Demographic Optimism; Not Fatalism

Detroit Jewish News, April 16, 2009

In March 1898, Shimon Dubnov, a leading Jewish historian-demographer, 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!  On the eve of Israel's 1948 Declaration of Independence, 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, of five million, west of the Jordan River. Since 1948 Israel's demographic establishment declared that no massive Aliya was expected.  Three million Olim have arrived!

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.

But, what if the official number of Arabs in Judea and Samaria is inflated by 53%?  What if a long-term 67% Jewish majority exists over 98.5% of the land west of the Jordan River? 

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. 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.  For instance, the fertility rate in Iran has declined from 9 births per woman, 30 years ago, to 1.8 births in 2007. Jordan, which is demographically similar to Judea and Samaria has diminished from 8 births per woman, 30 years ago, to less than 3.5 in 2007.

 

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 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 Arab-Jewish fertility gap shrunk from 6 births in 1969 to 0.7 births per woman in 2008!

 

The American-Israel Demographic Research Group (AIDRG), headed by Bennett Zimmerman, discovered that the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) contended a 170% population growth from 1.5 million in 1990 to 3.8 million in Judea, Samaria and Gaza in 2007. This would be almost double the population growth rates of Afghanistan, Niger and Eritrea, which have the highest population growth rates according to the UN Population Division.

 

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

For example, some 400,000 overseas Palestinians – who have been away for over a year - were included the census, in defiance of globally acceptable demographic standards. 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). A 40,000-50,000 annual gap exists between the number of births contended by the PCBS and the number of births documented by the PA Ministries of Health and Education.  Some 60,000 have to be deducted annually on account of unrealized immigration - which was contended by the PCBS – and  substantial emigration of well over 10,000 annually. 105,000 Palestinians who received Israeli ID cards since 1997 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, which documents a 32% gap between the number of Palestinian births claimed by the PCBS and documented by the Palestinian Ministries of Health and Education.

 

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 Mediterranean.  The 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). 

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, and that the Jewish State must concede Jewish Geography in order to secure Jewish Demography, is either grossly mistaken or outrageously misleading.