The Myth of the Demographic Machete

"Makor Rishon" Weekly, March 19, 2007

According to a groundbreaking AIDRG study, there is no need to retreat from Judea & Samaria Jewish geography, in order to secure Jewish demography. Such a perceived need is based on the assumption that Jews are, ostensibly, doomed to become a minority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.

 

However, this assumption is crashed against the rocks of reality, as evidenced by the 2006 “Green Line” data, published by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS).  In 1995, Jewish births constituted 69% of total births, growing to 74% in 2006!  A 36% increase in the number of annual Jewish births has occurred since 1995: 109,183 in 2006, compared with 103,599 in 2003 and 80,400 in 1995.  At the same time, the number of annual Arab births has stagnated: 38,653 in 2006, compared with 41,447 in 2003 and 36,500 in 1995.

 

A dramatic decline of fertility rates (number of children per woman) in Third World, Arab and Muslim countries has been documented by the UN Population Division.  For instance, Iran, Egypt and Jordan have plummeted to 1.98, 2.5 and 3 children respectively, down from 10, 7 and 8 children per woman 25 years ago. Moreover, the “Green Line” Arab-Jewish fertility rate gap has shrunk drastically from 6 children in the 1960s to 1 in 2006 (3.70:2.75).  While the number of Arab births per 1,000 has sharply declined from 35.0 in 1996 to 27.7 in 2006, the number of Jewish births has increased from 18.3 in 1996 to 19.3 in 2006.

 

The gradual westernization of Arab/Muslim fertility rates has characterized Third World societies, located contiguous to Western societies.  Yakov Feitelson has shed light on the demographic evolution of Third World societies.  The first stage displays very high birth and death rates.  The initial contact with a Western society – as took place in 1949 (“Green Line”) and in 1967 (Judea & Samaria, Gaza) – benefits the Third World society with advanced medical, educational and employment infrastructures.  Consequently, infant mortality plunges, life expectancy rises and emigration drops – a “Demographic Explosion” which peaks in about 20 years.  The sustained decline in birth rates and the faster decrease in death rates produce a slower expansion of natural increase.  Then, birth rates decline persists, while death rates stabilize and the ranks of the elderly expand.  Hence, the erosion of natural increase (birth rate minus death rate).  “Green Line” and Judea & Samaria Arab natural increase rates peaked during the 1960s and early 1990s respectively.  Since then, they have converged toward the secular Jewish natural increase rate.

 

Arab population growth rate in Judea & Samaria has been chopped substantially due to a significant emigration rate: over 10,000 net negative annual Arab emigration since 1950. A retreat from Judea & Samaria would reverse the Arab migration trend, yielding a massive immigration into Judea & Samaria, and from there – due to economic pressures – into the “Green Line”, which would wreck Jewish demography.

 

The myth of the demographic machete hovering, supposedly, over the Jewish State has been nurtured by Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) numbers.  They are 70% inflated in Judea & Samaria (1.5 million and not 2.5 million) and more than 50% inflated in Gaza, Judea & Samaria (2.5 million and not 4 million). That inflation is documented by the Palestinian Ministries of Health and Education, Palestinian Election Commission, Jordan’s Bureau of Statistics, Israel’s Borders’ Police and the ICBS.  For example, some 400,000 non-resident Palestinians are counted, about 300,000 babies who were projected to be born were never born, 300,000 expected immigrants have never arrived but 100,000 emigrants were never projected, over 200,000 Jerusalem Arabs are doubly-counted by the ICBS and PCBS as “Green Line” and West Bank Arabs, and 100,000 Palestinians who married Israeli Arabs are similarly doubly-counted.

 

An examination of documented births, deaths and migration highlights a solid, long-term Jewish majority of 67% over 98.7% of the land west of the Jordan River (without Gaza), or 60% over the entire land. The Jewish majority benefits from a demographic tailwind.  There is no demographic machete at its throat.  A formulation of a long-term demographic strategy would bolster Jewish majority by leveraging annual Aliya (Jewish immigration), annual net Arab emigration, the decrease in Arab – and the increase in Jewish - birth rates.

 

However, a retreat from Judea & Samaria geography/topography would produce a relief of a non-lethal demographic burden, while exacerbating a lethal security and water burden.