Demographic Implosion in Moslem Societies , October 17, 2008

 Simultaneously with the collapse of the global economy – and away from media attention – there has been an unprecedented collapse of Muslim demography in the world at-large and between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean in particular.  Such a demographic development directly impacts critical policy considerations, which determine the future of the Jewish State.  Overlooking that development, and its implications, undermines the national security of the Jewish State.


The UN Population Division reports a sharp decline of fertility rates (number of births per woman) in Muslim and Arab countries, excluding Afghanistan and Yemen.


The myth of "doubling population every 20 years" has been shattered against the cliffs of demography.  The Director General of UNESCO, Koichiro Matsuura, stated – during a UNESCO conference on "Population: From Explosion to Implosion" – that "there is an abrupt slowdown in the rate of growth…also in many countries where women have only limited access to education and employment…There is not the slightest reason to assume that the decline in fertility will miraculously stop just at replacement level (2.1 births per woman)…Before 2000, the young always outnumbered their elders; for some years now it has been the other way around." 


The collapse of fertility rates in Muslim countries is a derivative of modernization/Westernization, rapid urbanization and internal security concern by dictators, fearing the consequences of the widening gap between population growth and economic growth.  As a result, the UN Population Division has reduced its 2050 population projections by 25% from 12 billion to 9 billion, possibly shrinking to 7.4 billion.  For instance, the fertility rate in Iran – the flagship of radical Islam - has declined from 9 births per woman, 30 years ago, to 1.8 births in 2007.  The Muslim religious establishment has also played a key role in decreasing fertility rates in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, from 8 and 7 births per woman 30 years ago, to less than 4 and less than 2.5 in 2007 respectively. Jordan – which is demographically close to Judea and Samaria – and Syria have demonstrated a diminished fertility rates from 8, 30 years ago, to less than 3.5 in 2007.  A substantial dive of fertility rates in Muslim countries – trending toward 2 births per woman - is documented by the Population Resource Center in Washington, DC.  And, according to demographic precedents, there is a very slight probability of resurrecting high fertility rates following a sustained period of significant reduction.


The Bennett Zimmerman-led American-Israel Demographic Research Group (AIDRG) has documented a similar demographic trend among the Arab population of Judea and Samaria (currently 4 births per woman and trending downward). The decline in fertility and population growth rates has resulted from escalating emigration (which has characterized the region since 1950!), accelerated urbanization (70% rural in 1967 and 60% urban in 2008), the expansion of education infrastructure especially among women, the entrenchment of career mentality, the increase of median-marriage-age, an all time high divorce rate, the contraction of teen-age-pregnancy and the UNRWA/PA-led family planning campaign.


The sharp lowering of fertility rate among "Green Line" (pre-1967 Israel) Arabs, from 9 births per woman in 1969 to 3.5 in 2007, has been the outcome of their successful integration into Israel's education, employment, commerce, health, banking, cultural, political and sports infrastructures. The annual number of Arab births stabilized at approximately 39,000 between 1995-2007.  The Arab fertility rate converges swiftly toward the Jewish fertility rate (2.8 births per woman). 


On the other hand, Israel's Jewish demography has been non-normative as far as the impact of education and income levels on the level of fertility rates. The annual number of Jewish births (including the Olim/immigrants from the former USSR, who have yet to be recognized as Jews by the Rabbinate) rose by 40% between 1995-2007.  The number of Jewish births has increased from 69% of total births in 1995 to 74% in 2006 and 75% in 2007. The secular sector – and particularly the Olim from the former Soviet Union - has been by and large responsible for such an impressive rise.  The Jewish demographic tailwind is bolstered by the (highly under-utilized) potential of Aliya/immigration – which has increased due to the global economic collapse – from the former USSR, USA, West Europe, Latin America, South Africa, etc.


Recent demographic trends bode well for the solid, long-term Jewish majority of 67% in the "Green Line" and in Judea and Samaria, compared with a 33% and 8% Jewish minority in 1947 and 1900 respectively between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.


Israel's policy-makers and public opinion-molders should base their assessments on thoroughly-documented demographic optimism and not on baseless demographic fatalism, in order to avoid erroneous assumptions, which yield erroneous and self-destructive policy decisions.