Many warn that Israel faces a demographic crisis. Their fear — that the growing Arab population between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River will endanger the Jewish and democratic state of Israel — is utter nonsense.
The truth has been distorted by manipulated information. Promoted by the dominant left-wing media, the faulty demographic argument was used to convince former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to agree to the Oslo Accords. It continues to be advanced by Israeli ministers and politicians such as former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert. Even Israel’s current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has accepted the argument.
The problem is, it’s a myth, part of a campaign to destroy the settlement movement. Though it has been thoroughly refuted (also here and here) we would do well to understand how it is that intelligent people keep being fooled. Here’s how the trick works.
Taking into account the entire population between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, the situation looks grim: Jews and Arabs are almost equal. When seen as discrete areas, however, the perspective changes, and the alleged demographic threat evaporates.
Nearly all non-Israeli Palestinians living in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza live under the Palestinian Authority (PA), using PA and/or Jordanian passports. The Gaza Strip — under Hamas, a designated terrorist organization — is a separate entity with its own army and administration. It receives financial support from the PA, but opposes its controlling group, Fatah. “The occupation,” therefore, post-1967, refers to territory, not people.
According to the Oslo Accords, Judea and Samaria were divided into three regions: A, under total PA control; B, under PA civilian control; and C, under Israeli control. No Jews are permitted to reside in areas A and B (which comprise an estimated million-and-a-half residents). All Jewish communities and settlements (over 300,000 Jews) live in area C, along with a few tens of thousands of Arab Palestinians for which there are no accurate figures. In addition, over 200,000 Jews live in neighborhoods of Jerusalem established after 1967, and virtually annexed.
If the entire area of Judea and Samaria is considered as a single unit, the demographic argument looks overwhelming. But, when the areas are separated — viewing area C alone, as distinctly Jewish — the perspective is quite different: there is no demographic threat. In fact, the logic of the demographic argument suggests that Israel should annex Area C.
If ruling over Arabs is problematic, then large concentrations of Arab-Israeli citizens residing in pre-1967 Israel are of particular concern. Many consider themselves Palestinians and oppose Israel’s existence. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs, Africans, and other illegals, meanwhile, are flooding into Israel.
Using demographic arguments to promote the withdrawal of Jewish communities from Judea, Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem, and creating another Arab Palestinian state, may temporarily resolve the charge of “occupation,” but it will not alleviate Israel’s problems with its Arab communities. It will exacerbate social tensions in Israel. The likely result? Further violence and a deepening threat to Israel’s survival.
Demography is a complicated societal issue. It cannot be resolved or understood by recourse to the simplistic notions, manipulated statistics, and hyped-up scare tactics on display in the Mideast.
Just as there is no true crisis, there is no urgency to abandon Judea and Shomron in order to save the state of Israel. It’s a political bluff. In fact, the threat of a second Arab Palestinian state poses a far greater and immediate threat to Israel.
Those who hear a “ticking demographic time bomb” should consult a good psychiatrist.