The Pernicious Myth of Demographic Fatalism

Shalom Magazine, Switzerland, May 17, 2009

An 80% Jewish majority is expected by 2035 in the combined area of pre-1967 Israel and Judea & Samaria. Such a majority would be attained by leveraging the current 67% Jewish majority, the robust Jewish demographic tailwind, the unique Aliya potential, and a long overdue demographic policy to-be-adopted by the Jewish State and world Jewry.  There is no demographic time bomb; there is a demographic scarecrow bomb.

What if all doomsday demographic projections, which anticipated Jews to become a minority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, have been crashed against the rock of reality? What if demographic fatalism ignores the severe demographic decline in Muslim societies? What if the demographic tailwind has been Jewish? What if the official number of Arabs in Judea & 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?

 

The Debacle of Demographic Fatalism

 

Demographobia – the illogical fear of Arab demography – 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, facilitating the establishment of a Palestinian State.

However, in defiance of the Prophets of Demographic Doom, the Jewish population in the Land of Israel has grown from a minority of 8% and 33% in 1900 and 1947 respectively, to a solid majority of 67% over 98.5% of the land west of the Jordan River (without Gaza) in 2009, benefiting from a demographic tailwind.

 

The school of demographic pessimism has been devastatingly wrong!

In March 1898, the world renowned Jewish historian and demographer, Shimon Dubnov, projected that in the year 2000, there will be only 500,000 Jews in the Land of Israel.  But, in 2000 there were five million Jews west of the Jordan River.

 

During the 1940s, Professor Roberto Bacchi, the founder of the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, projected that in 2001 there would be only 2.3 million Jews, constituting a 34% minority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.  But, in 2001 there were five million Jews – a 60% majority.

 

In 1967, Prime Minister Levy Eshkol was advised that by 1987 there would be an Arab majority west of the Jordan River.  But, in 1987 Jews maintained a 60% majority.

 

Israel's demographers did not believe that a massive Aliya would take place in the aftermath of the 1948/9 War.  One million Jews arrived following the war.  During the 1970s, they projected no substantial Aliya from the Communist Bloc. Almost 300,000 Jews arrived.  During the 1980s they dismissed the possibility for a massive wave of Aliya from the USSR, even if gates were opened.  One million Olim relocated from the Soviet Union to the Jewish Homeland!

 

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. 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.

The collapse of Muslim fertility rates is a derivative of modernization, as well as a fear – by Muslim dictators – of internal security consequences of rapid population growth, while economic growth lags far behind. For instance, the fertility rate in radical Muslim Iran has declined from 9 births per woman, 30 years ago, to 1.7 births in 2008. The Muslim religious establishment has also supported decreasing fertility rates in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, from 8 and 7 births per woman 30 years ago, to 4 and 2.5 births respectively in 2008. 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 and 3.5 births respectively in 2008.

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

 

 

Upward Trending Jewish Demography

 

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.

 

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 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 75% in 2008.  The Arab-Jewish fertility gap shrunk from 6 births in 1969 to 0.6 births per woman in 2008, while Arabs are trending downward and Jews upward. The secular Jewish sector has been mostly responsible for such a development, especially the Olim from the former USSR. They are shifting from a Russian fertility rate of 1 birth per woman to the 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 has occurred 20 years faster than projected. The Jewish demographic tailwind could be further bolstered by the implementation of demographic policy. Such a policy would leverage the global economic meltdown and intensified anti- Semitism, in order to realize potential Aliya from the former USSR, USA, Europe, Latin America, South Africa and Australia. It would entice the return of Israeli expatriates, would encourage migration of Jews from the Tel Aviv area to the periphery, would converge work and school hours and would establish a world Jewry fund to support Jewish birthrate.

 

Palestinian Census – Civil Intifadah

 

"The census is a civil Intifada!" stated the head of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) on December 11, 1997, upon conclusion of the first Palestinian census. Indeed, the census has been employed by the Palestinian Authority as an effective tool of psychological terrorism, scaring Jews into sweeping concessions, while inflating contributions from western countries.

 

The American-Israel Demographic Research Group (AIDRG), headed by Bennett Zimmerman, discovered that Israel accepted the PCBS census without scrutiny.  Israel 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 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 2008. Such a growth rate would be almost double the population growth rate of Afghanistan, Niger and Eritrea, which have the fastest growing populations – much faster than in Gaza, Judea & Samaria - according to the UN Population Division.

The American-Israel Demographic Research Group (AIDRG), 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 – are included in the census, in defiance of globally acceptable demographic standards (adhered by Israel), which include only residents who are away for less than a year. 

 

2.  Over 200,000 Jerusalem Arabs – holding Israel ID cards – are doubly-counted as Israeli Arabs (by the ICBS) and as West Bank Arabs (by the PCBS).

 

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.

 

4.  A 40,000-60,000 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 (which also documents village midwives deliveries) and Education on the other hand. 

 

5.  An assumption of a 50,000 annual net- immigration was factored into PCBS numbers. However, an average annual net-emigration of well over 10,000 has been documented since 1950 by Jordan, Egypt and Israel.  For instance, 16,000 net emigrants in 2005, 25,000 in 2006 and 25,000 in 2007. Emigration has recently escalated due to the 2000 Intifada, 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 Bankers (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% inflated births numbers claimed by the PCBS. The World Bank attributes the decline in Palestinian birth rate to reduced fertility and escalated emigration.

 

AIDRG documents a rapidly declining trend in the Palestinian population growth rate in Judea & Samaria and Gaza, due to escalated emigration, accelerated urbanization, expanded education (especially among women), all time high divorce rate and median marriage age and an unprecedented family planning campaign, supported by UNRWA.

 

AIDRG documents a 53% inflation in the number of Judea & Samaria Arabs (1.5MN and not 2.3MN) and a 40% inflation in the number of Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (2.7MN and not 3.8MN). 

 

CONCLUSION

 

Theodore Herzle and David Ben Gurion did not allow demographic fatalism to divert them away from their vision, while Jews constituted a mere 8% minority (Herzl – 1900) and a 33% minority (Ben Gurion – 1947), devoid of sovereignty.  They did not allow tenuous demographic predicament to divert them away from their Jewish vision and long-term national security.  They considered the Ingathering (Aliya) the top national priority, in order to advance national security. In contrast, current Israeli politicians tend to succumb to demographic fatalism, 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 a 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.