Inevitable collision between democratic ideals and demographic concerns

by Yaniv Reich on November 19, 2009

Where else in the world do you hear modern, educated, self-titled democrats speaking about the “threats” posed by minority groups, obsessing about their birth and death rates, scheming for ways to maintain demographic advantages? I can think only of the darkest and most jingoistic corners of the Western world. But such thought is standard fare in Israel and has guided Israeli policy for dealing with Palestinians since the Allon Plan in 1967, when Israel suddenly found themselves emperors over the West Bank and Gaza.

Peace will come when Israelis and Palestinians share democratic values and extend them to the other in generosity. Peace will not come, however, from clinging to ever more devious and totalitarian means of restricting your vision of democracy to your people alone.

Unfortunately, we have a very long way to go on this. Listen to Yoram Ettinger in Yediot. Note that he is NOT arguing that demography doesn’t threaten Israel because it has a system in place that protects the rights of all citizens, as would be the standard democratic argument.

President Clinton, you’re wrong!

In contrast to Clinton’s statement, demography does not threaten Israel

Yoram Ettinger
Published: 11.20.09, 00:45 / Israel Opinion

On November 15, 2009, former President Clinton stated in Jerusalem: “Two things remain unchanged since 1993 – geography and demographics. Palestinians have more children than Israelis can have or import.”

Clinton’s intentions are positive. However, he is mistaken and misleading, while trying to convince Israelis to support a policy (withdrawal to the 1967 lines), which could determine the fate of the Jewish State: Oblivion or survival.

Hawks and doves would concur that public debate is dysfunctional when employing invalid numbers in order to frighten Israel into adopting a potentially-dangerous policy. Hawks and doves are aware that demographic-fatalism erodes confidence in Israel’s cause and in Israel’s steadfastness. It minimizes options and produces hasty decisions concerning critical national security issues. Decisions based on erroneous assumptions yield erroneous policy. Public debate should distance itself from baseless assumptions and position itself upon well-documented data.

In contrast to Clinton’s statement, Israel’s Jewish demography has been enhanced since 1993. A solid and a long-term 67% Jewish majority, west of the Jordan River (without Gaza) is documented by birth, death and migration records of the Palestinian Health and Education Ministry and Election Commission, as well as Israel’s Border Police (which acts like the American INS), the World Bank and the Israeli and Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. In 2009, the Jewish population benefits from a substantial demographic tailwind, which could expand its majority.

And, here are the facts:

  1. According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of annual Jewish births has increased by 45% from 1995 (80,400) to 2008 (117,000), in spite the cuts of child allowances – a global rarity. The number of Arab births within pre-1967 Israel has stabilized, around 39,000, during the same period.
  2. The Jewish tailwind has persisted during the first eight months of 2009: 77,797 Jewish births, which amount to over 75% of total births within pre-1967 Israel, compared with 69% in 1995.
  3. The significant decline in Arab fertility rate reflects a significantly improved standard of living, resulting from successful integration into Israel’s infrastructures of health, education, employment, commerce, politics, media, sports, culture and the arts. The Arab-Jewish fertility gap was reduced from six births per woman in 1969 to 0.7 in 2008.
  4. The Jewish secular sector – and especially the Olim (immigrants) from the USSR – is chiefly responsible for the upward trend of Jewish demography. The one million Soviet Olim arrived with a typical Russian fertility rate of one birth per woman, but they have adopted the typical secular Jewish fertility rate of 2-3 births per woman. In addition, Israel’s yuppies are switching over from the European rate of 1-2 births to 3-4 births per woman.
  5. A September 2006 World Bank survey of education in Judea, Samaria and Gaza documented a 32% distortion of Arab births by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. According to the Bank, the Arab demographic decline resulted from a drop in fertility and a rise in emigration.
  6. The decline in Arab population growth follows a 20-year surge, which was a result of the post-1967 access to Israel’s health infrastructure. The decline has been caused by urbanization (from a 70% rural to a 70% urban population in Judea and Samaria), unprecedented expansion of the education system, especially among women, and family planning.
  7. Net-emigration has accelerated the fall of the Arab population growth rate in Judea and Samaria. From 1950 to 2009, there have been only six years of net-immigration. Net-emigration skyrocketed during the 1950-1967 Jordanian occupation, slowed down drastically following 1967, in response to the enhancement of health, education and employment, surged as a result of the 2000 Intifada and shifted to a higher gear in 2006, due to the rise of Hamas and the Hamas-PLO war.
  8. The Arab fertility rate in Judea and Samaria declined to four births per woman and is trending downward. According to the UN Population Division, the decline typifies all Muslim countries other than Afghanistan and Yemen. For example, Jordan (a “twin-sister” of Judea and Samaria) has three births per woman, Iran – 1.7, Egypt – 2.5, Syria – 3.5 and Algeria – 1.8 births per woman.
  9. The Judea and Samaria Arab population of 1.55 million – and not 2.5 million as claimed by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics – was documented in December 2008: a 66% distortion!

Do this thought experiment. Take these Israeli arguments and substitute any minority ethnic or racial group from your area. Pay attention to the ugly tenor of those thoughts. Now reject all talk of demographic threats.

Only once we start applying our universal principles to all of Israel/Palestine will be able to free ourselves from the current quagmire of thought and violence.

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