Backlash Building Against Stephen Hawking

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Today’s Top Stories

1. US and Russia are hoping to hold a conference on Syria, with Bashar Assad and his opponents in attendance.

An earlier diplomatic initiative by the United Nations and Arab League aimed at easing Mr. Assad out of power and beginning a democratic transition failed miserably, largely because Russia — along with Iran, Mr. Assad’s main protector — sent arms to the regime and refused to impose sanctions.

Nothing much has changed.  Russia is reportedly on the verge of selling an advanced air defense system to Syria. And John Kerry is reportedly seeking for Assad to agree to his own ouster. Meanwhile, the LA Times is outraged by the mass murder in Syria and the world’s failure to act.

2. Israeli authorities question Jerusalem Mufti in relation to riots near the Temple Mount over a group of Jewish visitors. Meanwhile, protesters in Jordan try to storm the Israeli embassy.

3. Backlash starting to build against Stephen Hawking for his boycott of Shimon Peres at the President’s Conference. Reporter Matthew Kalman explains the enormous twists and turns in the story. And Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of Shurat HaDin pointed out some of the ironies behind Hawking’s boycott:

“His whole computer-based communication system runs on a chip designed by Israel’s Intel team. I suggest that if he truly wants to pull out of Israel, he should also pull out his Intel Core i7 from his tablet.”

See Simon Plosker’s commentary on the media coverage of Hawking’s decision.

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Israel and the Palestinians

• Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of the “moderate” Fatah movement, told Lebanese TV that for Fatah, “resistance to Israel remains on our agenda. I mean resistance in all of its forms.”

Rest O’ the Roundup

• B’tselem releases report on Operation Pillar of Defense, concluding that the last days of the operation produced the largest number of civilian casualties on the Palestinian side. The group’s terminology is worth noting: instead of militant or terrorist, B’tselem referred to “Palestinians who took part in hostilities.”

• Turkish members of the IHH, the group behind the ill-fated 2010 flotilla to Gaza, are seeking $1 billion in compensation for the families of those killed.

• Israeli officials to reverse policy on J Street, the liberal US-based Israel lobby group. Officials plan to meet with members of the group, ending the long-standing boycott.

The shift in policy can be seen in the context of Israel’s efforts to tighten relations with the Obama administration and restart negotiations with the Palestinians.

State officials noted that J Street has become a major player in the US political arena which can no longer be ignored.

• Interesting piece on “parachute columnists” – newspaper commentators who write about world events without deep knowledge of the issue – and how they affect policy on Syria.

• Israel is about to go from and energy buyer to an energy seller with the launch of its off-shore gas production plants.

The discoveries represent a twist of fate for a country that until recently relied on imported coal, diesel and heavy fuel oil to generate electricity. Israel has been vulnerable not only to the vagaries of the global energy market but also to attacks on the infrastructure that keep the country running.

• Facebook reportedly close to purchasing Israeli tech company Waze for a cool $1 billion.

For more, see yesterday’s Israel Daily News Stream.

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