UCT urges responsible comment on Gaza-Israel conflict after concerns

Interim Vice-Chancellor Professor Daya Reddy.

Interim Vice-Chancellor Professor Daya Reddy.

Published Jan 17, 2024


UCT has urged its community to protest and exercise their rights in asserting their views over the Israel-Gaza conflict or any other current issues in a responsible manner.

Interim Vice-Chancellor Professor Daya Reddy said the university was a community of scholars and thinkers with a special responsibility where matters of debates were responded to, in an informed, responsible way, and one in which they exercised intellectual and moral leadership.

Reddy's recent appeal followed Trevor Norwitz’s December open letter of intent to resign as the UCT Fund Inc. chairperson in the US after the university Senate and Council called for an immediate ceasefire and passage of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

They had also called for an international investigation on war crimes by all parties engaged in the conflict and consequent actions against the perpetrators.

He accused the university of being among those giving Hamas “support and encouragement, rather than insisting that they be held accountable for their heinous crimes”.

“It goes without saying that I cannot continue to support or be associated with such an institution. This is my noisy resignation from the chairmanship and the board of the UCT Fund after over 20 years,” said Norwitz.

Reddy said it was appropriate for a formally constituted body to engage in an active and informed manner on current issues, to debate the issues and pass resolutions following normal processes.

“Thus, Senate at its meeting on November 17 passed a resolution on the Middle East conflict and Council, at its meeting on December 6, adopted a statement on the conflict and its consequences; this too was widely published.

“We enjoy constitutional protection of freedom of expression. This freedom is however not untrammelled, it must not extend to hate speech, racism, religious intolerance, or incitement to violence,” he said.

Norwitz also claimed some alumni had complained to him that UCT was “hopelessly biased against Israel and even anti-Semitic.”

“Concerns brought to our attention by alumni that speakers from anti-Semitic genocidal terrorist organisations were addressing UCT student groups and that flags of those organisations were being brandished on UCT campus.

Those discussions satisfied us that Jewish students were not unsafe on campus and that UCT was not supporting such terrorist organisations,” said Norwitz.

However, the university said it was alarmed by Norwitz claims saying they were made without any substantiation, reckless and irresponsible “particularly without any shred of corroborating evidence or reference.”

“UCT once again cautions any member of the university community and the public at large to be mindful that, living in an age of fake news, there should not be reliance on a single source and it is important to sift through and establish fact from fiction. There have been no official UCT activities, engagements, events, or statements that are indicative of any anti-Semitism on campus.

“The university has spent hours in in-person, telephonic and written engagements with a number of stakeholders including Mr Norwitz himself to draw on evidence and dispel this incorrect perception that UCT is anti-Semitic,” UCT said.

Cape Times