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No Arab demographic time bomb

The Jewish Political Studies Review, Volume 29, Numbers 3-4, September 2018

Demographic reality defies conventional wisdom  

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Jewish State is not facing an Arab demographic time bomb; but, benefits from a robust Jewish demographic tailwind of births and net-immigration.

For example, between 1995 and 2017, the number of Israeli Jewish births surged by 74%, from 80,400 to 140,000, while the number of Israeli Arab births grew by 19% during the same period – from 36,000 to 43,000 births.

Moreover, contrary to conventional wisdom, the trend of Israeli emigration has slowed down.  Thus, the number of Israelis staying abroad for over a year was expanded by 6,300 in 2016 (the lowest in ten years – a derivative of the growth of Israel’s economy), compared to 8,200 in 2015 and 14,200 additional emigrants in 1990. At the same time, Israel’s population surged from 4.8 million in 1990 to 8.8 million in 2018.

Since the end of the 19th century, the Jewish-Arab demographic balance has systematically defied the demographic establishment’s assessments and projections.

For instance, in March 1898, Shimon Dubnov, a leading Jewish historian and demographer, projected 500,000 Jews in the Land of Israel by 1998, defining Theodore Herzl’s Zionist vision as “a messianic wishful thinking.”  However, Herzl was the ultimate realist and Dubnov was off by 5.5 million Jews!

In October 1944, the founder of Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS), and the luminary of Israel’s demographic and statistical establishment, Prof. Roberto Bachi, projected 2.3 million Jews in Israel in 2001, a 34% minority. Bachi’s projection reflected the demographic establishment’s underwhelming assessment of Jewish fertility and immigration (Aliyah) and the overwhelming assessment of Arab fertility. In 2018, there are seven million Jews in Israel, a 65.5% majority in the combined area of pre-1967 Israel, Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), enjoying an effective demographic tailwind.

During the 1980s, the ICBS sustained its traditional, minimalist assessment of Aliyah, dismissing the potential of an Aliyah wave from the USSR. But, in defiance of the demographic and statistical establishments – and due to a most assertive, pro-active Aliyah policy by Prime Ministers Ben Gurion, Eshkol, Meir, Begin and Shamir – one million Soviet Jews immigrated to Israel.

In 2000, consistent with demographic political correctness, the ICBS projected a gradual decline of Jewish fertility rate from 2.6 births per woman to 2.4 in 2025.  However, by 2017, the Jewish fertility rate was bolstered to 3.16 births per woman and 76.5% of all Israeli births were Jewish, compared to 69% in 1995.

The Westernization of Arab demography

In 1969, Israel’s Arab fertility rate (nine births per woman) was six births higher than Israel’s Jewish fertility rate. However, that gap was erased by 2015 (3.11 births each), and in 2016/17 the Jewish fertility rate was higher than the Arab rate (3.16 births per woman and 3.3 when both Jewish spouses were Israeli-born). Moreover, the Arab fertility rate in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) is 3 births per woman, compared to 5 in 2000.   In fact, in 2018, Israel’s Jewish fertility rate is equal to Jordan’s, while exceeding the fertility rates in all Arab countries other than Yemen, Iraq and Egypt.

The rise of Jewish fertility reflects the enhanced optimism, patriotism, attachment to roots, communal responsibility and a substantial decline in the number of abortions. Furthermore, while conventional wisdom assumes that the surge of Israel’s Jewish fertility rate was triggered by the Ultra-Orthodox community, reality documents a moderate decline of the Ultra-Orthodox fertility rate (due to the growing integration in the job-market and academia) – while a substantial increase of the fertility rate has been demonstrated by Israel’s secular sector, which is the largest sector of the population.

At the same time, the Westernization of Arab fertility (in Israel, Judea and Samaria and throughout the Middle East) is a derivative of the following phenomena:

*Intense urbanization has transformed the 70% rural Arab population in Judea and Samaria in 1967 to a 75% urban population in 2018;

*Most Arab women in Israel, Judea and Samaria have pursued dramatically enhanced education, increasingly completing high school and pursuing higher education;

*Rather than getting married at the age of 15 and beginning reproduction at 16 – as did their mothers and grandmothers – contemporary Arab women tend to delay and shorten that process;

*Arab women have improved their social status, seeking to advance their own careers, thus ending their reproductive period at the age of 45, rather than 55, resulting in less births;

*Rapidly declining teen-pregnancy;

*Rapidly expanding family-planning;

*Youthful male emigration, among Judea and Samaria Arabs, has widened the gap between the number of Arab males and females there;

*Arab women in Israel, Judea and Samaria, just like Arab women throughout the Arab World have substantially expanded the use of contraceptives.

According to a June, 2012 study by the Washington-based Population Reference Bureau (PRB), 72% of 15-49 year old Palestinian married women prefer to avoid pregnancy, trailing Morocco (78%), ahead of Jordan (71%) and Egypt (69%).  A growing number are using contraception, as family planning services have expanded in the Arab region.

Auditing, rather than echoing, the official Palestinian data

In contrast to the Israeli and global demographic establishment, this essay audits – rather than reverberate/amplify – the official data of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). The essay examines the records of the PCBS against the data published by the Palestinian Departments of Health, Education and Interior, the Palestinian Election Commission, The World Bank, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel’s Authority of International Passages, etc.

Unlike the demographic establishment, this essay does not indulge in projections, which are subjective by definition, impacted by a litany of unpredictable domestic and international social, economic and geo-political factors. Instead, this essay focuses only on well-documented and verifiable birth, death and migration data.

Since 2004, “The America-Israel Demographic Research Group” – consisting of three Americans and six Israelis, including this writer – has documented significant inaccuracies and misrepresentations by the PCBS, totaling over one million Arabs in Judea and Samaria and about half a million in Gaza.  For instance:

  1. On February 26, 1998, upon completing the first Palestinian census, the Head of the PCBS, Hasan Abu-Libdeh, stated at a press conference: “We counted 325,000 persons living outside the Palestinian lands for more than one year.” The inclusion of such a contingency in a census is prohibited by international standards, until – and if – the overseas residents return for, at least, 90 days. Furthermore, such a contingency expands systematically through births (which exceed deaths). This malpractice was confirmed by the 1998 website of the PCBS: “The de-facto approach was adopted with some exceptions: All Palestinians studying abroad irrespective of the study period…. Palestinians who live abroad for more than one year, and who have a usual place of residence in the Palestinian territories….”

It was further reaffirmed on October 14 2004, when the Palestinian Election Commission stated that 200,000 overseas residents – over the age of 18 – were on the roster of eligible voters. Since in October 2004, 18 was the median age, the number of overseas residents, included in the census, expanded to 400,000 persons. On October29, 2014, the Palestinian Undersecretary of the Interior, Hassan Ilwi, told the Ma’an News Agency: “Since 1995, we have registered about 100,000 children born abroad.”

  1. A double-count of the 330,000 Jerusalem Arabs (whose number expands systematically due to births) has taken place since the 1997 Palestinian census, because they are included in the official count of both Israeli and the the Palestinian Authority.
  2. Over 100,000 Arabs (mostly from Judea and Samaria) have been doubly-counted – by Israel and the Palestinian Authority – as a result of marrying Israeli Arabs, which accorded them an Israeli status (permanent residents or citizens). This contingency is, also, growing due to births.
  3. A 32% inflated number of births was documented by a September 7, 2006 study by The World Bank.
  4. Deaths have been under-reported as evidenced by the 2007 census, which included Arabs born in 1845…. Moreover, in 2009, the PCBS reported 1,900 deaths in Gaza, while claiming that 1,391 Arabs were killed during Operation Cast Lead…. A June 10, 1993 study by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (which stopped auditing the Palestinian numbers in 1996) echoed studies conducted during the Ottoman and British rule of the area, indicating: “If the Palestinian population registration is accurate, then Palestinian life expectancy is higher than life expectancy in the USA….”
  5. A 280,000 net-emigration has been documented, since the 1997 Palestinian census, by Israel’s International Passages Authority, which controls all land, air and sea passages to/from Israel, Judea and Samaria (and Gaza until the “disengagement” of 2005), while the PCBS claims zero net-migration…. The 1950-1967 documentation by Jordan and Egypt reveals that net-emigration has been systematic in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, except for the 1993-95 Oslo-driven importation, by Israel, of some 100,000 Palestinians from terrorist camps in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, the Sudan and Lebanon. In recent years, the scope of net-emigration from Judea and Samaria has been 20,000 annually.

According to a 1946 document, compiled by Israel Trivus and submitted by David Ben Gurion to “The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry” (“No Arab majority in the Land of Israel“), should one accept the official British Mandate Statistics – which echoed the Arab numbers with no scrutiny (as is the current practice) – then Arab natural increase in the Land of Israel is the highest in human history, dramatically higher than customary in the Arab World.

The 2018 demographic reality

Contrary to political correctness, which has embraced demographic fatalism – repeatedly frustrated by reality – this essay has embraced due-diligence, documenting the reality of Jewish demographic momentum.

In 2018 – irrespective of the international norm to regurgitate official demographic numbers without due diligence – there are 1.85 million Arabs in Judea and Samaria (not 3 million as claimed by the PCBS), 1.6 million Israeli Muslim Arabs, 130,000 Israeli Druze, 130,000 Israeli Christian Arabs and seven million Jews – a 65.5% Jewish majority in the combined area of pre-1967 Israel, Judea and Samaria, compared with a 9% Jewish minority in 1900 and a 39% minority in 1947.  While Arab demography has experienced powerful Westernization, Jewish demography has benefitted from a robust demographic tailwind of fertility and an annual net-immigration of 25,000-30,000 in recent years.

The latter has been the most critical engine of growth of the Jewish State, representing a core value of the Zionist idea: the Ingathering (Aliyah) to the Homeland. In 2018, there is a unique window of opportunity for another wave of Aliyah from France, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Britain, additional European countries, Argentina, the USA, etc.  Such a wave would follow the waves, which have enriched the Jewish State, every 20 years, since 1882, provided that Jerusalem revives the pro-active Aliyah policy, which was implemented by all Prime Ministers until 1992, but replaced by a pro-active absorption policy since 1992.

In 2018, Israel is the only Western democracy and advanced economy, endowed with a relatively-high rate of fertility, which facilitates the sustained growth of the economy, as well as a potential expansion of the military ranks – if necessary – while boosting the level of national optimism.

Against the backdrop of the aforementioned demographic documentation, the suggestion that the Jewish State is facing an Arab demographic time bomb, is either dramatically mistaken or outrageously misleading.  Or both….






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Westernization of Arab demography

“The fertility declines recorded in the Arab world over the past 30 years (1988-2018) have been profound, even revolutionary…The Arab world is in the midst of one of the most dramatic fertility declines in world history….From among the highest to among the lowest [fertility levels] in the world…without major economic development or strong family planning programs….” (Prof. Marcia Inhorn, Yale University, Spring/Summer 2018 issue of The Brown Journal of World Affairs).

This dramatic transformation of Arab/Islamic demography was, also, documented by Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute.

In 2019 – in defiance of conventional wisdom and the demographic establishment – the Westernized Arab fertility, throughout the Middle East, is a byproduct of a dramatic transformation of Arab society:

(a) A radical shift from rural (farming) to urban society has drastically reduced Arab families’ need for manpower, resulting in a much smaller nuclear family.

(b) The sweeping switch from rural homes to multi-story urban apartment buildings has decreased the number of children per family.

(c) The unprecedented upgrading of the mindset and status of Arab women – who increasingly complete high school education and (in smaller numbers) pursue college degrees and career – has revolutionized their family role: from early-marriage and baby-production tasking to an equality-seeking adult partner. Unlike the past scenario of marriage at the age of 15, bearing the first child at 16, and producing babies until the age of 55, the current generation of Arab women tend to get married at the age of 20+ and completing the fertility cycle at the age of 45.

(d) The slow – but steady – Westernization of the cultural state of mind of Arab societies has shifted the acceptable structure of Arab families from multi-children to 2-3 children or less.

(e) The substantial proliferation of contraceptives – initiated by the Arab population at-large (including rural areas), not by Arab governments – has reflected the enhanced status of Arab women and the Westernization of social, educational, economic and leisure norms of Arab societies, in general, and Arab women, in particular.

(f) According to the Washington, DC-based Population Reference Bureau, Palestinian women (72%) are second only to Morocco women (78%) in their use of contraceptives. Jordan ranks third – 71% – among Arab countries.

Prof. Marcia Inhorn documents that “seven of the world’s top 15 fertility declines have occurred in Arab countries…. During 1975-1980, women in all 17 Arab nations had TFR far exceeding the world average, which was 3.85 children per woman…. Currently, many Arab countries are heading toward very low fertility, well below replacement level [2.1 babies per woman]…. In many ways, this reproductive revolution is one of the most significant social transformations to have shaped the Arab world….

“What is most impressive about this Arab fertility decline is that it has occurred even in resource-poor Arab nations…. The desire for fewer children on the part of both men and women – has led to the new Arab family…. Knowledge of contraceptive methods among Arab women had become widespread….

“Among the growing Palestinian middle class, small ‘high-quality’ families were the norm…limiting their fertility through contraception in order to invest more time, energy and money into the education and success of each individual child…. Marriage is no longer just about having children…. Arab men want fewer children in order to provide adequate financial support, a good education and paternal love to both their sons and daughters….

“Fertility rates are expected to drop well below replacement level in most Arab countries by the year 2100….”

According to the World Bank, from 1960-2017, the overall Arab World fertility rate was reduced from 6.9 births per woman to 3.3. For example, Egypt – from 6.7 to 3.2, Jordan – from 7.7 to 3.3, Syria – from 7.5 to 2.9, Lebanon – from 5.7 to 1.7, Saudi Arabia – from 7.2 to 2.5, Kuwait – from 7.2 to 2.0, West Bank and Gaza – from 6.7 births per woman in 1990 to 3.9 in 2017 [Gaza’s fertility rate is 1.0 higher than the West Bank’s, which sets the West Bank fertility rate at around 3 births per woman].

Contrary to projections made by prominent demographers and statisticians, the number of Israel’s Jewish births has surged dramatically – 74% – from 1995 (80,400 births) to 2018 (141,000), while the number of births in Israel’s Westernized Arab population has increased moderately – 20% – from 36,000 to 43,000. In 1995, the share of Jewish births, in Israel, was 69%, rising to 76.6% in 2018.

The impressive growth of Israel’s Jewish fertility rate (especially among secular women!) is attributed to a high-level of patriotism, optimism and attachment to roots; expanded fertility treatment; reduced number of abortions; and the low rate of infant mortality (3.1 babies per 1,000 births).

Israel’s Jewish demography (7 million next to 1.6 million Muslims, 140K Druz and 130K Christian Arabs) has also enjoyed annual net-immigration, while Judea & Samaria Arabs (1.85 million) have experienced systematic annual net-emigration (around 20,000 annually in recent years), which has increased since the 1993 establishment of the Palestinian Authority, and especially since the 2000 Second Intifada’.  Moreover, the annual number of Israeli emigrants (exits minus returns) has been reduced substantially from 1990 (14,200) to 2016 (6,300), while Israel’s population almost doubled.

At the same time, the number of Judea and Samaria Arabs has been inflated systematically and dramatically – by over 1.2 million persons – in the following manner:

a. (In violation of international regulations) The inclusion of over 400,000 people, and their descendants, living outside the Palestinian Authority for more than one year;

b. The double-count of the 330,000 Jerusalem Arabs, and their descendants, by Israel and the Palestinian Authority;

c. The double-count of 105,000 Palestinians, and their descendants, who received Israeli citizenship from 1997-2003 by marrying Israeli Arabs. This pathway to citizenship was eliminated, in 2003, by Israel’s Supreme Court;

d. The Palestinian Authority has ignored the systematic annual net-emigration (20,000 in recent years);

e. An annual gap of 20,000-60,000 births, from 1997-2011, between the documented data of the Palestinian Ministries of Health and Education, on the one hand, and the higher numbers contended/projected by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, on the other hand;

f. A Spetember 7, 2006 World Bank report documented a 32% gap between its own birth data and those published by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

The 2019 demographic reality highlights a sweeping and swift Westernization of Arab demography, simultaneously with an unprecedented enhancement of Israel’s Jewish demography. Policymakers and public opinion molders who fail to read the demographic writing (reality) on the wall, are either dramatically mistaken or outrageously misleading, instilling pessimism and vacillation instead of optimism and determination.


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