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              FILE    In this June 19, 2006 file photo Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking speaks at an international gathering of scientists on the origins of the universe at Beijing  FILE In this June 19, 2006 file photo Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking speaks at an international gathering of scientists on the origins of the universe at Beijing's Great Hall of the People in China. British scientist Stephen Hawking has decoded some of the most puzzling mysteries of the universe but he has left one mystery for others to explain: How he managed to survive so long with such a crippling disease. The physicist and cosmologist was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, or motor neuron disease, when he was a 21-year-old student at Cambridge University. Most people die within a few years of the disease being identified. On Sunday, Hawking will turn 70.(AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel-File)   

Stephen Hawking boycotts Israeli conference

Famed physicist Stephen Hawking has pulled out of a conference hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres to boycott Israel’s treatment of Palestine.

Hawking joins other famous Brits who are boycotting the country such as Elvis Costello, Roger Waters, Brian Eno, Annie Lennox and Mike Leigh, reports the Guardian.

After initially agreeing to attend the fifth annual conference in Jerusalem, “Facing Tomorrow,” Hawking sent a letter to Peres last week changing his mind. Hawking wrote that after conferring with his Palestinian colleagues, they agreed unanimously that he should not attend the event.

His decision has been met with ire on Facebook and accusations of anti-semitism. A spokesperson for the conference said, “The use of an academic boycott against Israel is outrageous and improper, particularly for those to whom the spirit of liberty is the basis of the human and academic mission.”

Hawking had seemingly supported Israel before, having visited four times before and saying in 2006  that he was “excited about meeting both Israeli and Palestinian scientists” while in Tel Aviv. However, in 2009, he told Al Jazeera that Israel’s response to rocket fire from Gaza was “plain out of proportion … The situation is like that of South Africa before 1990 and cannot continue.”

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