Published by The Freeman Center

The Maccabean Online

Political Analysis and Commentary
on Israeli and Jewish Affairs

"For Zion's sake I shall not hold my peace, And for Jerusalem's sake I shall not rest."

by Yoram Ettinger

Ma\'ariv - March 8, 2006


The willingness of Israel\'s Center and Right to consider a retreat from Geography (Gaza, Judea & Samaria), in order to secure Demography (Jewish majority), has been based on the fatalistic assumption that the Jewish population is destined to become a minority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.


Demographic fatalism was employed by opponents of Jewish leaders, such as Theodore Herzl, David Ben Gurion and Levi Eshkol. For instance, in 1900 Herzl was urged by a leading Jewish historian-demographer, Shimon Doubnov, to refrain from the Zionist voyage, since by the year 2000 "Jews will be a minority of 500,000 west of the Jordan River side by side with millions of Arabs." However, by 2000 the Jewish population west of the Jordan River reached some 5 million! In 1948 Prime Minister Ben Gurion was lobbied by the leading Israeli statistician-demographer, Prof. Roberto Bacchi, to postpone declaration of independence, because by 1967 Jews would supposedly become a minority within the 1947 Lines.
Nevertheless, by 1967 there was a Jewish majority of 2.4 million next to 406,000 Arabs within the Green Line! In 1967 the demographic establishment leaned on Prime Minister Eshkol to withdraw to the 1949 (Green) Line, since the Jews would ostensibly become a minority west of the Jordan River by 1987. But, demographic prophecy of doom was once again refuted. Jewish majority west of the Jordan River was reduced from 63.35% in 1967 to 62.4% in 1987, at a time when Arab population growth was at an all time high!

In 1972 Prof. Bacchi, the mentor of today\'s Israeli prophets of demographic doom, wrote that Jewish Aliya (immigration) would decline, since Western Jews were reluctant to immigrate and Soviet Jews were not allowed to immigrate. Nonetheless, 140,000 Soviet Jews made Aliya. In 1987 Prof. Sergio Della Pergolla underestimated the number of Soviet Jews by 50%. He contended that they would not make Aliya due to social, cultural, economic, technological and security reasons. One million Jews, from the former USSR, defied his projection!


The aforementioned projections failed to realize the non-normative nature of Jewish demography and history. They ignored the unpredictable and non-linear complexity of the litany of developments, which shape demography west of the Jordan River. For example, the rise of the price of oil during the 1970s and Israel\'s war on Palestinian terrorism have escalated Palestinian emigration away from Gaza, (and especially) Judea & Samaria, while Iraq\'s invasion of Kuwait produced a net positive Palestinian migration. On the other hand, regime change in Moscow and the rise of anti-Semitism in France, Argentina and the former Soviet Union have increased Aliya. The prophets of demographic doom did not identify significant demographic developments in the Third World, Moslem World and Arab countries, such as the substantial decline in fertility (1.98 children per woman in Iran and 2.9 in Egypt). They tend to ignore Palestinian emigration, downplay the potential scope of Aliya and the contrasting reaction (birth and migration) – by Arabs and Jews – to war and terrorism since before 1948: demographic enhancement among Jews and demographic retreat among Arabs.

In 2006 the prophets of demographic doom still underestimate Jewish fertility in Israel (2.7 children per woman and creeping upward), overestimate Arab fertility (4 children within the Green Line and declining), dismiss the potential of Aliya and disregard the scope of Palestinian emigration. Rather than documenting and auditing births, deaths, migration and census standards, they are preoccupied with speculations, postulations and assessments of birth rates and population growth, which have been divorced from reality.


In contrast to prophecies of demographic doom – and contrary to statements made by policy makers who embrace such prophecies – there has been a clear, stable and a long term 60% Jewish majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean since 1967 and a 67% Jewish majority in the combined area of the Green Line, Judea & Samaria. Contrary to the prophecy of doom, demographic trends suggest a sustained and a robust long term Jewish majority, in light of declining Arab birth rate (since 1990), of the slow rise in Jewish birth rate (the highest in the industrialized world), of the systematic Palestinian net negative migration (since 1950) and of the maintained annual Aliya (since 1882!).

The recent Hamas victory has accelerated Palestinian emigration, especially among PA personnel. At the same time, intensified anti-Semitism in France and in the former USSR, and the enhancement of Jewish/Zionist education among orthodox US Jewish congregations, have expanded the potential of Aliya. The causes for the dive in Palestinian birth rate has been documented by annual reports published by the Palestinian Ministry of Health: improved family planning (e.g. 52% of married Palestinian women use contraceptives), rise in median wedding age and divorce rates, the dramatic shift from a rural to a poor urban society, the expansion of education and the entrenchment of career mentality among women.

The 1967 Jewish majority west of the Jordan River (around 60%) was challenged by the launching of an unprecedented rise in Palestinian natural increase. It was triggered by a drastic decrease in infant mortality, and an increase in life expectancy, which were caused by the introduction – to Gaza, Judea & Samaria – of world class Israeli medical services. On the other hand, the 2006 Jewish majority (around 60%) is bolstered by the decline in Moslem and Arab population growth.

The prophets of demographic doom have accepted the erroneous projections, made by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) as the gospel. They overlooked the fact that the projections have been refuted annually by actual births, deaths and migration records, as documented by the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Palestinian Ministry of Education and by Israel\'s Border Police (which monitors all international passages in Israel, along the Jordan River and – until "Disengagement" – around Gaza). If the prophets of doom would have relied on data produced by Israel\'s Central Bureau of Statistics (2.1 million Arabs in Judea & Samaria in 1997), they would not have been able – mathematically – to arrive at their proclaimed figures of 3.4 million or 3.8 million in 2004. They did not raise an eyebrow when the PCBS contended an unusual population growth rate of 170% in 14 years, from 1.5 million in 1990 to 3.8 million in 2004. They have embraced the PCBS projection from 1997, which claims 2.4 million Palestinians in Judea & Samaria and 1.4 million in Gaza, in defiance of documented 1.4 million in Judea & Samaria and 1.1 million in Gaza – A 1.3 MILLION GAP!


A US-Israel team, headed by Bennett Zimmerman (Yoram Ettinger is the head of the Israeli contingency) has exposed a series of serious deficiencies in the PCBS projections, which have been at the foundation of critical Israeli policy decisions. For example:
*325,000 Palestinians, who reside overseas, have been included in the 1997 projection, as stated by the Head of the PCBS on Feb. 26, 1998. Such a practice, of including non-de-facto residents in the census, would resemble Israel counting the 800,000 Israelis, who reside in the US.
*210,000 Jerusalem Arabs have been double counted – as West Bankers by the PCBS and as Israelis by Israel.
*310,000 babies – included in the 1997 projection - have never been born, when examining the projection against the number of actual births, as documented by the Palestinian Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education from the village (mid-wife) level to the clinic and hospital level.
*310,000 more must be deducted from the 1997 projection due to erroneous migration projection – 236,000 NET POSITIVE migration which has not occurred - and 74,000 NET NEGATIVE MIGRATION which took place (over 10,000 net negative migration annually since 1997).
*105,000 Palestinians received Israeli ID cards since 1997, and have been double counted – as Palestinians by the PCBS and as Israelis by the ICBS.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health and the Palestinian Ministry of Education have documented 70% inflation in the PCBS projection for Judea & Samaria! The prophets of demographic doom further misrepresent the demographic balance, when they classify some 300,000 immigrants from the former USSR – who affiliate with the Jewish community but are not recognized yet as Jews by the Rabbinate – as "Palestinians and others".


Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt from the American Enterprise Institute, a leading demographer stated that the US-Israeli team "caught the demographic profession asleep at the switch…The conclusions of this report are not only plausible but quite persuasive…"
There is no demographic sword over the throat of Israel\'s Jews, and policy makers who are haunted by demographic fatalism base their policies on wrong and unrealistic assumptions. In 1900 Jews constituted an 8% minority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, in 1948 they were a 48% minority and by 2005 they have achieved the critical mass of a durable 60% majority, including Gaza, and a 67% majority without Gaza.

The only element which could upset the current demographic trend would be a net positive Arab migration to Judea & Samaria, which would then trickle into the "Green Line". The establishment of a Palestinian State – which would deny Israel\'s control of the international passages to Judea & Samaria – would guarantee a pro Palestinian demographic trend. Thus, sustaining control over Geography constitutes a prerequisite for a robust Demography.