After the storm

So it’s after the storm. I don’t mean a physical storm–of course I am referring to my recent experience in posting some thoughts on Prof. Stephen Hawking’s decision to join the boycott of Israel. From threatening personal emails to being called a racist bigot (and worse), I’ve been somewhat peaked piqued at the the responses that have surfaced.

Without rehashing the issues entirely, just a couple comments–before I move from the storm to something definitely more beautiful–and less controversial, I’m sure.

1) Despite what some readers might have inferred, I never claimed that I have any right to presume that Dr. Hawking needs to do as I suggest–he is certainly intelligent enough to make up his own mind. As Stephen Curry questioned in a tweet, I believe that this was a missed opportunity for him to go and give ’em hell–to voice his opinion and state his points. He certainly would have had center stage. The boycott only pushes Israelis and her supporters to reach the conclusion that the entire world is against them–all in the context of the genocide of the Holocaust. It also energizes the more radical Palestinian views, provided false hope that Israel will collapse and simply disappear.

2) Some readers have commented that I am biased. Well, those who write editorials necessarily take positions–and despite the fire that I drew, I must have been fairly balanced because the attacks were not only from Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) supporters, but from those supporting Israel’s occupation (yes, I do agree to that description) of the West Bank.

I  noted in the article that I support the attempts to bring both sides to the negotiating table, and I fully support the idea of a two-state solution in which Israel returns most/all of its conquered land to the Palestinians as part of a negotiated peace deal. I also noted my disdain for the current government and policies, but did not fail to point out that the Palestinians have also suffered from terribly poor leadership since 1947 (perhaps until now). If they had had good leadership in the 1990s, I am certain that they would already have a state by now.
I stand by my comments that there is a lot of blame to share on both sides over the years, and my brief historical explanations. But my view is that right now, blame serves no purpose. Hatred serves no purpose. Neither Israelis nor Palestinians can afford to look back and maintain dreams of what could have been. Israel exists and isn’t going away. And the Palestinians exist and need a state of their own. And if I am attacked for saying that an academic or general boycott of Israel is not going to advance this agenda of a negotiated peace and two state solution–so be it.

With that said, I move on to springtime in Omaha, and believe it or not, the beautiful flowers at the Omaha Lauritzen (Botanical) Gardens were outdone by a very unusual exhibit, which I bring to you here! LEGO in the spring!


Over 45,000 pieces of LEGO were used to make the bull. The artist, Sean Kenney, used over 0.5 million pieces for the entire exhibit of about 27 sculptures!

lego birds




The hummingbird sculpture reaches a height of about 8 feet!




The BDS movement has basically invented their own narrative of the past 65 years. Failing to block the State of Israel from arising, and failing to ever note that Palestinians could have had a state in 1948 when Israel accepted–and Palestinians went to war over the 2-state solution partition plan, today’s BDS has reinvented history. Their claims of a one-sided victimhood with “ethnic cleansing” and a moral equivalence to African Americans and South Africa insult the intelligence of anyone who knows history. But they take advantage of young and naive new-agers searching for issues that they can support and feel they are helping a “victim.”

This is not to say that Palestinians aren’t victims–they are–first and foremost to their own leadership of the last 65 years. There is legitimate blame on the Israeli side as well. But the BDS ignore anything that would divert their invented narrative of history.

With regards to anti-Semitism, BDS supporter, author, and attacker (in The Guardian) of my articles, says it all here with an eye-opening tweet:

Howard Jacobson Tweet

If anyone has any lingering doubt that anti-Semitism plays a role in BDS activities, this attack on the “face” of the author that Henry just linked below says it all. Anti-Semitism is still alive and kicking, especially in the BDS movement.

About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery. "Saving One" is my most recent novel set at the National Institutes of Health. Now IN PRESS: Today's Curiosity is Tomorrow's Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research (CRC PRESS, 2021). All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising.
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20 Responses to After the storm

  1. aeon says:

    Steve, I agree with you in some points, but I’m not sure if you can assume, at the same time, that “The boycott only pushes Israelis and her supporters to reach the conclusion that the entire world is against them” and “I believe that this was a missed opportunity for him to go and give ‘em hell–to voice his opinion and state his points. He certainly would have had center stage.”

    For once, I would assume he had the center stage on a much broader level after his refusal to go. From my POV, we certainly would not discuss the meeting in major media outlets and countless posts on blogs, blog comments, and twitter without his refusal.

    While I am *very* ambiguous about his decision, and even more about the hypocritical parts of the multi-media echo it produced. But he certainly had a large impact, and it’s not that people don’t think for themselves. Even if most comments look like this, and Goodwin’s law lurks at every webpage. The urge to comment on the web not always carries strongest with those who like to have a second thought about the reported issues. (Yes, I know, I am following this urge right now, but please forgive me on that shortfall.)

    His decision make me, at least, question my own opinions and beliefs. And I do hope it did in others, as well.

  2. cromercrox says:

    I’ve been somewhat peaked at the the responses that have surfaced.

    I think the work for which you are groping is ‘piqued’.

  3. cromercrox says:

    ‘work’ –> ‘word’. Petard. Own. My. Hoisted.

  4. cromercrox says:

    I think one is entitled to one’s opinions, especially in an editorial. You, like me, are a member of The Tribe, which has suffered horrific discrimination throughout history, and continues to do so today – even by people who would otherwise hate to be accused of discrimination of any sort. I lost relatives in the Holocaust, and look askance at those who say, quite baldly, that criticism of Israel is not the same thing as antisemitism. These people come from the same class of society – the intellectual and establishment – that tried to stop Jewish refugees from the Nazis reaching the British-controlled Mandate.

    To be sure, criticism of Israel is quite plainly not the same thing as antisemitism, but it’s not as simple as that. I expect there are some people who are critical of Israel who aren’t antisemitic. Israel, after all – like no other nation in the region – has a robust, free press, in which criticism of the government is freely given. Like you, I think the policies of the current government in allowing more settlements to be built on the West Bank is wrong. I also feel that that bloody great dividing wall is a major publicity own-goal by the Israelis, for all that it has probably thwarted many acts of terror.

    However, I am just as sure that there are people, particularly on the academic Left in the UK, who use criticism of Israel as a cover for antisemitism. And I am absolutely certain that there are people who make no distinction between ‘Israel’ and ‘Jews’ and use the terms interchangeably. I was there, in a pro-Israel demo in London a few years ago, when the chants of the counter-demo to ‘Kill The Jews’ was clearly audible. Nobody can tell me that what I heard was mistaken.

    What irks me most is that there is little or no protest by Left-wing critics of Israel against these acts of antisemitism, distancing themselves from such racist views. And this tells us something, I think, about a very deep-seated antisemitism in some corners of society.

    • Ola says:

      Please, STOP calling it racism!
      Judaism is not a race. It is a religion.
      People can opt in or out of Judaism, but cannot do so for race.

      This is by no means intended to diminish the importance of the anti-semitism you speak of. Religious prejudice is just as nasty as racism, but it is a tremendous disservice to those who suffer bona fide racism, to use the term loosely to describe something else.

      • cromercrox says:

        Ola, you really don’t know what you are talking about. Judaism is a religion, but it is also closely tied to an ethnicity. That’s why I tend to refer to it as a ‘tribe’. And when I have had grandparents die in the Holocaust, and when I have had fellow students at Cambridge University say that this fact was a ‘jolly good thing’, and when I have celebrated the Bat Mitzvah of my second daughter only last weekend, and yet I still have to fight of ignorant people like you who imagine they know what they are talking about – well, that says a great deal about the battle that we Jews have to fight every day so as not to have to make excuses for living.

  5. If Henry’s nitpicking grammar (and yes, I am only slightly embarrassed to say I spotted “peaked” as well), I’ll nitpick biology – that is a Bison, although I suppose if it’s a male it could also be a bull.

    Is that a little bird perched on its back? If so, very cute touch.

    I have to admit, Steve, I avoided the comment deluge on your Hawking article, because such things really, really annoy me.

  6. Steve Caplan says:

    I thought the storm might be over, but was asked today to participate on the Huffington Post’s “HuffLive” segment dedicated to the boycott of Israel. here is the link:

    • cromercrox says:

      I saw about 19 mins of this before I lost the will to live. Omar Barghouti’s equation of Israeli policy with apartheid is just plain stupid. The rabbi was over the top. The lady academic talked some sense. So did you.

    • Steve Caplan says:

      Please see my POST SCRIPT and TWEET IMAGE now added to the body of this blog above. Proof of anti-semitism in the BDS movements, by its leaders.

      • cromercrox says:


        • cromercrox says:

          Actually, this Ben White character is all over the web like a cheap suit. Just Google ‘antisemitism’ and ‘Ben White’ and you can find out more about him than you’d ever want.

          • Steve Caplan says:

            I think that one Tweet says it all in a nutshell. If there was ever any doubt that anti-Semitism plays a role in BDS propaganda, there you have it.

  7. cromercrox says:

    Any chance you could email me that tweet intact, with the link to which it refers?

Comments are closed.