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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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2023 demographic update: no Arab demographic time bomb

Demography west of the Jordan River

In 2023, Israel is the only Western democracy endowed with a relatively high fertility rate, that facilitates further economic growth, which is not dependent upon migrant labor.  Moreover, Israel’s thriving demography provides for bolstered national security (larger classes of recruits), economy and technology and a more confident foreign policy.

In 2023, contrary to projections made by the demographic establishment at the end of the 19th century and during the 1940s, Israel’s Jewish fertility rate is higher than the fertility rates in all Muslim countries other than Iraq and the sub-Sahara Muslim countries.

In 2023 (based on the latest data of 2021), the Jewish fertility rate of 3.13 births per woman is higher than the 2.85 Arab fertility rate (as it has been since 2016) and the 3.01 Arab-Muslim fertility rate (as it has been since 2020).

In 2023, Israel’s Jewish fertility rate is higher than any Arab country other than Iraq’s.

In 2023, there is a race (which started in the 1990s) between the Jewish and Arab fertility rates, unlike the race between the Arab fertility rate and Jewish Aliyah (immigration), which took place in 1949-1990s (while the Jewish fertility rate was relatively low).

In 2023, the Westernization of Arab demography persists as a derivative of modernity, urbanization, women’s enhanced social status, women’s enrollment in higher education and increased use of contraceptives.

In 2023, in contrast to conventional demographic wisdom, Israel is not facing a potential Arab demographic time bomb in the combined areas of Judea, Samaria (the West Bank) and pre-1967 Israel. In fact, the Jewish State benefits from a robust tailwind of fertility rate and net-immigration.

In 2023, the demographic and policy-making establishment persists in reverberating the official Palestinian numbers without due-diligence (auditing), ignoring a 100% artificial inflation of the population numbers: inclusion of overseas resident, double-counting of Jerusalem Arabs and Israeli Arabs married to Judea and Samaria Arabs, inflated birth – and deflated death – data (as documented below).

In 2023, Israel is facing a potential wave of Aliyah (Jewish immigration) of some 500,000 Olim from the Ukraine, Russia, other former Soviet republics, France, Britain, Germany, Argentina, the USA, etc., which requires Israel to approach pro-active Aliyah policy as a top national priority.

In 2023, the Jewish demographic momentum persists (since 1995) with the secular Jewish sector making the difference, while the ultra-orthodox sector is experiencing a slight decline in fertility rate.

Jewish demographic momentum

*The number of Israeli Jewish births in 2022 (137,566) was 71% higher than 1995 (80,400), while the number of Israeli Arab births in 2022 (43,417) was 19% higher than 1995 (36,500), as reported by the February 2023 Monthly Bulletin of Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS).

*In 2022, Jewish births (137,566) were 76% of total births (180,983), compared to 69% in 1995.

*The fertility rate (number of births per woman) of Israeli secular Jewish women has trended upward during the last 25 years.

*Israeli Jewish women – who are second only to Iceland in joining the job market – are unique in experiencing a direct correlation between a rise of fertility rate, on the one hand, and a rise in urbanization, education, level of income, integration into the job market and a rise of wedding age, on the other hand.

*In 1969, Israel’s Arab fertility rate was 6 births higher than the Jewish fertility rate. In 2015, both fertility rates were at 3.13 births per woman, reflecting the dramatic Westernization of Arab demography, triggered by the enhanced social status of women, older wedding age (24), expanded participation of women in higher-education and the job market, and shorter reproductive time (25-45 rather than 16-55). According to Israel’s Monthly Bulletin of Statistics, in 2021, the Jewish fertility rate was 3.13 (and 3.27 with an Israeli-born Jewish father), while the overall Arab fertility rate was 2.85 and the Muslim fertility rate was 3 (Judea and Samaria Arab fertility rate – 3.02).  The average OECD fertility rate is 1.61 births per woman.

*The unique growth in Israel’s Jewish fertility rate is attributed to optimism, patriotism, attachment to Jewish roots, communal solidarity, the Jewish high regard for raising children, frontier mentality and a declining number of abortions (34% decline since 1990).

*In 2022, there were 45,271 Israeli Jewish deaths, compared to 31,575 in 1996, a 43% increase (while the size of the population almost doubled!), which reflects a society growing younger. In 2022, there were 6,314 Israeli Arab deaths, compared to 3,089 in 1996, a 104% increase, which reflects a society growing older.  

In 2021, Israeli males’ life expectancy was 80.5 and Israeli females – 84.6.  Israel’s Arab life expectancy (78 per men and 82 per women) is higher than the US life expectancy (men – 73.2, women – 79.1). Life expectancy of Judea and Samaria Arabs: men – 74, women – 78.

*In 2022, the number of Israeli Jewish deaths was 33% of Jewish births, compared to 40% in 1995 – a symptom of a society growing younger. In 2022, the number of Israeli Arab deaths was 14.5% of Arab births, compared to 8% in 1995 – a symptom of a society growing older.

*Since 1995, the demographic trend has expanded the younger segment of Israel’s Jewish population, which provides a solid foundation for enhanced demography and economy.

*The positive Jewish demographic trend is further bolstered by Israel’s net-immigration, which consists of an annual Aliyah (Jewish immigration), reinforced by the shrinking scope of Israeli emigration: from 14,200 net-emigration in 1990 to 10,800 in 2020 (while the population doubled itself), which is higher than the 7,000 average annual net-emigration in recent years. The 2020 numbers may reflect the impact of COVID-19 on air travel.

Westernization of Arab demography

*A dramatic decline in the fertility rate from 9 births per woman in the 1960s to 3.02 births in 2022 is documented by the CIA World Factbook, which generally echoes the official Palestinian numbers. It reflects the Westernization of Arab demography in Judea and Samaria, which has been accelerated by the sweeping urbanization (from a 70% rural population in 1967 to a 77% urban population in 2022), as well as the rising wedding age for women (from 15 years old to 24), the substantial use of contraceptives (70% of Arab women in Judea and Samaria) and the shrinking of the reproductive period (from 16-55 to 24-45).

*The median age of Judea and Samaria Arabs is 22 years old, compared to 18 years old in 2005.

*The Westernization of fertility rates has characterized all Muslim countries, other than the sub-Sahara region: Jordan (which is very similar to the Judea and Samaria Arabs) – 2.9 births per woman, Iran – 1.9, Saudi Arabia – 1.9, Morocco – 2.27, Iraq – 3.17, Egypt – 2.76, Yemen – 2.91, United Arab Emirates – 1.65, etc.

*The number of Arab deaths in Judea and Samaria has been systematically under-reported (for political power and financial reasons), as documented by various studies since the British Mandate. For example, a recent Palestinian population census included Arabs who were born in 1845….

Artificially-inflated Palestinian numbers

*The demographic and policy-making establishment of Israel and the West refrains from auditing the official Palestinian data, and therefore it does not report the following well-documented Palestinian departure from a credible census:

*500,000 overseas residents, who have been away for over a year, are included in the Palestinian population census. However, internationally accepted procedures stipulate only a de-facto count. It was 325,000, as stated by the Head of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in the aftermath of the first Palestinian census of 1997; increasing to 400,000 in 2005, as documented by the Palestinian Election Commission. The number grows daily because of overseas births.

*375,000 East Jerusalem Arabs, who possess Israeli ID cards, are doubly-counted. They are included in the Israeli census as well as in the Palestinian census. The number grows daily due to births.

*Over 150,000 Arabs from Gaza and (mostly) from Judea and Samaria, who married Israeli Arabs and received Israeli ID cards, are doubly-counted counted by Israel and by the Palestinian Authority. The number expands daily because of births.

*390,000 Arab emigrants from Judea and Samaria are not excluded from the population census of the Palestinian Authority. The latter ignores the annual net-emigration of mostly-young-Arabs from Judea and Samaria (20,000 annually in recent years). Net-emigration has been a systemic feature of the area, at least, since the Jordanian occupation in 1950. For example, 15,466 in 2022, 28,000 in 2021, 26,357 in 2019, 15,173 in 2017 and 16,393 in 2015, as documented by Israel’s Immigration and Population Authority, which records all Jewish and Arab exists and entries via Israel’s land, air and sea international passages.

*A 32% artificial inflation of Palestinian births was documented by the World Bank (page 8, item 6) in a 2006 audit. While the Palestinian Authority claimed an 8% increase in the number of births, the World Bank detected a 24% decrease.

*The aforementioned data documents 1.4 million Arabs in Judea and Samaria, when deducting the aforementioned documented-data (1.6 million) from the official Palestinian number (3 million).

The bottom line

*The US should derive much satisfaction from Israel’s demographic viability and therefore, Israel’s enhanced posture of deterrence, which is the US’ top force and dollar multiplier in the Middle East and beyond.

*In 1897, there was a 9% Jewish minority in the combined area of pre-1967 Israel, Judea and Samaria, expanding to a 39% minority in 1947. In 2023, there is a 69% Jewish majority (7.5mn Jews, 2mn Israeli Arabs and 1.4mn Arabs in Judea and Samaria), benefitting from a robust demographic tailwind of births and migration.

*In contrast to conventional wisdom, there is no Arab demographic time bomb.  There is, however, a robust Jewish demographic tailwind.

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The post-1967 turning point of US-Israel cooperation

Israeli benefits to the US taxpayer exceed US foreign aid to Israel

Iran - A Clear And Present Danger To The USA

Exposing the myth of the Arab demographic time bomb