Home News SG Economy Are Israelis smarter than Singaporeans? Lee thinks so - Paul Tambyah disagrees

Are Israelis smarter than Singaporeans? Lee thinks so – Paul Tambyah disagrees

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In his Speech at the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) rally at Bukit Batok yesterday (1 May), Dr Paul Tambyah reminded those that heard him that the Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, thinks that the Israelis were smarter than Singaporeans.
PM Lee made the comment at a Dialogue which was organised by the Institute of Policy Studies and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, and chaired by Washington Post columnist and CNN host Dr Fareed Zakaria.
Zakaria had at the Dialogue suggested that countries like the USA and Israel thrived in areas like innovation, science, research and technology because of their culture of a lack of respect for authority, of a deliberate almost upending of hierarchy, of challenging authority and of self-confidence.
He pointed out that although it has topped international educational benchmarking examinations like PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) test, Singapore was lacking in these areas and asked PM Lee (and in pointing to Lee’s defamation law suit he brought out against blogger Roy Ngerng) if it was because Singapore did not have a culture of disrespect.
In his reply PM Lee said that it is important for Singapore to have a “certain natural aristocracy” because Singapore as a society will lose out if everything comes down to the lowest common denominator, and that the Republic should encourage a system where people are respected because they have earned that.
He elaborated: “<…>you may think that then Israelis do this because they are rude to one another, but I think the Israelis also do this because they are very smart. And I think they are smarter than us. I don’t have evidence, but I know that if you look at Nobel Prize winners, many are Jewish, if you look at the people who came from Russia and immigrated to Israel, scientists, mathematicians, writers, musicians, everybody who came down off the aeroplane carried either double bass or violin or little clarinet tube and the chap who came down empty-handed, he was the conductor. Any number of symphony orchestras in Israel, I have one who is not bad, and a few others, small ones. But I don’t have that same concentration of brilliance.”
Dr Paul Tambyah at the rally yesterday said that he objected to PM Lee’s view that the Israelis were better than Singaporeans.
Dr Tambyah at the rally said: “<…>at a forum organized by the Institute of Policy Studies, I publicly disagreed with the PM on his comment that Israelis are smarter than Singaporeans. I pointed out that I think that Singaporeans are smarter than Israelis, at least we know how to live in peace with our neighbours.”
Dr Tambyah raised the issue to point out that politicians should criticise the speech, the action, the policy and the values they represent but should not attack the man.
“I did not call the PM unpatriotic for putting down Singaporeans,” Dr Tambyah said.

Read the Transcript of the Dialogue which was organised by the Institute of Policy Studies and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy here: http://bit.ly/1Ncb2t1.

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