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Beware Palestinian data
Op-ed: Israeli policymakers afflicted by demographobia, the illogical fear of demography
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) declared in December, 2010 that 2014 will, ostensibly, usher in a Jewish-Arab demographic parity between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean followed by an Arab majority. That projection has been reverberated by Israeli demographers and politicians, who claim that conceding geography (Judea and Samaria) is, supposedly, a prerequisite for a secure Jewish demography. They do not examine, or doubt, the PCBS, "since the PCBS is credible, professional and supervised by Norway and the UN." Really?!

 

Instead of conducting a public debate on the future of the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, they try to scare policymakers and the public at-large into retreat and concessions. Their campaign feeds pessimism and fatalism, eroding Israel's bargaining position and posture of deterrence. They claim that Jews are doomed to become a minority west of the Jordan River. Really?!

 

Reality has refuted "Demographers of Doom," at least since the end of the 19th century. In March 1898, Shimon Dubnov, the leading Jewish demographer-historian, contended that Herzl's Zionism was devoid of demographic infrastructure, since no more than 500,000 Jews could be expected in the Land of Israel by the year 2000. He was off by 5 million Jews!

 

On the eve of the establishment of the Jewish State, Professor Roberto Bacchi, the founder of the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics and the guru of Israel's demographers and statisticians, warned that Jews were eventually doomed to become a minority within the Partition Plan. He pressured Ben Gurion to delay declaration of independence and projected that – under the best case scenario – there will be 2.3 million Jews in the Land of Israel, a 34% minority. He was off by 3 million Jews!

 

Since 1967, Bacchi's students have attempted to convince Israeli prime ministers to subordinate national security considerations to the "Demographic Scare." They have urged Israeli leaders to sacrifice the irreplaceable geography and topography of the over-towering Judea's and Samaria’s mountain ridges – historically and militarily – on the altar of demography.

 

In 2010, they adhere to Professor Bacchi's legacy. Thus, they underrate Jewish fertility, which is higher than most Arab countries (2.9 and trending upward versus 2.8 in Jordan, 2.5 in Egypt, 2.5 in the Gulf States and trending downward.) They idolize Arab fertility ignoring its sharp collapse. And, they ignore annual net-Arab emigration from Judea, Samaria and Gaza since 1950 (other than six years), while downplaying the prospect of aliyah.

 

During the 1980s – as they do today - they underestimated the number of Soviet Jews by 50% and stated that no massive aliyah was expected even if Moscow would open its gates. In defiance of Israel's demographic establishment, over one million olim arrived, catapulting the Jewish State to unprecedented heights technologically, medically, economically, culturally and demographically.

 

Jewish fertility rate surging

In June 1997, the Palestinian Authority conducted its first census. PCBS' director, Hassan Abu Libdeh, told the New York Times (December 11, 1997): "The census is our civil Intifada." Indeed, the census inflated the number of Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza by 650,000 persons (30%). It included overseas residents (who were away for over a year), a "double count" of Jerusalem Arabs (who were counted as Israeli Arabs and as West Bank Arabs), etc. The census triggered a wave of psychological terrorism, afflicting Israeli policymakers with demographobia – the illogical fear of demography. It expanded the flow of monetary contributions from donor countries and the supply of water from Israel.

 

In December 2010, the PCBS published its most recent population estimate, inflating the number of Judea and Samaria Arabs by 66% (almost 1.6 million and not 2.5 million) and the number of Gaza Arabs by 23% (almost 1.3 million and not 1.6 million). The PCBS estimate includes over 400,000 overseas residents, a "double count" of 240,000 Jerusalem Arabs, ignores the sustained annual net-emigration of well over 10,000 Arabs and misrepresents the number of births by some 30,000 annually.

 

Demographobia has shaped Israel's public debate on the future of Judea and Samaria, in spite of the 50% rise in the annual number of Jewish births since 1995, compared with the stabilization of the annual number of Arab births since then, which attests to the extraordinary integration of Israeli Arabs into the infrastructures of health, education, employment, finance, culture and politics.

 

Demographobia has corrupted movers and shakers in defiance of a September 2006 study by The World Bank, which documented a 32% "inflation" in the number of PCBS births. Demographobia has clouded the Israeli state-of-mind notwithstanding the demographic tailwind which bolsters the current 66% Jewish majority in the combined area of Judea, Samaria and pre-1967 Israel, in addition to the historical aliyah prospect deriving from the global economic meltdown, Israel's growing economy and the rise of anti-Semitism. There is a demographic problem, but there is no demographic machete at the throat of the Jewish State.

 

Dr. David Passig, a futurist and the Head of the Graduate Program of Communication Technologies at Bar Ilan University, analyzes the collapse of Middle East and global demographic projections and the blossoming of Jewish demography in Israel. According to Passig, Muslim fertility is experiencing the fastest decline in the world, while Israel's Jewish fertility rate is surging. In 2010, Israeli Arab fertility rate declined to its lowest level, as a result of unprecedented modernization process. "Among Palestinians, natural birth and fertility rates are similar to those in Jordan (2.8 births per woman)."

Is demographic pessimism justified in 2011 while Herzl and Ben Gurion were solidly optimistic in 1900 and in 1947 when Jews were a minority of 8% and 33% respectively in their Homeland?!

 

Is it responsible to subordinate Jewish vision and national security to tenuous demographic problems in 2011, while Ben Gurion and his successors – until 1992 – proactively upgraded demography in order to advance vision and national security?!

 

 

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