"I have received a number of letters from Palestinian academics," Stephen Hawking said in his declaration of support for the BDS movement. "They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this, I must withdraw from the conference."
The conference was in 2013, in Jerusalem, and hosted by Shimon Peres, an Israeli leader who spent his career as an indefatigable advocate of peace. It didn't matter. Hawking joined the BDS movement because he never met a fashionable far-left cause he didn't like, and Israel-bashing was one of his favorites.
In 2009, when Israel counterattacked after four years of Hamas rocket attacks on its civilians, Hawking managed to cobble together every incoherent and inaccurate trope about the conflict into one soundbite. He told Al Jazeera:
"A people under occupation will continue to resist in any way it can. If Israel wants peace it will have to talk to Hamas like Britain did with the IRA.Hamas are the democratically elected leaders of the Palestinian people and cannot be ignored … Israel's response to the rocket attacks has been quite out of proportion. Almost a hundred Palestinians have been killed for every Israeli. The situation is like that in South Africa before 1990. It cannot continue."
Naturally, Hawking promoted conspiracy theories about the Iraq war, claiming that it was based on "two lies" intentionally told by the Bush administration: that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and that he was involved in the 9/11 attacks.
He campaigned against British nuclear weapons (somehow the Russian, Pakistani, and North Korean arsenals never caught his attention), and was a fan of Jeremy Corbyn, the Hezbollah-loving Labour leader who is currently trying to protect Russia from the consequences of carrying out a nerve agent attack on British soil. "His heart is in the right place and many of his policies are sound," said Hawking of Corbyn, "but he has allowed himself to be portrayed as a left-wing extremist."
When he weighed in on the Syria war, he was self-congratulatory and dishonest. "The international community has watched from the sidelines for three years as this conflict rages, engulfing all hope," he wrote in 2014. "As a father and grandfather I watch the suffering of Syria's children and must now say: no more."
In 2014, there was one man with the power to do something about Syria: Barack Obama. Anyone who sought intervention in the war needed to shame the President of the United States, not "the international community." But Obama had given Hawking the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and was a fellow liberal celebrity. Thus "Barack Obama" doesn't appear anywhere in his piece. But no matter: its real purpose wasn't to help the children of Syria as he claimed, it was to promote Hawking's image as global moral conscience.
After the celebrity he earned from A Brief History of Time, Hawking grew into that special kind of scold—think Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye—who trades on his reputation as an impartial man of facts and logic in order to condescend to ordinary people.
"I fear evolution has inbuilt greed and aggression to the human genome," he recently sermonized. "There is no sign of conflict lessening, and the development of militarized technology and weapons of mass destruction could make that disastrous. The best hope for the survival of the human race might be independent colonies in space."
If greed and aggression are inherent to "the human genome," why would space colonies populated by humans have any fewer problems than human societies on Earth? He never says. But his goal wasn't to say something serious. It was to tell us that we're all backwards and stupid, unlike Stephen Hawking.
One of the traditional checks in human societies on "inbuilt greed and aggression" is religion—and so one might have thought Hawking would say something nice about western religious observance, which tends to promote humility and respect for life. Of course not: "The scientific account is complete. Theology is unnecessary," he sniffed. The historic account shows that the great secular "scientific" political movements—Communism and Naziism—were also the most aggressive and murderous.
I am not a physicist and am unable to understand the actual merits of Hawking's contributions to the field. But no amount of scientific greatness can excuse his political crusading—far left, viciously anti-Israel, and contemptuous of the culture and values that sustain western societies.