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The Murder of Yasser Arafat: "Powerful" - The Times of London

Friday, 31 May 2013

Psychobibi reviewed

'Psychobibi': A look deep inside the mind of the prime minister

By Dahlia Scheindlin: Published May 31, 2013
In the beginning of his 2004 book on the psychology of world leaders, political psychologist Jerrold M. Post explains his guiding question: When does the personality of the leader affect political behavior? According to Matthew Kalman and Matt Rees, the self-anointed (and self-published) maverick authors of the e-book Psychobibi (DeltaFourth, 2013) the answer is simple: always.
Benjamin Netanyahu at 10 Downing Street (photo: flickr/10Downing Street)


Ever wonder why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to contradict himself, take steps that sabotage his own success, or behaves in a way guaranteed to earn the wrath of critical allies, mirth of the press, contempt of the public? For those unsolved enigmas that keep the people of Israel up at night – why is he married to a woman everyone loves to hate, what kind of cigars does he smoke and why was he happy to lose the Premiership in 1999 – Psychobibi has an answer. It’s Freud, stupid. Those cigars are not just cigars.

Enough about you, let’s talk about me(dia).

Before looking at what’s in the cigars, it’s worth considering the book itself as a sort of commentary-in-motion on the state of print media today. The authors attempt to strike out a new form of long form journalism – a bold endeavor in an age of the 140-character blippersphere. The e-book is essentially an extended lengthy magazine profile, sold on Amazon for $5.00. For those who don’t have time to read a biography, it’s an abridged answer. For those who want more than a magazine story, it’s richer. The same concept informed their previous endeavor, The Murder of Yasser Arafat.

The writing crosses a harlequin-novella with a stylized spy-novel idiom. The tale is narrated by the bizarre “DeltaFourth” personality, a seamless blend of both authors’ voices after covering Netanyahu over a span of roughly 15 years as journalists in the region. The storyteller that emerges is sufficiently seamless such that being personally acquainted with one of them, I assumed most of the “voice” was actually Matthew Kalman’s – who was Editor-in-Chief of the Jerusalem Report briefly while I was a columnist there – but he assured me that the material and reporting is truly a fifty-fifty product. (The fact that neither of us are at the Report today and both of us invest our energies in new media inventions is further indication of the afflictions of traditional journalism; one big difference is that their invention is intended to make money.)

The book reads as if Kalman and co-author Matt Rees share the same alter-ego: a parody of an investigative-detective-spy team, who think in wry, self- or other-deprecating cracks. On being assaulted by Bibi’s desire to share a cigar-smoking session (at the risk of belaboring the cigar theme), they write: “Good God, he intends for us to smoke the thing. DeltaFourth’s lungs constrict at the mere thought. We must grit our teeth and think of journalism (which only makes us grit our teeth still more).”
READ THE FULL STORY HERE

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Unreal thing? Coca-Cola chief Muhtar Kent declines to endorse Kerry's new economic vision for Palestine

John Kerry stops off for Shwarma in Ramallah, May 23, 2013


Statement by the Coca-Cola Company on John Kerry's plans for Palestine

“Recent public announcements by US Secretary of State John Kerry included references to a vibrant partnership with the private sector in creating innovative solutions to enhance prosperity in the West Bank and Gaza. Together with other business leaders, the Chairman and CEO of The Coca‐Cola Company, Mr. Muhtar Kent, has been recognized for his active engagement in the process of jump‐starting the economy in the Palestinian territories. Improved economic conditions are a necessary part of achieving a sustainable PAA and The Coca-Cola Company is committed to investing in sustainable communities wherever we do business. We have invested more than $1 billion across the Middle East over the last five years – but, at this point, there are no specific plans for additional investments by The Company.

“The Coca-Cola Company entered Gaza in in 1998 through our locally owned franchisee, National Beverage Company (NBC). NBC serves its market with beverages made in the Palestinian Authority Area (PAA) and operates three bottling plants in the West Bank and four sales & distribution centers, in Gaza, Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, and Tulkarem.

“The Coca-Cola Company has a long track record of investing in social and environmental programs in PAA and is supportive of any effort to improve the development climate in the region.”

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Kerry offers Palestinians a start-up occupation



As fate would have it, Israel's electric automobile pioneer BetterPlace filed for bankruptcy on the day Secretary of State John Kerry announced his new Middle East peace plan to the same World Economic Forum where Shai Agassi first floated his battery car dream a decade earlier.
130124-kerry-confirmation-hill-box
Mark Wilson/Getty
I’ve written extensively about BetterPlace, listened to Agassi set out his dream, test-driven the car, checked out their mission-control-style National Operations Center in Rosh Ha-Ayin and even had rare access to the closely-guarded bowels of a BetterPlace battery-switching station where technology once used to load bombs onto airplanes has been refined, computerized and beaten into environmentally-friendly ploughshares so drivers can swap a half-ton of charged lithium-ion in under five minutes.
I’m saddened by the failure of Agassi’s effort to create a world where cars run on clean energy, but the near-billion-dollar failure that made him the poster child of the Start-Up Nation bears lessons far beyond the business perils of green technology.

Like the obscure car crash that sparked the first intifada in 1987, the BetterPlace pile-up is more than a traffic accident. The company's failure is a morality tale about what happens when a game-changing vision and brilliant theory collide head-on with entrenched realities and patterns of behavior.






Monday, 13 May 2013

Swedish version of Hawking boycott story


Startsidan / Debatt

Hawkings bojkott bör påverka Israel

Guardianreportern om världsscoopet som fick eget liv i sociala medier: Värsta ögonblicket i min reporterkarriär


Aftonbladet







När universitetet i Cambridges talesperson Tim Holt i förra veckan slutligen gjorde ett uttalande och dementerade min historia hade berättelsen redan fått eget liv.
Nyheten att professor Stephen Hawking – författare till ”Kosmos – en kort historik” och tillika Storbritanniens mest kände fysiker – i solidaritet med den palestinska akademiska bojkotten av Israel ställt in sitt framträdande på en konferens arrangerad av Israels president Shimon Peres, rasade som en löpeld över nätet och i bloggosfären.
Mitt ursprungliga avslöjande på tidningen Guardians sajt fick över 60 000 Facebookdelningar den morgonen och storyn kom att dominera radio– och nätnyheterna i Israel.
Men det var alltså inte sant.
Jag satt och stirrade på det fåordiga pressmeddelandet från universitetet i Cambridge och undrade om det här kunde vara det värsta ögonblicket i min reporterkarriär.
Tydligen hade jag missuppfattat storyn – min största story i karriären – totalt.


READ THE FULL SWEDISH STORY HERE


MORE ON THIS STORY:

Stephen Hawking joins academic boycott of Israel (Wednesday morning, 8 May 2013)
(Original Guardian scoop)

Furore deepens over Stephen Hawking's Israel boycott (Wednesday evening, 8 May 2013)

Sunday, 12 May 2013

"This otherwise utterly failed and discredited far-left radical extremist so-called reporter" - Hawking's Israel boycott, Tweet by Tweet

At 8.20PM on Tuesday, May 7, I noticed this on my Twitter feed

Which linked to this


Stephen Hawking declines invitation to attend Israeli conference

We understand that Professor Stephen Hawking has declined his invitation to attend the Israeli Presidential Conference Facing Tomorrow 2013, due to take place in Jerusalem on 18-20 June. This is his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there.


So I contacted people I knew at BRICUP, who confirmed the story and gave me some background. Then I sent this email to Peres's spokesman:

From: Matthew Kalman 
Date: Tue, May 7, 2013 at 8:38 PMSubject: Stephen HawkingTo: yairz@president.gov.il
Yair:
There are reports that Stephen Hawking has cancelled his appearance at the President's Conference in June. Do you have any info?
Matthew
While waiting for his reply, I contacted two of the papers I regularly write for. They weren't interested in the story. Rather than waste the tip, which clearly would be a huge story by morning, I called Harriet Sherwood at The Guardian, who generously suggested I should report it for them. I confirmed the facts of the story, but no-one would talk on the record. Just before midnight, I tried Peres's spokesman again:
From: יאיר זיוון
Date: Wed, May 8, 2013 at 12:17 AMSubject: Re: URGENT: Stephen Hawking - Comment request for The GuardianTo: Matthew Kalman
I don't have any info on that now because its the presidents conference people who would deal with it but happy to get you an answer tomorrow.
From: Matthew Kalman
Date: Wed, May 8, 2013 at 12:20 AM
Subject: Re: URGENT: Stephen Hawking - Comment request for The Guardian
To: יאיר זיוון
Going to press in half an hour. I emailed you three hours ago.

I filed the story at 12.54AM on May 8. While they were editing, I Tweeted the news:
Then came this response from Peres's spokesman:
From: יאיר זיוון
Date: Wed, May 8, 2013 at 1:22 AM
Subject: Re: URGENT: Stephen Hawking - Comment request for The Guardian
To: Matthew Kalman
If it's an urgent press question late in the evening then you should call or message. Your initial email (at 20;40) didn't give any indication that it was urgent.
It's not our office but the presidents conference who deal with speakers at the conference and as I said I'm happy to try and get you the answers first thing in the morning but your contact point is Matthew Krieger there.
I think it would be better to wait and get a proper response from them before going to print with something like this.
The Peres people never did send me a comment. At 2.30AM on May 8, the Guardian story went live:



























It became one of the most widely-read stories ever published on The Guardian website, with more than 50,000 Facebook shares by 3PM and more than 100,000 in total.

As the Guardian story went viral, I sought more information and reaction from Cambridge U and Peres's people in Jerusalem. I knew about Hawking's letter but still did not have permission to quote it.
From: Matthew Kalman
Date: Wed, May 8, 2013 at 10:31 AM
Subject: Comment request on Jerusalem Conference from The Guardian
To: S.W.Hawking@damtp.cam.ac.uk, tim.holt@admin.cam.ac.uk
Dear Tim, Prof Hawking:
I am the reporter who broke the story about the Jerusalem Conference in today's Guardian. We are updating the story today and would appreciate any comment you have. In particular, we would love to quote the letter sent to President Peres, if possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Matthew Kalman
From: Tim Holt
Date: Wed, May 8, 2013 at 10:36 AM
Subject: Re: Comment request on Jerusalem Conference from The Guardian
To: "matthewkalman@gmail.com"
No further comment Matthew
Tim
Still nothing from Peres's office. Then, without warning, a new statement from Cambridge U spokesman Tim Holt - though he never sent it to me - suggesting my original story was wrong.

Had I been duped? I asked Holt for clarification.
From: Matthew Kalman
Date: Wed, May 8, 2013 at 3:18 PM
Subject: Urgent: Hawking not coming for health reasons?
To: Tim Holt
Dear Tim:
Please can you confirm/comment on this statement, just published online. Perhaps we can talk off the record?
Statement on Professor Hawking and Jerusalem conference - 8 June, 2013
A University spokesman said: "Professor Hawking will not be attending the conference in Israel in June for health reasons - his doctors have advised against him flying."
Thanks,
Matthew
From: Tim Holt
Date: Wed, May 8, 2013 at 3:19 PM
Subject: RE: Urgent: Hawking not coming for health reasons?
To: Matthew Kalman
Hi Matthew
This is the reason for the cancellation of his visit. No further comment for the time being.
Tim Holt MCIPR
Acting Director of Communications
Office of External Affairs and Communications,
University of Cambridge.
That opened a floodgate of criticism and insults. Some people challenged my story firmly but politely:
Others descended into vitriol. It was amateur hour on the blogosphere:

BREAKING: HAWKING ISRAEL BOYCOTT STORY IS A FRAUD
May 8, 2013
It turns out that Stephen Hawking’s cancelled trip to Israel is not a matter of boycotting the Jewish state, but rather merely a result of.... Read More
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The Guardian Got it Wrong: Stephen Hawking is NOT Boycotting Israel 

MAY 8, 2013 9:58 AM Author:
avatarAdam Levick
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Last night, May 8, the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood ‘broke’ a story claiming that Stephen Hawking was joining the academic boycott of Israel, and that he was “pulling out of a conference hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem as a protest at Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.”
The report, based it seems on claims made by British Committee for the Universities of Palestine(BRICUP), was featured prominently on their website, and was followed up with a poll asking readers if they agreed with Hawking ”decision” to boycott Israel.
Here’s how the Guardian’s Israel page looks at the time of this post:
There was just one problem.
The Guardian evidently didn’t check their facts, as information has been released strongly suggesting that the world-renowned theoretical physicist and former Professor at Cambridge pulled out of the Israeli academic conference purely for health reasons.The Commentator reported the following:
…a Cambridge university spokesperson has confirmed to The Commentator that there was a “misunderstanding” this past weekend, and that Prof. Hawking had pulled out of the conference for medical reasons. A University spokesman said: “Professor Hawking will not be attending the conference in Israel in June for health reasons – his doctors have advised against him flying.”
Further, a spokesman for Cambridge University sent the following email to a CiF Watch reader in response to an inquiry:The only questions which seems to remain is how long it will take for the Guardian to issue a mea culpa on their faux scoop.

But soon I had the text of Hawking's boycott letter. I called Tim Holt in Cambridge to demand an explanation. Still no comment. Then this arrived:
From: Tim Holt
Date: Wed, May 8, 2013 at 4:24 PM
Subject: RE: Comment request on Jerusalem Conference from The Guardian
To: Matthew Kalman
Can you call me please?
Tim Holt MCIPR
Acting Director of Communications
Office of External Affairs and Communications,
University of Cambridge.
Over the phone, Holt admitted the "health" statement was wrong and apologized. 
TIM HOLT: “You were right. Stephen did send a letter on Friday to the Israeli Presidential office saying that he would respect the boycott. Your sources were correct and you have my apologies. I was misinformed.”
I asked Holt to issue a revised statement, began drafting my update for the Guardian and Tweeted the about-turn:
Crispian Balmer, Jerusalem Bureau Chief for Reuters, wasn't the only one who found it hard to believe the flip-flopping from Cambridge U.







Finally, close to 6PM, Holt issued the retraction from Cambridge U. It wasn't exactly what he'd said to me by phone, but it was good enough to vindicate our version of the story as 100% accurate:
From: Tim Holt
Date: Wed, May 8, 2013 at 5:57 PM
Subject: RE: Comment request on Jerusalem Conference from The Guardian
To: Matthew Kalman
Statement on Professor Hawking and Jerusalem conference
8 June 2013
A University spokesman said:
“We have now received confirmation from Professor Hawking’s office that a letter was sent on Friday to the Israeli President’s office regarding his decision not to attend the Presidential Conference, based on advice from Palestinian academics that he should respect the boycott.
“We had understood previously that his decision was based purely on health grounds having been advised by doctors not to fly.”
Tim Holt MCIPR
Acting Director of Communications
Office of External Affairs and Communications,
University of Cambridge.
Even my most vociferous critics had to eat their words, from this:







To this:


























But reactions were still mixed:





I decided to write a quick blog for the Open Zion section of The Daily Beast chronicling the twists and turns of the previous 24 hours.

Some people responded as if they knew and hated me personally:
GaborFränklThe problem is that this otherwise utterly failed and discredited far-left radical extremist so-called reporter has been working for a number of publications and papers in the past few years alone, some of them as a freelancer. Independent, Guardian, Christian Science Monitor whatnot, the whole discredited bunch with zero press ethics. Clearly this odious self-hater couldn’t be happier reporting his fellow antisemites’ abominations as he is jumping up and down in his glee as it turns out from the closing para. in his Daily Beast piece, spouting inane BS about this supposedly decent and pure as white simpleton, primitive dupe of Islamists [Hawking]. I say to him - M.K. - let there be no bigger joy and happiness in his whole life. The ultimate chutzpah is framing deviously and maliciously his closing lines over at the DB as he did. One disgusting stomach-turning individual M. Kalman is, for sure

And some people, apparently, still didn't get it:


MORE ON THIS STORY:

Stephen Hawking joins academic boycott of Israel (Wednesday morning, 8 May 2013)
(Original Guardian scoop)

Furore deepens over Stephen Hawking's Israel boycott (Wednesday evening, 8 May 2013)

Thursday, 9 May 2013

My CNN interview


Hawking boycott of conference

in Israel sparks controversy

   CNN

   May 10, 2013




MORE ON THIS STORY:

Stephen Hawking joins academic boycott of Israel (Wednesday morning, 8 May 2013)
(Original Guardian scoop)

Furore deepens over Stephen Hawking's Israel boycott (Wednesday evening, 8 May 2013)
(Guardian Follow-up story)

A brief history of Hawking's Boycott (Wednesday evening, 8 May 2013)
(Daily Beast / Open Zion blog)

New UN report slams Israeli economic strangulation of East Jerusalem


Palestinian economy in east Jerusalem left in 
''development limbo'' under Israeli occupation, 
says UNCTAD Report
Palestinian economy in East Jerusalem
The Palestinian economy in East Jerusalem has been progressively isolated and constricted and now wields less than half of the economic influence that it had in 1993, a new UNCTAD report says. A disabling economic environment, high and rising rates of poverty, faltering industry and services, restricted investment, housing shortages, and inferior social and municipal services all combine to create hardship for the city's Palestinian inhabitants and to stifle their economy's potential, the report contends.


The study, entitled The Palestinian Economy in East Jerusalem: Enduring Annexation, Isolation and Disintegration, was released today.
The East Jerusalem economy constituted 15 per cent of the Palestinian economy prior to the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords, but has shrunk to an estimated 7 per cent in recent years. While the GDP of East Jerusalem (around US$600 million in 2010) has increased, albeit marginally, since 2001, its relative size has fallen because growth in East Jerusalem has lagged behind that of the remaining Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). It has been estimated that the Israeli separation barrier has imposed over $1 billion in direct losses to the economy of East Jerusalem since its construction began in 2003, the report says. Its adverse impact in terms of lost trade and employment opportunities endures, and is estimated at around $200 million per year, according to the study.
UNCTAD economists note that Jerusalem - of significance to people and faiths from around the world - has been gradually detached from the Palestinian economy, despite its historic role as the Palestinian people's commercial, cultural and spiritual centre. The economy of East Jerusalem is not only constrained by Israeli impediments affecting the OPT generally. Many of the obstacles to the city's development are specific to the status of East Jerusalem as an occupied territory subsequently unilaterally annexed to Israel, the report says.
UNCTAD notes that Palestinian poverty in Jerusalem has risen steadily over the last decade, as the city's isolation from its Palestinian hinterland has continued to increase since the second intifada and the construction of the Israeli separation barrier. In the space of one year alone, the poverty rate of Palestinian households rose from 68 per cent (in 2009) to 77 per cent (in 2010). By comparison, only 25 per cent of Israeli households in (both East and West) Jerusalem were classified as poor in 2010. The available data indicate that 82 per cent of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem were living in poverty in 2010, compared to 45 per cent of Israeli children living in Jerusalem.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Blogging about Hawking's Boycott



The Daily Beast



A Brief History of Hawking’s Boycott
by  May 8, 2013 3:00 PM EDT

file

By the time Cambridge University spokesman Tim Holt was able to issue a statement denying my story early on Wednesday afternoon, it had already taken on a life of its own. The news that Professor Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History of Timeand Britain’s most famous physicist, was canceling his headline appearance at a conference hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres in solidarity with the Palestinian academic boycott had swept the Web and percolated through the blogosphere.
World famous British scientist Stephen Hawking arrives to the Bloomfield Museum of Science in Jerusalem 10 December 2006. Hawking filled the hall to capacity with young Israeli scientists as he presented a lecture. (Menahem Kahana / AFP / Getty Images)
Renowned British scientist Stephen Hawking arrives at the Bloomfield Museum of Science in Jerusalem in December 2006. (Menahem Kahana / AFP / Getty Images) (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty)

My original exclusive on the website of the Guardian newspaper had racked up a massive 60,000 Facebook shares in a single morning, and the story was dominating radio news headlines and Web talkbacks across Israel.

But it wasn’t true. I sat and stared at the terse Cambridge University statement and wondered whether this was the worst moment in my career as a professional reporter. Apparently, I had got the story—my biggest story to date—completely wrong. “Professor Hawking will not be attending the conference in Israel in June for health reasons—his doctors have advised against him flying,” said the university.

Twelve hours earlier, I had been told a very different version by officials at the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP). They had published a brief note on Tuesday evening with, they said, the approval of Hawking’s personal assistant announcing his withdrawal from the fifth Facing Tomorrow Presidential Conference. They told me that he had written a brief letter to the Israeli president changing his mind and making his reasons clear in terms that BRICUP described as “his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there.”

Hawking: Boycott, lies, spin and reaction



The Guardian home

Furore deepens over Stephen Hawking's Israel boycott

Political motive revealed after Cambridge University first claimed scientist's non-attendance was on medical grounds
Stephen Hawking Ehud Olmert
Stephen Hawking pictured with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert in 2006. Photograph: Yoav Lemmer/AFP/Getty Images
The celebrated physicist Stephen Hawking became embroiled in a deepening furore today over his decision to boycott a prestigious conference in Israel in protest over the state's occupation of Palestine.
Hawking, a world-renowned scientist and bestselling author who has had motor neurone disease for 50 years, cancelled his appearance at the high-profile Presidential Conference, which is personally sponsored by Israel's president, Shimon Peres, after a barrage of appeals from Palestinian academics.
The move, denounced by prominent Israelis and welcomed by pro-Palestinian campaigners, entangled Cambridge University – Hawking's academic base since 1975 – which initially claimed the scientist's withdrawal was on medical grounds, before conceding a political motivation.
The university's volte-face came after the Guardian presented it with the text of a letter sent from Hawking to the organisers of the high-profile conference in Jerusalem, clearly stating that he was withdrawing from the conference in order to respect the call for a boycott by Palestinian academics.
The full text of the letter, dated 3 May, said: "I accepted the invitation to the Presidential Conference with the intention that this would not only allow me to express my opinion on the prospects for a peace settlement but also because it would allow me to lecture on the West Bank. However, I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. 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."
Hawking's decision to throw his weight behind the academic boycott of Israel met with an angry response from the organisers of the Presidential Conference, an annual event hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres.
"The academic boycott against Israel is in our view outrageous and improper, certainly for someone for whom the spirit of liberty lies at the basis of his human and academic mission," said conference chairman Israel Maimon. "Israel is a democracy in which all individuals are free to express their opinions, whatever they may be. The imposition of a boycott is incompatible with open, democratic dialogue."
Daniel Taub, the Israeli ambassador to London, said: "It is a great shame that Professor Hawking has withdrawn from the president's conference … Rather than caving into pressure from political extremists, active participation in such events is a far more constructive way to promote progress and peace."
The Wolf Foundation, which awarded Hawking the Wolf prize in physics in 1988, said it was "sad to learn that someone of Professor Hawking's standing chose to capitulate to irrelevant pressures and will refrain from visiting Israel".
But Palestinians welcomed Hawking's decision. "Palestinians deeply appreciate Stephen Hawking's support for an academic boycott of Israel," said Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. "We think this will rekindle the kind of interest among international academics in academic boycotts that was present in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa."
Palestinian academics sent a barrage of letters to Hawking in recent weeks in an attempt to persuade him to join the boycott movement.
Samia al-Botmeh, of Birzeit University in the West Bank, said: "We tried to communicate two points to him. First, that Israel is a colonial entity that involves violations of the rights of the Palestinians, including academic freedom, and then asking him to stand in solidarity with Palestinian academic colleagues who have called for solidarity from international academics in the form of boycotting Israeli academia and academic institutions."
Hawking's decision to withdraw from the conference was "fantastic", said Botmeh. "I think it's wonderful that he has acted on moral grounds. That's very ethical and very important for us as Palestinians to know and understand that there are principled colleagues in the world who are willing to take a stand in solidarity with an occupied people."
Comments on social media in Israel were overwhelmingly opposed to Hawking's move, with a small number engaging in personal abuse over his physical condition. A minority of commentators supported his stance on Israel's 46-year occupation of the Palestinian territories.
In addition to the letter sent by Hawking to the conference organisers, a statement in his name was sent to the British Committee for the Universities in Palestine, confirming his withdrawal from the conference for political reasons. The wording was approved by Hawking's personal assistant after consultation with Tim Holt, the acting director of communications at Cambridge University.
On Wednesday morning, following the Guardian's revelation that Hawking was boycotting the Presidential Conference, Holt issued a statement saying: "Professor Hawking will not be attending the conference in Israel in June for health reasons – his doctors have advised against him flying."
However, a later statement said: "We have now received confirmation from Professor Hawking's office that a letter was sent on Friday to the Israeli president's office regarding his decision not to attend the Presidential Conference, based on advice from Palestinian academics that he should respect the boycott."
In a telephone conversation with the Guardian, Holt offered "my apologies for the confusion".
This year's conference is expected to be attended by 5,000 people from around the world, including business leaders, academics, artists and former heads of state. Former US president Bill Clinton, former UK prime minister Tony Blair, former Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev, Prince Albert of Monaco and Barbra Streisand have accepted invitations, according to organisers.


MORE ON THIS STORY:

(Original Guardian scoop)