British physicist Stephen Hawking has dropped plans to attend a major international conference in Israel in June, citing his belief that he should respect a Palestinian call to boycott contacts with Israeli academics.
The decision means that one of the world’s most famous scientists has joined a boycott organized to protest Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. He is one of the most prominent figures to endorse the strategy, designed to bring pressure on the Israeli government.
The Israeli Presidential Conference, now in its fifth year, brings together statesmen and leading experts in various disciplines to discuss ways to address the world’s problems. The goal, organizers say, is to identify challenges and propose solutions.
Hawking’s endorsement of the boycott prompted an angry response from organizers. Conference Chairman Israel Maimon said Hawking’s decision was “unjustifiable and wrong.”
The boycott campaign is led by Palestinians, Israeli leftists and other supporters who oppose Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and are attuned to the power of celebrity in this age. It has had some success, deterring a string of famous entertainers from performing. Elvis Costello and the Pixies canceled concerts as well as the British dance band Klaxon and the Gorillaz Sound System.
Madonna sells painting for charity
A French painting owned by Madonna has sold at a New York City auction for more than $7 million.
Sotheby’s auction house hasn’t said who bought Fernand Leger’s “Three Women at the Red Table” for $7.2 million on Tuesday. The abstract work had a presale estimate of $5 million to $7 million.
Proceeds of the sale will benefit the Ray of Light Foundation, which supports girls’ education in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries.
Madonna said she wanted to “trade something valuable for something invaluable” in countries where female education is rare or nonexistent. She bought the work at Sotheby’s in 1990 for $3.4 million.
Leger created the work in 1921 as part of a series depicting women with still-life compositions.
The birthday bunch
Actor Albert Finney is 77. Actress-turned-politician Glenda Jackson is 77. Producer-director James L. Brooks is 76. Singer Tommy Roe is 71. Singer-musician Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield and Poco) is 69. Actress Candice Bergen is 67. Singer Billy Joel is 64. Actress Wendy Crewson is 57. Actor John Corbett is 52. Actress Rosario Dawson is 34.