Let’s hear it for Professor Stephen Hawking. The legendary physicist became the latest academic to join the boycott of Israel last week.
When he cancelled his headline appearance at a conference hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres, opponents of the boycott were quick to claim it was down to nothing but his health.
They must have been getting Hawking mixed up with the queen, who pointedly didn’t talk about her usual foreign adventures in her speech this year.
It wasn’t helped by contradictory statements from Cambridge University. But the prof’s own position was clear.
“I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott,” Hawking explained.
“In view of this, I must withdraw from the conference. Had I attended, I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster.”
Israel’s defenders fume that it’s outrageous to boycott the country, because it’s a democracy. And it’s true that millions of people do get to vote in Israel—just like several million white people got to vote in apartheid South Africa.
For Palestinians it’s a different story. Living under military occupation in the West Bank, besieged and hungry in the Gaza Strip or driven into refugee camps in neighbouring countries, they have no say.
And you don’t have to be Professor Hawking to see that that’s wrong.
- Palestinian unions and organisations called for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel in 2005
- It has led to singers cancelling concerts in Israel and dockers refusing to handle Israeli goods
- Lecturers’ union UCU successfully defended its academic boycott in court earlier this year
Government bungling means the Ministry of Defence will have to write off £74 million it has spent on fighter jets.
They are now buying a different model of F-35 for new aircraft carriers from the merchants of death at Lockheed Martin.
It’s just the latest mishap in a project that will now deliver half as much four years late and £2 billion over budget.
Clearly, not everyone is making cuts.
The Tories want to make school heads able to slash teachers’ pay. They’re more relaxed about what heads take home themselves.
Some 800 heads and deputies in England’s state schools earned more than £100,000 last year. And
academy bosses get even more.
Plymouth Marine Academy pays £200,000 to head Helen Mathieson.
You couldn’t make it up... but IDS could!
We’ve mentioned Iain Duncan Smith’s complex relationship with the truth before.
Now boffins at the Statistics Authority have called out the monstruous minister’s wild claims about the benefit cap.
IDS says “we’ve seen 8,000 people who would have been affected by the cap move into jobs.” This supposedly “clearly demonstrates that the cap is having the desired impact.”
But it is “unsupported by the official statistics”.
Now the chair of the Statistics Authority has written to urge IDS to stop making up numbers.
New figures reveal the shocking true level of benefit fraud.
It stands at just 0.7 percent of the welfare bill—barely half the amount that’s wasted through mistakes.
But thanks to scare stories in the Tory press, most people estimate the figure at 27 percent.
Expenses MP vows to go down fighting
One Tory MP is fighting a heroic legal battle—to keep his hands on money he fiddled out of the expenses system.
Expenses watchdog Ipsa found 29 MPs made over £1 million between them as their taxpayer-funded second homes increased in value.
They include ministers Kenneth Clarke, Owen Paterson, Philip Hammond and David Willetts, and Welsh secretary David Jones.
But only Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson is refusing to hand his ill-gotten £54,000 back.
Now Ipsa has started legal action against him, which Jackson says is an attempt to “bully me into submission”.
Let’s see how much sympathy he gets.
Some 100 of Britain’s richest people dodged billions in tax, a study of documents leaked in 2010 has revealed.
And they say there’s no money left...
KNOW YOUR ENEMY No. 148
Nick Seddon - David Cameron’s new health advisor
- Previously worked for Circle, which manages the first NHS hospital to be privately run, then right wing think tank Reform
- Has called for 32,000 hospital bed closures and 150,000 NHS job cuts, and said GPs should charge patients to see them