The case for a fully resourced counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan

November 30, 2009

Press release

Washington D.C. – November 30, 2009 – President Obama’s much-anticipated decision about sending additional troops to Afghanistan comes after several months of vigorous public discourse about the appropriate strategy for achieving success in that country. The Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) has been active in this debate, releasing a fact sheet, organizing an open letter to the president, and hosting conferences to further the discussion about the way forward in Afghanistan.

During the time that President Obama has been mulling General McChrystal’s request for additional troops, a number of politicians, advisors, and analysts have put forth various arguments against a significant increase in troop strength and a counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy in Afghanistan. The arguments, when closely considered, expose a default resistance to completing the mission, not a thoughtful dismantling of the pro “surge” case. FPI’s fact sheet lists the most popular critiques of General Stanley McChrystal’s COIN strategy and resource request, each followed by clear refutations from relevant experts. The fact sheet is available here.

In September 2009, in an open letter to President Obama organized by FPI, a distinguished group of Americans active in the foreign policy debate expressed support for the U.S. effort in Afghanistan and called upon President Obama to continue to provide the necessary resources requested by his commanders on the ground to ensure success. The group of experts offered their appreciation for the president’s decision earlier this year to deploy 21,000 additional U.S. troops to the country and urged him to continue to properly resource the continued war effort. Amidst increasing public concern about the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan, the letter also suggested that the President make it a priority to explain to the American people why it is important to remain committed to winning in Afghanistan, and why such a victory is feasible. The text of the letter is available here.

Afghanistan has also been a prominent topic of FPI’s public events. At the 2009 FPI Forum on “Advancing and Defending Democracy,” two panels discussed the path forward in Afghanistan. One session addressed the military dimensions of the war and the other panel, featuring Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad, Rep. Mark Kirk, and Gen. Mark Kimmitt, focused on the political debate in Washington and around the country.

In August 2009, FPI’s Director for Democracy and Human Rights, Ellen Bork, served as an election monitor in Ghazni Province. She wrote about her experience in an article for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “What I Saw While Afghanistan Voted,” which is available here.

In March 2009, shortly after the President announced his intention to send an additional 21,000 troops to Afghanistan FPI hosted a half-day conference, “Afghanistan: Planning for Success,” which featured remarks from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), and then-Rep. John McHugh (R-NY), who has since been nominated by President Obama to serve as Secretary of the Army, as well as Frederick Kagan, John Nagl, and Gen. David Barno. Transcripts, video, and summaries from this conference can be found here.

FPI staff including Executive Director Jamie Fly, Policy Advisor Abe Greenwald, and Director for Democracy and Human Rights Ellen Bork are available to discuss the President’s speech on Tuesday.  Interview requests should be submitted to Rachel Hoff at the contact information listed below.

For more information, contact:
Rachel Hoff: Tel.: + 001 202 296-3322
Director of External Affairs


About FPI

FPI is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and global economic competitiveness. The organization is led by Executive Director Jamie Fly. FPI was founded by Robert Kagan, William Kristol, and Dan Senor.

Alan Posener’s Column: The meaning of “2012”

November 28, 2009

by Alan Posener
Die Welt / Welt am Sonntag  / HIRAM7 REVIEW

Nobody enjoys a nice apocalypse more than me, as long as I’m in the cinema watching it and not experiencing it firsthand. Germans have a knack for this kind of thing, so it’s probably no accident that Hollywood’s past master of destruction is Roland Emmerich, a German.

Emmerich’s first film was called “The Noah’s Ark Principle”, and after a string of blockbusters including “Independence Day” (Martians destroy civilization as we know it) and “The Day After Tomorrow” (climate change destroys civilization as we know it), he has returned to the Noah’s Ark idea with his new movie, “2012”.

The plot is this: mutated neutrinos from the sun heat up the Earth’s core, so that the crust begins to melt and the continents slide around and bump into one another, causing huge earthquakes and, finally, a giant flood that (you guessed it) destroys civilization as we know it.

Total bullshit scientifically speaking and all very enjoyable and I only wish the whole thing had been filmed in 3-D. Stars like John Cusack, Woody Harrelson and the inimitable Oliver Platt do their thing while skyscrapers tumble and planes crash all around them, and if you need to rest your eyes a bit, Amanda Peet and Thandie Newton are there.

Feminists will carp that all the women have to do is to hang on the lips of the clever men and keep the kids quiet while Daddy tries to save the world, but hey, what else is new? Who cares about gender mainstreaming when the whole goddamn planet is going to bits?

Ah, but not the whole of mankind, and there’s the rub, as Hamlet would have said. The leaders of the G-8 states plus China, after being warned by scientists of the impending doom, get together and decide (a) to keep their knowledge secret, (b) to build giant Arks in the Himalayas to rescue the most valuable bits of mankind – meaning first and foremost themselves of course, and certain billionaires who secretly finance the boats in return for a place on board. Anyone who even attempts to go public is immediately liquidated.

Admittedly, certain details of this plan and its ice-cold logic – the inhuman logic of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, which Oliver Platt as the Mad (Jewish?) Scientist “Dr Anheuser” expounds with visible relish – are occasionally questioned. Was it really necessary to kill the Louvre director just because he was about to blow the secret plan?

Wouldn’t it have been better to have saved the nice Indian scientist who first discovered the  nasty neutrinos, as promised, rather than letting him drown with his family and the rest of India? Did the cabins on the Arks have to be quite so large and luxurious at the cost of a higher capacity? And, oh yes, shouldn’t one tell the rest of the people sometime what is about to befall them, so that “mothers can comfort their children”?

Good questions. As Dr Anheuser’s opposite number, the good scientist Adrian Helmsley (played by Chiwetel Ojiofor) says in the obligatory cathartic scene, where people discover the “angels of their better nature”, as Abraham Lincoln put it: Humanity must not soil its new beginning with inhumanity.

Well, by that time 99.9 percent of humanity are dead already, there being no place of them in the inn – er, in the Ark, and the only question is whether to leave the Tibetan construction workers and Chinese guards behind, as planned (and advocated by bad Dr. Anheuser), together with the passengers of one of the Arks that unfortunately isn’t ready for departure.

What the Good Scientist does not question, however, is the plan itself. A plan that starts from the assumption that an important thing like saving the world can only be correctly managed by governments. (God, you will recall, saw things differently. Noah was not a member of any government. But let it go.)

What would really be a sensible course of action in such an event? Secret government action in order to save the elite – or total openness in order to mobilize all possible means of escape for as many people as possible? Given that – as the film assumes – humanity would have a couple of years in which to brace itself, the second course would obviously be the right one to pursue. Yes, there would be panic, despair, chaos. But at the same time the immense resources of the market could be harnessed in order to meet the demand for a scarce commodity suddenly skyrocketing in value: survival. You’d see people building and selling mini-submarines, renting out Zeppelins, charging for places on space stations and so forth. Humanitarian organizations would call for crash programs in order to build Arks for the poor, disadvantaged and so on.

Whatever the upshot, you can be sure that in the end many more people would be rescued than by a secret government project that – as in Emmerich’s movie – has to rely on the Chinese dictatorship in order to erect its secret Ark-building  factories in Tibet.

As Emmerich’s movie unwittingly shows, the decision for free markets, free enterprise, capitalism and an open society is a moral decision. Those who trust in markets trust in people and their abilities; this is why this option leads to a better, a more humane world: those who put their trust in governments do so because they mistrust people and their creativity. This option always contains the seeds of totalitarianism.

Contrary to popular opinion, times of crisis are precisely the times when one needs to turn to the market rather than the state, to the open society rather than to totalitarianism.

Unfortunately, “2012” suggests the opposite. 

Statements and opinions expressed in articles therein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the publisher.

Earl Shugerman’s Corner: The English speaking community of Haifa

November 25, 2009

Earl Shugerman brings every week a serie of stories about Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel. This project is aimed to promote a more realistic view of life in Israel.

The Anglo-List – Bringing us together

by Suzanne Suckerman

I came to Israel from Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1989 just after I got married. My husband always wanted to live in Haifa.  We were the only Anglo-Saxon couple our age and so socially it took a long time to fit in.  It was mainly through my husband’s business that we began to meet the English speaking community and slowly acquire a social network.  Immigration from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia was at its peak and the Jewish Agency and other Aliyah organizations were concentrating on that.  Support in Haifa, at that time, was scant and we were left to our own devices.  Over the years we plodded along, slowly making our way. Our two children were born here and attend school here and it has been through them that we have learned a great deal.  The education system, religious, parenting, military service to name but a few are all so different in South Africa.

Haifa was recently chosen to absorb the new, large wave of English speaking immigrants coming to Israel.  Over the past 2 years over 1000 English speakers have made Haifa their home and similar numbers will be arriving in the next few years.  In the course of a conversation with an ex-colleague, I identified a need for a central source of practical information on life in Israel, specifically for the English speaking immigrant community.  After some research I understood that a website was the way to go. 

Haifa also attracts foreign students, businessmen, members of the Bahai faith as well as a contingency of foreign workers from the Philippines. In order to meet their specific needs and give support to these groups, I proceeded to set up a new information website called  This website is unique, and fulfils an important commercial and social function. We understand the English speaker’s needs, and this site has been designed, and will continue to evolve, to meet those needs. This Aliyah, business, consumer, entertainment and information website gives practical information, advice and tips and covers such issues as the medical and education systems, security issues, social services, entertainment as well as being a directory for government and official offices and Aliyah information. 

From a community point of view, we have set up social networks and our membership is growing daily. We plan to hold social events and develop a support group. Readers are contributing their personal Aliyah stories, some humorous and some serious. The community relates strongly to this, they are inspired and comforted from other peoples experiences.

We also now have the strength to request that provision be made for the English speaker from companies and organizations

Potential immigrants are using the site to make crucial decisions about their future. The large Bahai community in and the Philippinos, also have access to the site and we are working on incorporating information for them as well.

On a professional level we have a list of service providers. A condition for advertising on this site is being able to provide service in English. Various organizations are advertising on the site and have contributed information and articles on their specific service – special education, small business development and student bodies to name but a few.

Learning Hebrew, as a spoken language, can be a long and difficult process, we have also addressed this issue and provide a phonetic dictionary of useful terms, phrases and slang.

The Mayor of Haifa, Mr. Yona Yahav, has endorsed the site and we work in close cooperation with Aliyah organizations.

It is our plan to enlarge the site and incorporate the entire country – and our vision to turn this site into the premier English site for English speakers in Israel will become a reality.

www.anglo-list.comBringing us Together

Earl Shugerman’s Corner: Finding Faith in Israel

November 22, 2009

 Earl Shugerman brings every week a serie of stories about Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel. This project is aimed to promote a more realistic view of life in Israel.

Finding Faith: Abraham risked all for the Promised Land

Finding Faith: Abraham risked all for the Promised Land

Many Israelis follow the age old tradition of the Friday night dinner and prayers to honour the beginning of the Sabbath. Friends and family meet to share companionship and pray together. This Friday I celebrated the start of the Sabbath with my friend Zehava and her family.

Zehava and her husband Leon are French born, old timers in Israel. They immigrated to Israel in 1980. They have two teenage sons and a six year old daughter Shira who is the “Apple of My Eye.” They also invited their American cousin Linda to join us.

Linda is a fifty’s year old single female with a 16 year old daughter. Linda was born, in France, but lived in California most of her life. We enjoyed a wonderful meal and then went to sit on the veranda to drink coffee and chat.

Linda was married to a “wonderful Christian man for 14 years.” “We respected the differences in our spiritual backgrounds and praised our daughter for exploring faiths independently”, added Linda. ” I belonged to a Reformed [Jewish] Congregation when we married and my spouse was a self proclaimed agnostic”.

“However, in the course of time I found that I needed to be more in touch with my Jewish roots. I took classes in the Talmud and Torah through Chabad House and found [the] spirituality that I had been missing in life. My husband explored his Catholic heritage. I found myself, after a two-year process, even considering a life in Israel. I lived in a beautiful home, had a great job, and a fine partner but decided to risk it all to try life in Israel”.

“My husband insisted on staying in the States. We agreed to a one-year trial separation period to see how we did on our own.  [This would] allow me to taste the life in Israel”.

“Three years later, I am still in Israel, employed as a clerk in a Tel Aviv bank. We decided to end our marriage and allow our daughter to spend the school year in Tel Aviv. She stays in California during her vacations. She sees this as a great adventure, and loves learning about new cultures and languages. Arabic is her second language in school”.

“ Did I make a mistake?” I ask myself that question many times a day. “Time will tell”. “Life here has many challenges”. “We need to learn a new language, a new culture, face a less luxurious lifestyle and there is still the struggle for peace”.

It is impossible to understand the invisible Hand that shapes our destiny. However, many Jews have felt the magnetic allure of Israel. The patriarch Abraham was the first. He left the comfortable trappings of ancient Babylonia to undertake an arduous emigration to the “ land that G-d would show him”. Evidently this demanded a great deal of faith. To mere mortals of the modern age, doubts can always surface to challenge our thinking.

 Although Israel is not a Utopian society where the streets are paved with gold, it is an integral part of Jewish heritage. Today record numbers of Global Jewry are returning to their ancestral homeland. They are undeterred by the challenges that face them. The obstacles are merely there to be overcome. And after 60 years in the remaking, Israel continues to thrive thanks to the new found faith of Linda and many others.

About the author: Earl Shugerman is a retired American Government public relations specialist,  currently spokesperson in Haifa for The Jewish Agency and a writer specializing in interfaith relations. He has worked together with the Catholic and Southern Baptist Movements, the Reformed Jewish Movement and Muslim groups in interfaith activities.

Alan Poseners Kolumne: Journalisteneitelkeit, Journalistenehrlichkeit

November 13, 2009

Der britisch-deutsche Journalist Alan Posener kommentiert wöchentlich das Zeitgeschehen in Politik, Gesellschaft, Wirtschaft und Kultur für HIRAM7 REVIEW.

Von Alan Posener
Die Welt / Welt am Sonntag / HIRAM7 REVIEW

Zu den weniger erfreulichen Seiten des Journalismus in Deutschland gehört die Praxis, Interviews vom Interviewten autorisieren zu lassen. In der angelsächsischen Welt geht man erheblich lockerer damit um. Man vertraut dem Journalisten, das Gespräch richtig wiederzugeben.

Sicher, für die Autorisierung gibt es einen nachvollziehbaren Grund: anders als im Fernsehen oder im Radio wird das Interview im Print-Medium (und online, wie wir gleich sehen werden) nachträglich bearbeitet: gekürzt, sprachlich geglättet und so weiter. Da kann es vorkommen, dass der oder die Interviewte sich falsch dargestellt findet, indem etwa ein wichtiger Nebensatz weggekürzt wird.

Und: von einem autorisierten Interview kann man sich ja nicht nachträglich distanzieren, wie das zuweilen in den USA oder Großbritannien – mit Hinweis auf die Bearbeitung durch den Journalisten – geschieht. Immer wieder erleben wir jedoch, dass gerade PolitikerInnen (oder ihre Presseleute) bei der Autorisierung das Interview bis zur Unkenntlichkeit verändern. Eindeutige Aussagen werden zurückgenommen, Kontroverses oder Interna gestrichen.

Umso erstaunlicher ist das berüchtigte Sarrazin-Interview mit seiner Diffamierung der dummen Unterschicht und der nutzlosen Zuwanderer. Man muss sich vor Augen halten: das sind nicht „unbedachte“ Äußerungen. Das sind Aussagen, die vom Interviewten (und im Falle Sarrazins auch von seinem Vorgesetzten, dem heutigen Bundesbank- und wohl künftigen EZB-Chef Axel Weber) in Ruhe nach dem Interview gelesen und autorisiert wurden.

Aber das nur nebenbei. Gut: PolikerInnen wollen sich möglichst gut präsentieren; das ist nachvollziehbar. Neulich erlebte ich zum ersten Mal den Fall, dass ein Interview nachträglich geändert wurde, um den Interviewer besser aussehen zu lassen.

Es handelt sich um dieses Interview mit mir in Telepolis.

Man hätte immerhin darauf hinweisen sollen, finde ich, dass das Interview per E-Mail geführt wurde; aber das nur nebenbei.

Ich habe das Interview autorisiert (was tut man nicht alles, um PR für sein Buch zu machen) denke aber doch, dass das ursprüngliche Interview besser war: siehe vor allem Punkt 3:

1) Herr Posener, warum hassen Sie die Kirche?

Was für eine schwachsinnige Frage. Ich hasse die Kirche gar nicht. Ich stehe auf dem guten, alten preußischen Standpunkt, dass jeder nach seiner Façon selig werden soll – der Christ, der Muslim, der Jude, der Atheist. Wer mich in Ruhe lässt, den lasse ich in Ruhe.

2) Sie sind ja bekannt für Ihre Frontalangriffe. In Ihrem neuen Buch „Benedikts Kreuzzug. Der Angriff des Vatikans auf die moderne Gesellschaft“ greifen Sie den Papst an. Ist Papst Benedikt ein Gegner von Demokratie und Aufklärung? Woran machen Sie es fest? Was Frontalangriffe angeht, so sind sie wohl besser als Dolchstöße in den Rücken, meinen Sie nicht auch?

Ich greife den Papst an, weil er die Demokratie und plurale Gesellschaft angreift. Er diffamiert sie als “Diktatur des Relativismus” und fordert nicht nur das Recht, etwa die Homosexualität als “objektive Ordnungsstörung im Aufbau der menschlichen Existenz ” zu verurteilen, sondern eine Art Wächterrat, der die Entscheidungen des demokratischen Staates auf ihre Übereinstimmung mit der Moral überprüfen soll – eine Forderung, bei der er sich mit den Pius-Brüdern und den Teheraner Mullahs einig weiß. Ich greife den Papst an, weil er die Aufklärung angreift. Er sieht den “Ausgang des Menschen aus seiner selbstverschuldeten Unmündigkeit”, wie es Kant formulierte, als Verfallserscheinung an und fordert die “Reinigung der Vernunft” durch den Glauben – was wiederum bedeutet: ich, Ratzinger, entscheide, was vernünftig ist und was nicht.

Um es klar zu sagen: ich habe nichts dagegen, wenn der Papst sagt: Homosexualität ist eine Sünde. Bitte sehr, das sollen die schwulen Katholiken, von denen es gerade in der Priesterschaft jede Menge gibt, mit ihm und ihrem Gewissen ausmachen. Das liegt auf der gleichen Linie wie das Verbot, Schweinefleisch zu essen bei Juden und Muslimen. So lange sie mir nicht verbieten, Schweinebraten und Schinken zu essen, ist es ihr Problem, wenn sie sich den Genuss entgehen lassen.

Wenn aber gesagt würde, Schweinefleisch zu essen sei eine “objektive Ordnungsstörung”, dann habe ich ein Problem. Ich habe nichts dagegen, wenn der Papst sagt, wir setzen den Glauben über die Vernunft. Bitte sehr, das sollen die mündigen Katholiken mit ihm und ihrem Gewissen ausmachen. Aber wenn er versucht, den Begriff Vernunft selbst so umzudeuten, dass er Glaube bedeutet, dann habe ich ein Problem.

3) Sie werfen Ihm in ihrem Buch vor, dass er von seinem Großonkel geprägt wurde, der antisemitische Hetzschriften verfasst habe. Wer war diese Person, und in wieweit war dieser ein Vorbild für den Theologen Ratzinger?

Sie haben mein Buch offenbar nicht gelesen. Ich werfe ihm mitnichten vor, dass er von seinem Großonkel Georg Ratzinger geprägt wurde. Das ist Unsinn. Ich sage auch nicht, dass der bayerische Nationalist und antisemitische Publizist Georg Ratzinger ein Vorbild für Joseph Ratzinger gewesen sei. Ich lehne die Sippenhaftung ab.

4) Die Aufhebung der Exkommunizierung der Pius-Brüder und des Holocaust-Leugners Williamson wurden in der Öffentlichkeit als eine Panne des Papstes dargestellt, der in diesem Fall einfach schlecht beraten gewesen sei. War das ein Versehen, oder steht dahinter eine bestimmte Haltung?

Der Versuch, die Affäre um Williamson und die Pius-Brüder als Panne abzutun, war ein dummer Schachzug der Benedikt-Verteidiger. Denn wenn der Papst nicht weiß, was er tut, ist er als Papst ungeeignet. Ratzinger weiß aber natürlich sehr genau, was er tut. Er war schon als Chef der Glaubenskongregation mit der Frage der Pius-Brüder befasst und kennt ihre Schriften. Um es deutlich zu sagen: die Pius-Bruderschaft ist keine konservative, sondern eine offen reaktionäre Vereinigung, die den kirchlichen Antijudaismus konserviert, die also mehr oder weniger institutionell antisemitisch ist.

Die Bruderschaft befürwortet eine Abschaffung des weltlichen Staats und ihre Ersetzung durch eine Theokratie ähnlich der im Iran, die Drogen, Prostitution, Pornographie, Blasphemie, Homosexualität und so weiter verbieten und die Todesstrafe wieder einführen würde. Das weiß Benedikt, und trotzdem betreibt er die Annäherung an diese Leute und kommt ihnen weit entgegen, zum Beispiel mit der Aufwertung der lateinischen Liturgie, deren Abschaffung durch das Zweite Vatikanische Konzil vordergründig zur Abspaltung der Pius-Brüder von der Kirche geführt hat. In Wirklichkeit jedoch passte den Pius-Brüdern die ganze Richtung des Konzils nicht. Und sie passt Benedikt auch nicht.

5) Von kirchlicher Seite wird Ihnen vorgeworfen, dass Sie einen „atheistischen Fundamentalismus“ vertreten würden, und somit jede andere Einstellung als böswillig hinstellen. Manfred Lütz sagt, dass der Papst ein „brillanter Intellektueller“ sei und den Islam herausfordere. Ist das ein persönlicher Kreuzzug von Ihnen gegen die Kirche? Auf was konkret stützen Sie ihre Analysen?

Ich bin zwar getaufter Anglikaner, zugleich aber Atheist, ja. Worin ein “atheistischer Fundamentalismus” bestehen soll, weiß ich nicht. Auf mich jedenfalls trifft diese Bezeichnung nicht zu. Ich stelle doch nicht jede andere Einstellung als böswillig hin, und wer mir das unterstellt, kennt mich nicht. Ich habe bekanntlich ein Buch über die Jungfrau Maria, die Mutter Jesu, geschrieben, das von allen Katholiken, die ich kenne, mein Freund Manfred Lütz eingeschlossen, gelobt wird – und in dem ich übrigens Joseph Ratzinger zustimmend zitiere. Ich habe nicht den geringsten Grund, einen “Kreuzzug gegen die Katholische Kirche” zu führen, was ohnehin ein Widerspruch in sich wäre, obwohl wir Anglikaner, wie Sie wissen, seit Heinrich VIII. unsere Probleme mit Rom gehabt haben. Hätten Sie jedoch mein Buch gelesen, und nicht nur die Rezensionen, würden Sie wissen, dass ich an keinem Punkt die Kirche als solche angreife. Meine Analyse der Ansichten und Absichten Benedikts stützt sich, das wüssten Sie, wenn Sie das Buch mit seinen 274 Anmerkungen auch nur angeschaut hätten, auf Reden, Schriften und Interviews von Joseph Ratzinger. Also auf öffentlich zugängliches Material.

6) Ist diese Feindschaft gegen die Moderne eine neuere Entwicklung unter Papst Benedikt, oder war diese auch unter Papst Johannes Paul II. Vorhanden?

Johannes Paul II. war – im Gegensatz zu Benedikt XVI. – ein großer Mann. Er gehört, zusammen mit seinem Landsmann Lech Walesa, mit Ronald Reagan, Maggie Thatcher und – vor allem – Michail Gorbatschow, zu den Persönlichkeiten, die das reaktionäre System des Kommunismus zu Fall gebracht haben. Aber für den polnischen Papst war das westliche System nur das kleinere Übel. Von Wojtila sagte man, er wolle zwei Revolutionen rückgängig machen – die russische und die französische. Dabei war er jedoch, vielleicht wegen seiner Erfahrungen mit dem Kommunismus, nicht so radikal wie Ratzinger, den er allerdings gefördert hat. Johannes Paul II. hat Galileo Galilei rehabilitiert und den Darwinismus anerkannt. Benedikt hat den Prozess der Inquisition gegen Galileo verteidigt und propagiert die unwissenschaftliche Lehre des “Intelligent Design” gegen den Darwinismus.

In einer Zeit, die ohnehin von Wissenschaftsskepsis und Halbwissen geprägt ist, bedeutet Benedikts Abkehr von der Vernunft eine Katastrophe.

Die in HIRAM7 REVIEW veröffentlichten Essays und Kommentare geben nicht grundsätzlich den Standpunkt der Redaktion wieder.

Zahal-Orchester auf Tour in Deutschland

November 10, 2009

Keren Hayesod Deutschland

Keren Hayesod Deutschland veranstaltet zwischen dem 14. und 23. November 2009 eine Konzertreihe mit dem Orchester der Israelischen Verteidigungsstreitkräfte (ZAHAL).

 Termine in Deutschland

14.11.2009: Jüdische Gemeinde Dortmund

16.11.2009: Jüdische Gemeinde Hannover

17.11.2009: Jüdische Gemeinde Kassel

19.11.2009: Sankt Marienkirche, Stralsund

21.11.2009: Jüdische Gemeinde Hamburg

22.11.2009: Kraftwerk e.V., Chemnitz

23.11.2009: Historische Rathaus, Nürnberg



Keren Hayesod Berlin

Kurfürstendamm 196 – 10707 Berlin

Tel.: (030) 88 71 93 3 – Fax: (030) 88 71 93 50


Did You Ask A Good Question Today?

November 8, 2009

Judaism is a religion of questions.

Rabbi Sacks

by Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth

Isidore Isaac Rabi, winner of a Nobel Prize for physics, was once asked why he became a scientist. He replied: “My mother made me a scientist without ever knowing it. Every other child would come back from school and be asked, ‘What did you learn today?’ But my mother used to say, ‘Izzy, did you ask a good question today?’ That made the difference. Asking good questions made me into a scientist.”

Judaism is a religion of questions. The greatest prophets asked questions of God. The Book of Job, the most searching of all explorations of human suffering, is a book of questions asked by man, to which God replies with a string of questions of His own.

The earliest sermons usually began with a question asked of the rabbi by a member of the congregation. Most famously, the Passover Seder begins with four questions asked by the youngest child.

So I can identify with Rabi’s childhood memories. When I left university and went to Israel to study in a rabbinical seminary, I was stunned by the sheer intensity with which the students grappled with texts. Once in a while the teacher’s face would light up at a comment from the class. “Du fregst a gutte kashe,” he would say (you raise a good objection). This was his highest form of praise.

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski tells of how, when he was young, his instructor would relish challenges to his arguments. In his broken English he would say: “You right! You a hundred prozent right! Now I show you where you wrong.”

Religious faith has suffered hugely in the modern world by being cast as naive, blind, unquestioning.

The scientist asks, the believer just believes. Critical inquiry, so the stereotype runs, is what makes the difference between the pursuit of knowledge and the certainties of faith. One who believes in the fundamentals of a creed is derided as a fundamentalist. The word fundamentalist itself comes to mean a simplistic approach to complex issues. Religious belief is often seen as the suspension of critical intelligence.

As Wilson Mizner once put it: “I respect faith. But doubt is what gets you an education.” To me, this is a caricature of faith, not faith itself.

Questions testify to faith – the universe is not impervious to our understanding, life is not chance.

What is the asking of a question if not itself a profound expression of faith in the intelligibility of the universe and the meaningfulness of human life? To ask is to believe that somewhere there is an answer. The fact that throughout history people have devoted their lives to extending the frontiers of knowledge is a moving demonstration of the restlessness of the human spirit and its constant desire to transcend, to climb. Far from faith excluding questions, questions testify to faith – that the world is not random, the universe is not impervious to our understanding, life is not chance.

That, I suspect, is why Judaism encourages questions. On the phrase: “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness,” Rashi, the 11th-century biblical commentator, says: “This means, with the power to understand and to discern.”

Critical intelligence is the gift God gave humanity. To use it in the cause of human dignity and insight is one of the great ways of serving God. When faith suppresses questions, it dies. When it accepts superficial answers, it withers.

Faith is not opposed to doubt. What it is opposed to is the shallow certainty that what we understand is all there is.

Reprinted with kindly permission of Aish HaTorah International.