from a guy who daily enjoys the fruit of ethnic cleansing. The moral questions coming from dwelling on occupied/stolen land in Saratoga Springs, should also raise questions.

    hottrika says:

    With people like you, Israel needs no external enemies. You high moral horse riding fools will wither it within.

Davdon says:

Israeli apologists could come up with an argument to convince prople that the sky is green.

What Israel is doing is wrong.
Well done Professor Hawkings

Sanctimonious BDS posturing always leaves me wondering where I can buy quality Israeli goods (online) or find promising investment opportunities there.

HappyandProud says:

I understand that Hawkings relies on Israeli technology for his voice synthesizer, computers, and the medical equipment that keeps him alive. Why isn’t he boycotting those?

    RodolfoLeonMartinez says:

    Are not Israel high tech useing arabic algebra in their gadgets?

      HappyandProud says:

      Not an intelligent comment. Besides the fact that algebra was not invented by Arabs, neither the Israeli government nor Israeli corporations are boycotting Arab-created technology.

      Natan79 says:

      Do you mean Indian algebra? Check your facts.

        RodolfoLeonMartinez says:

        Arabs traders bought the Indian math to the west. Your right.

      hottrika says:

      Algebra is an Indian gift to the world as is decimal system, zero , astronomy and many other applied and pure science. The list is long. Islam has only laid claim to other’s civilizations after having destroyed much of it.

        RodolfoLeonMartinez says:

        Yes the zero concept was 1st used by Indians. But Indians didnt bring their gift to the world to that world. It was Arab traders that bought that know how and like all new know how they added their own twist. Arabs didnt invent it, but they bought its use to the west.

          hottrika says:

          You are sadly mistaken. Just read some good History books, not some propagandist Islamic literature. India was the global seat of learning long before Arabia (present day students often mistake Persia for Arabia) evolved into a meaningful civilization to which scholars from ancient Greece, Rome, Persia, China, Mesopotamia, Sumer, Babylon, Egypt (not the present Islamic cesspit) often congregated and gathered wisdom and knowledge. Just Google INDIA’S NALANDA UNIVERSITY or INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION for an insight into ancient India.

          Islam only brought mayhem to whichever unfortunate land its cursed feet fell, decimated and destroyed the native culture and civilization and afterwards laid claim to what was left, as its own.

          RodolfoLeonMartinez says:

          Its historical fact that arab traders bought that knowledge from India to the west. During the muslum conquest of spain they bought that science. When the muslums where kicked out of spain, that knowledge from India, bought over by arab traders was rediscovered by Christian monks who translated into western tongues. That change Europe, the knowledge from India bought over by arab traders. Thats not propaganda. Just look it up youself. Islam did have tolerant societys. They conquered but accepted other creeds. When the Christian invaders who where not tolerant took their lands, and slaughtered and ate muslums, it must have change that tolerant view of others. Historical facts are not propagada, its stuff that just happen. You cant ignore it because you dont like it.

    umakemesickisrael says:

    BS u made up, but thats ur history SCUM

FactsAreFun says:

Stephen Hawking is not wrong. He has a personal opinion and he acted on it. Free people in free nations respect that. End of story. No deep philosophical thoughts required. Not that this article was deep…

    Natan79 says:

    He has personal opinions that are anti-Semitic, which is his right. It is our right to despise him.

      FactsAreFun says:

      That’s your personal opinion and you are free to say that. On the other hand… it would have far more weight if you could actually support it with some evidence.

      It would, by the way, be quite the irony, if a man who has spent his whole adult life working on the theory of Albert Einstein, would hate Jews. He does, for sure, not fall into the category of man who believes in “German Physics”. I assume you know what that is?

      Or maybe he doesn’t hate Jews, at all, he just doesn’t agree with the political ideas of some Jews? Well, I have news for you, he doesn’t agree with core Christian and Islamic ideas, either. And there are plenty of people in both groups who dislike him for that just the way you do.

      FactsAreFun says:

      That would be quite surprising for a man who has spent his whole adult life on exploring and improving on the theory of Albert Einstein.

      But I am sure you can provide evidence, beyond your personal opinion?

    Danny Bravo says:

    stephen hawking is not wrong ? he is false and liar,, hawking explain the dark gravity in wrong explanation and tha dark matter is a seperated body of the god and if hawking is right why this dark matter dont know how to use,,, meaning hawkings dont understand all about the dark matter ,, and for the name he given dark matter is not a matter this is a round compressed and solid transfarrent gravity,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, dust is a matter and no any dust can close to the dark gravity because the tension of this are to push,,,, why hawking dont know this ?

Mark says:

Why not call him an Anti-Semite? For example, he was happy to go to Iran a few years back to receive accolades from that regime. Hawking apparently has problems with Jews living in Israel, so let’s call him what he is.

    umakemesickisrael says:

    So glad I found this brainwashing centre, gonna be posting alot more on here to help you sick modern day nazis

Omar Qadri says:

Stephen Hawking is a better man than most of you put together. You have no right to judge him and his logic (and his intellect) is far superior to what your average uninformed American/pro Israel brain can dish out.

WillMan1 says:

This was an excellent piece, incredibly well written and thought out, perhaps excessively so, I dare say.

There’s a somewhat cliched quote that probably everyone has heard from time to time, but I first heard it from a former girlfriend during my time in university.

Concidentally and parenthetically, this woman is / was Jewish, which I point out for no other reason than because of the Table’s target demographic, and / or perhaps this saying is or is not more common than among we Gentiles (?):

“I think you think too much”.

I realise I don’t write for the Tablet (I suppose, unless you wanted to release me from unemployment by giving me a job as your Canadian Unsophisticated Goy Guy columnist :-) ), but if I were you, I think I’d have just said it in a sentence or two:

“Hawking is undisputedly a great scientist, but please, don’t give up your day job, and absolutely don’t give up your day job to stick your nose into political controversy”.

I somewhat confess to borrowing from a Brad Pitt quote here. When asked about his stance on the Iraq war, he apparently said something of the form “I’m an actor, how the f–k should I know?”. I have to admit, I really respected him for saying that, and I wish that Dr. Hawking had behaved the same way.

    umakemesickisrael says:

    perhaps you should stop and think before u R ape another innocent child

      WillMan1 says:

      Were you actually replying to me there, or did you reply to me by mistake?

      I looked over my post again, but no matter how creatively I looked at it, I was unable to ascertain or otherwise distinguish any statement that even remotely suggested anything about raping innocent children (!).

      BTW I’m still hoping for that employment offer letter to become your Canadian Unsophisticated Goy Guy columnist :-) I realise the folly of holding my breath, however. :-(

altershmalter says:

Just got around to reading this…Hawking may be intelligent but he’s a crackpot and a hypocrite. Who does he think invented all of those chips that make his equipment function? Yeah, Stevie…boycott Israel and shut yourself down…LOL

Oh god I thought for a second Liel Leibovitz was going to challenge something scientific.

ShalomFreedman says:

Hawking has lost it in recent years. First he decided to replace God with the laws of quantum electrodynamics, then he went insane at the ‘aliens’ the extraterrestials that he thought would come from so far off to do in little unadvanced us, now he takes on the only democracy , the only free and inquiring society for thousands of miles alone and decides to violate the basic principle of academic freedom in order to satisfy the great minds of the Palestinian authority.
All he has done is stained his own name and reputation- Israel will continue to be a hotbed of scientific inquiry and academic freedom – without him.

David Henry Parry says:

Since when did two wrongs make a right and since when did choosing to shun a nation that does bad things for one’s own personal reasons mean the state has to trot out some over-educated pedants to try to shout one down with over-convoluted and intellectually-expensive non-arguments that still fail to address the central issue; personal choice in what one does with one’s time?

Methinks the head-box wearers doth protest too much?

umakemesickisrael says:

Modern Day Nazis just broke the record for the longest ghetto , you beat hitler by over 50+ years congratulations SCUM

Danny Bravo says:

the problem of stephen hawkings dont know the the origin of universe because of no information,, dont know how to use the gravity,,, how he knows or learn the dark matter,,,,,i have an informer no any human have an informer about in space ,,, only jesus,einstein,,me, and other ancient astronomer,,, not all person can found the information who because of our cells cant accept high radiation of gravity,,,,if you trying ,,exorcism is the result and death,,

Danny Bravo says:

no any scientist,,or priest,or pastor, or papa cant explain the god what is,,, because if you are starting to connect to the gravity he explain all who is he and he discribe what kind is he,,not by word, by drawings and picture and sign with meaning,,, similar to the craft circle,,,, my informer is not an alien,,because alien is a matter and my informer is not a matter,,, because,, every time if im submitted of my question,, after a few hour im always hit of stroke causes all my blood are always expanding if this is close to me,,,,, alien are not no effect to my body,, means my gravity cells is higher than alien,,,,,,but this is no prove,,,, i can answer that in 2016 if im starting to arrest the black hole,,,, if im died because of the radiation,,,sorry,,,

Brerlou L. King says:

POLITICAL ENTROPY
I’m sorry to have to say this, but in accordance with the pragmatics of international politics, “might is right.” There’s nothing we can do about this inescapable fact, simply because on either side the lives and futures of millions of individual humans are tied up in these outcomes. “When elephants fight, the grass trembles,” goes an old African saying. This suggests that there is a level of political abstraction where individual morality becomes irrelevant, and each outcome is determined by the interplay of statistical majorities.
The ultimate, final, outcome, unless nature catastrophically intervenes, as it has in the past and eventually will again, is the entropic integration of mankind, entropic because the forces of human will, finely divided will eventually cancel each other out. This will not happen in our lifetime, so we can only predict the direction and flow of the forces involved.
Democracy is a demonstration of political entropy in action. Israel must therefore survive, and the Muslim world must continue to waste its energy upon its walls. That’s entropy. The Muslim and Far Eastern worlds must therefore yield to the stochastic forces that will force democracy upon them. Before that, in all probability, millions will die as men pursue their own selfish interests in the name of whatever politico-religious philosophy they find convenient to promulgate.

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