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Physicist Stephen Hawking won't attend Israeli conference, cites 'personal reasons'

Physicist Stephen Hawking has dropped plans to attend a major conference in Israel in June, prompting criticism from Israeli officials.

A University of Cambridge statement said Wednesday that the world-famous scientist won't go to the Jerusalem conference because of "personal reasons."

Israeli Presidential Conference officials said Hawking's decision is seen as "unjustifiable and wrong."

The 71-year-old Hawking's decision was seen by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine as a sign that he supports its goal of severing academics' connections to Israel to protest its treatment of the Palestinians.

The committee said on its website that "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."