Stephen Hawking, one of the most famous physicists in the world, has asked his nearly 4 million Facebook followers to help fundraise for Palestinian physics students. The money would allow pupils to continue their studies at the Palestinian Advanced Physics School, an institute hosting masters’ students studying contemporary physics.
The world-renowned physicist, who sent a video greeting in 2016 to the students that attended the school’s first year at the Arab American University of Jenin in Palestine, posted a link to the Scientists For Palestine fundraiser on Facebook Monday.
“I support the rights of scientists everywhere to freedom of movement, publication and collaboration. In this spirit, I would like to bring up a fundraising project aimed at raising funds to make a second Palestinian Advanced Physics School possible. Please consider making a donation today to support science in Palestine,” the Facebook post read.
The project has raised a total of nearly $11,000 with 147 backers, a majority of which have contributed within the past few days following Hawking’s post. The campaign’s description stated that the funds will be used to organize high-level scientific events, and that while they have received funding in the past, it has remained an obstacle.
“Indeed, [Palestinian Advanced Physics School] is an unusual event, being an international master’s-level science school in a developing country, and covering a wide variety of physics topics. Few universities, laboratories, or science agencies provide funding for such events,” the campaign stated.
Hawking has previously sparked controversy regarding Israeli-Palestinian relations when he cancelled attendance to a conference in Israel for former President Shimon Peres’s 90th birthday. He joined a number of groups that decided to academically boycott Israel following the nation’s treatment of Palestinians: “Had I attended, I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster,” Hawking wrote in a letter to the event’s organizers.