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Professor Denis Noble FRS speaks to Oxford Chabad Society about why he resigned from the University & College Union

Wednesday, 15 December, 2010 - 9:15 pm

Noble.jpgProfessor Denis Noble, Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford University, and President of the International Union of Physiological Sciences (IUPS), spoke for the Oxford University Chabad Society last Friday night at a packed Shabbat dinner about his highly publicised resignation from UCU for being what he considers anti-Semitic.

 

He gave the history of his involvement in the Union for 50 years and explained that it came to a point when he could not continue to be a member. His reason was threefold. The Congress of the Union, which essentially decides policy, has been hijacked by a small group of extreme haters of Israel, against the wishes of the vast majority of its members. Sadly, he said, he had come to the conclusion that this was unchangeable from within the Union and felt he would make a more profound statement by resigning.

 

Secondly, in December, 2009, UCU invited Bongani Masuku, the International Secretary of COSATU (the South African TUC), to a meeting to discuss Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions against Israel. This was despite the fact that The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) found that at a rally at the University of the Witwatersrand in March 2009, Masuku ‘uttered numerous anti-Semitic remarks which were seen to have incited violence and hatred amongst the students who were present'. When the Oxford branch of UCU tabled a motion to the Congress of UCU to merely dissociate itself from Masuku’s anti-Semitic remarks, it was rejected.

 

Finally, Professor Denis Noble will be hosting in 2013 in Birmingham the Congress of International Union of Physiological Sciences. In his capacity as President, he wrote to Sally Hunt, his equal, as General Secretary of UCU, to ensure him that they will not table another motion to single out Israel for boycott, which goes against the laws of UCU and Human Rights. When Prof. Noble’s letter was insultingly ignored, he decided to resign.

 

Professor Noble argued that the fact that no other country with far worse human rights records has been threatened with a boycott is a form of anti-Semitism. In addition, he said that the very proposal to boycott academics based on nationality is illegal and therefore not implementable. This is enshrined in the constitution of UCU and British Law, in which it states ‘Discrimination on grounds of race ('colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origins') is unlawful under the Race Relations Act 1976.  This covers employment, education, goods and services, premises.’

 

He concluded his talk saying that his resignation is an indication of his failure in being able to change the actions of the manipulated Congress of UCU and while he is not absolutely certain he made the correct decision, he had to follow his conscience by doing this.

 

Many questions were posed by the audience and while the dilemma about equating anti-Israel with anti-Semitism was debated, his views were greatly appreciated by the audience.

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