BURSTING THE DEMOGRAPHIC BUBBLE

http://www.youngisrael.org/content/viewpoint/PDFs/viewpointspring2009.pdf, April 01, 2009

The assumption that Jews are doomed to become a minority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean has eroded confidence in the future of the Jewish State.  It has also triggered the thesis that Israel must, supposedly, retreat from Jewish geography (Judea and Samaria), in order to secure Jewish demography. This assumption has facilitated the recent entrenchment of the Two State Solution.

But, what if that assumption ignores the severe demographic decline in Muslim societies? What if the real demographic tailwind has been Jewish, yielding a long-term robust 67% Jewish majority over 98.5% of the land west of the Jordan River? What if the official number of Arabs in Judea and Samaria is inflated by 53%? How would a transformation from baseless demographic-fatalism to well documented demographic-optimism impact the morale of the Jewish People and the Jewish State?  How would it affect Aliya, Israel's national security and posture of deterrence, its economy and the confidence of overseas investors in the Jewish State?

POPULATION IMPLOSION IN MUSLIM SOCIETIES

 

In sharp contrast to conventional wisdom, the UN Population Division reports a sharp decline of fertility rate (number of births per woman) in Muslim and Arab countries, except in Afghanistan and Yemen.  The myth of "doubling Muslim population every 20 years" has been shattered against the rocks of modernity and reality. UNESCO's Director-General, Koichiro Matsuura, stated, during a May 22, 2007 UNESCO conference on Population - From Explosion to Implosion:

 

"There is an abrupt slowdown in the rate of population growth... also in many countries where women have only limited access to education and employment... In the last fifty years, median fertility     has fallen from 5.4 to 2.1 [births per woman]… There is not the slightest reason to assume that the decline in fertility will miraculously stop just at replacement level (2.1 births)...."

The collapse of Muslim fertility rates is a derivative of modernization, rapid urbanization and internal security concerns by dictators. They fear the consequences of rapid population growth, while economic growth lags far behind. As a result, the UN Population Division has reduced its 2050 population projections by 25 percent, from 12 billion to 9 billion, possibly shrinking to 7.4 billion.

For instance, the fertility rate in Iran has declined – as directed by its religious leaders - from 9 births per woman, 30 years ago, to 1.8 births in 2007. The Muslim religious establishment has also promoted decreasing fertility rates in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, from 8 and 7 births per woman 30 years ago, to less than 4 and 2.5 births respectively in 2007. Jordan, which is demographically similar to Judea and Samaria, and Syria have diminished from 8 births per woman, 30 years ago, to less than 3.5 in 2007. A substantial dive of fertility rates in Muslim countries - trending toward 2-3 births per woman - is documented by the Population Resource Center in Washington, DC.

According to demographic precedents, there is only a slim probability that high fertility rates can be resurrected following a sustained period of significant reduction.

 

 

A JEWISH DEMOGRAPHIC TAILWIND IN ISRAEL

 

In defiance of demographic fatalism, Israel's demographic momentum has been Jewish.  Since 1882 (the launching of annual Aliya), the Jewish population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean has grown 238 fold, while the Arab population increased only 6 fold.  Since 1948, the Jewish population increased almost 10 fold and the Arab population expanded 3 fold.

 

Thus, according to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS), the annual number of Israeli Jewish births has    Jewish births has grown by 45% from 1995 (80,400) to 2008 (117,000), while the number of Israeli Arab births has stabilized at 39,000 annually. The sharp decline of fertility rate among "Green Line" Arabs has been the outcome of their successful integration into Israel's education, employment, commerce, health, banking, cultural, political and sports infrastructures.

 

The proportion of Jewish births has increased from 69% (of total births) in 1995 to 74% in 2006 and 75% in 2008.  The total fertility rates of Jewish and Arab women, in Jerusalem, have converged at 3.9 births per woman.  The Arab-Jewish fertility gap shrunk from 6 births in 1969 to 0.7 births per woman in 2008! The secular Jewish sector has been mostly responsible for such a development, especially the Olim from the former USSR, who are shifting from a typical Russian fertility rate of 1 birth per woman to the typical secular Jewish rate of 2-3. While Israel's Jewish fertility rate (2.8 births) is the highest in the industrialized world, the decline in Arab fertility rate (3.5) has occurred 20 years faster than projected. The Jewish demographic tailwind is further bolstered by the highly under-utilized potential of Aliya from the former USSR, the US, Europe, Latin America, South Africa and Australia, which has increased due to the global economic meltdown and intensified anti Semitism.

 

THE PALESTINIAN CENSUS – A CIVIL INTIFADA

 

On December 11, 1997, upon conclusion of the first Palestinian census, the head of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) told the New York Times that "the census is a civil Intifada!"

Indeed, the census has been leveraged by the Palestinian Authority in its confrontation with Israel and in its attempts to increase contributions from the US and other western countries.

 

The American-Israel Demographic Research Group (AIDRG), headed by Bennett Zimmerman, discovered that Israel’s demographic establishment embraced the PCBS census and projections without scrutiny.  Israel's demographic establishment was unaware that the PCBS numbers were refuted annually by the documentation of births, deaths, migration and eligible voters, as performed by the Palestinian Ministries of Health and Education, by the Palestinian Election Commission, by Israel’s Border Police, by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS) and by Jordan’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

 

Israel's demographic establishment did not question the addition of some 650,000 Palestinians (30%!) as a result of the 1997 PCBS census. The establishment did not raise an eyebrow when the PCBS contended a 170% population growth from 1.5 million in 1990 to 3.8 million in Judea, Samaria and Gaza in 2007. Such a growth rate would be substantially higher than the population growth rates of Afghanistan, Niger and Eritrea, which have the fastest growing populations – much faster than in Gaza, Judea and Samaria - according to the UN Population Division. Israel's establishment did not examine, did not know and did not report.

 

The American-Israel Demographic Research Group (AIDRG), whose groundbreaking study was scrutinized by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and published by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies http://www.biu.ac.il/SOC/besa/MSPS65.pdf(

 

has uncovered a number of significant flaws in the PCBS numbers.

 

For example:     

 

1.  Some 400,000 overseas Palestinians – who have been away for over a year - were included the census, as documented by the PCBS director and website.  Such a practice defies globally acceptable demographic standards, which include only de-facto residents and those who are away for less than a year.  Thus, Israel does not count Israelis, who have been away for over a year. 

 

2.  Over 200,000 Jerusalem Arabs – possessing Israel ID cards – are doubly-counted as Israeli Arabs (by the ICBS) and as West Bank Arabs (by the PCBS). The UN, the State Department and other organizations combine the PCBS and ICBS figures, in order to find out the total number of Arabs between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, hence the double-count. 

 

3.  113,000 persons should be deleted due to a discrepancy between the total of eligible voters (18 and older) in the PA as contended by the PCBS and those actually documented by the PA Election Commission during the January 2005 election.

 

4.  A 40,000-50,000 annual gap between the number of babies born according to the PCBS on one hand, and the number of documented births by the PA Ministries of Health and Education on the other hand.  The Ministry of Health documents down to the level of village midwives.

 

5.  A 50,000 net annual immigration was factored into the PCBS numbers.  However, the average annual net emigration of well over 10,000 has been documented since 1950 by Jordan, Egypt and Israel in the various land, air and sea international passages in Israel, along the Jordan River and around Gaza.  For instance, 16,000 net emigrants in 2005, 25,000 in 2006 and 25,000 in 2007. Emigration has escalated since the 2000 Intifada and has shifted to an even higher gear since the 2006 ascension of Hamas, the Hamas-Fatah civil war and the rise in the price of oil, which has increased demand for Palestinian manpower by the Gulf Sheikdoms.

 

6.  105,000 Palestinians received Israeli ID cards (since 1997). They are doubly-counted as Israeli Arabs (by the ICBS) and West Bank Arabs (by the PCBS).

 

AIDRG findings have been supported by The World Bank 2006 survey of education, in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.  The survey documents a 32% gap between the number of Palestinian births claimed by the PCBS, and those documented by the Palestinian Ministries of Health and Education. The World Bank attributes the gap to reduced fertility and escalated emigration.

 

AIDRG highlights a declining trend in the Palestinian population growth rate in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, mostly due to escalated emigration, as well as accelerated urbanization (60% urban in 2009 compared with 30% in 1967), expanded education and career mentality (especially among women), all time high divorce rate, a higher median marriage age and an unprecedented family planning campaign, which includes contraceptives and instructions to prevent teen pregnancy.

 

AIDRG has documented a robust long-term Jewish majority of 67% west of the Jordan River without Gaza and 60% with Gaza, compared with an 8% Jewish minority in 1900 and a 33% Jewish minority in 1947 between the Jordan River and the MediterraneanThe number of Arabs in Judea and Samaria is inflated by 53% (1.5MN and not 2.3MN) and the number of Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is inflated by 40% (2.7MN and not 3.8MN). 

 

THE FAILURE OF DEMOGRAPHIC FATALISM

 

In March 1898, Shimon Dubnov, a leading Jewish historian-demographer, who acted against Zionism and for Jewish autonomy in Europe, projected a population of 500,000 Jews west of the Jordan River by the year 2000. However, in 2000 there were 5 million Jews west of the Jordan River!

 

In October 1944, Prof. Roberto Bachi, the founder of Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, contended that – under the best case scenario - there would be 2.3MN Jews in the Land of Israel by 2001, constituting a 33% minority.  In 2001, there was a solid 60% Jewish majority west of the Jordan River.

 

In 1967 and in 1973, Israel's demographic establishment pressured Prime Ministers Levy Eshkol and Golda Meir to retreat from Judea, Samaria and Gaza, in order to avoid an Arab majority west of the Jordan River by 1987/90.  Once again - and during the peak of the Arab population growth rate – demographic doom's day projections were frustrated by a robust Jewish majority of about 60%. 

 

In 2000, Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics projected that the Jewish fertility rate would trend downward toward the European rate of 2 births per woman.  In 2009, the Jewish fertility rate approaches 3 births.

 

Since the founding of Israel in 1948, Israel’s demographic establishment has tended to under-project Jewish fertility, over-project Arab fertility, ignore the scope of Arab emigration and minimize the scope of potential Aliya.  It has also misread the trend of Arab demography, which reached its peak in the 1960s (“Green Line”) and in the early 1990s (Judea, Samaria and Gaza), and since then it has declined towards secular Jewish demography.

 

In 1949, Prof. Bachi contended that there would be no Aliya to the poor, conflict-ridden Jewish State.  Three million Olim have arrived since then.

 

In the mid-1980s, Prof. Sergio DellaPergola and Prof. Arnon Sofer, senior members of Israel’s demographic establishment, discounted the prospect of substantial Aliya from the USSR, even if the gates would be opened.  Prof. DellaPergola also estimated the number of Soviet Jews at 50% of their actual number. One million Olim arrived from the USSR since then. 

 

Today, DellaPergola and Sofer employ refuted-PCBS numbers as a basis for their own projections. They impressed upon Israel’s policy-makers that the demographic threat was lethal and more significant than historical and security considerations in determining the future of Judea and Samaria

 

CONCLUSION

 

Paradoxically, early Zionist leaders did not allow demographic fatalism to divert them away from their vision, when Jews constituted a mere 8% minority (Herzl – 1900) and a 33% minority (Ben Gurion – 1947), devoid of sovereignty.  They did not subordinate long-term national security to a tenuous demographic predicament; they made it a top priority to enhance demography, in order to advance overriding national security. In contrast, current Israeli politicians tend to succumb to Demographobia (illogical fear of demography), at a time when the Jewish State has acquired the critical mass of sovereignty - demographically, militarily, economically and technologically. They subscribe to flawed demographic assumptions, yielding flawed national security policy, which is hazardous to the survival of the Jewish State.

 

There is a demographic problem, but it is not lethal and the demographic trend is Jewish. Therefore, anyone suggesting that Jews are doomed to become a minority west of the Jordan River, that there is a demographic machete at the throat of the Jewish State, and that the Jewish State must concede Jewish Geography in order to secure Jewish Demography, is either grossly mistaken or outrageously misleading.