I'm traveling rather extensively this week -- the last week of travel I have for quite some time, thankfully -- so here are several brief items worthy of note:
(1) As the Guardian was the first to report, the physicist Stephen Hawking withdrew from "a conference hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem as a protest at Israel's treatment of Palestinians." The resulting attacks on Hawking were instant and predictable.
The Israeli writer Noam Sheizaf has written the best article I've read on the entire matter. He points out that the event from which Hawking withdrew is not really an academic one but rather "an annual celebration of the Israeli business, political and military elites," and he rebuts the principal attacks on Hawking. Juan Cole adds this simple point:
"Israel, which daily steals Palestinian land and resources, is like a wealthy person who insists on burglarizing his neighbor, and naturally after a while the dinner invitations in polite society drop off."
As any writer well knows, nothing guarantees more vicious, personalized, or sustained attacks than criticizing the Israeli government: it's one of the reasons so many people refrain from doing so. Haaretz columnist Bradley Burston this morning references just a few of the despicable attacks on Hawking (he notes that Israeli professor Steven Plaut wrote of the wheelchair-bound physicist: "I suggest that the people of Israel send Hawking for a free trip on the Achille Lauro!!") and calls on everyone to stand up to these sorts of bullying campaigns and smear tactics. Meanwhile, one writer tries here to depict Hawking as a hypocrite for having visited Iran and China, but that claim is quickly and thoroughly destroyed by commenters in the comment section: one of the things about the internet I love most.