By any standard, the Palestinian problem involves the strangest criteria in modern history.
To begin with, refugees are defined as individuals who have been forced to leave their land of origin. A new definition of refugee status, though, was invented exclusively for Palestinian Arabs, who count as refugees their descendants to the nth generation.
All the world’s refugees are the responsibility of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, except for the Palestinians, who have their own refugee agency, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine. Among all the population exchanges of the 20th century — Greeks for Turks after World War I, Hindus for Moslems after the separation of India and Pakistan after World War II, Serbs for Croats after the breakup of Yugoslavia during the 1980s — the Palestinians alone remain frozen in time, a living fossil of long-decided conflicts.
Some 700,000 Jews were expelled from Muslim countries where they had lived in many cases more than a thousand years before the advent of Islam, and most of them were absorbed into the new State of Israel with a territory the size of New Jersey; 700,000 or so Arabs left Israel’s Jewish sector during the 1948 War of Independence, most at the behest of their leaders, but few were absorbed by the vast Muslim lands surrounding Israel.
Instead, the so-called refugees were gathered in camps (now for the most part towns with a living standard much higher than that of the adjacent Arab countries thanks to foreign aid) and kept as a human battering ram against Israel, whose existence the Muslim countries cannot easily accept.
Some 10 million Germans who had lived for generations in what is now Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic were driven out at the end of World War II (more than half a million died in the great displacement).
Imagine that Germany had kept these 10 million people in camps for 70 years and that their descendants now numbered 40 million — and that Germany demanded on pain of war restitution of everything from the Sudetenland to Kaliningrad (the former Konigsberg). That is a fair analogy to the Palestinian position.
It is a scam, a hoax, a put-on, a Grand Guignol theatrical with 5 million extras. Because polite opinion bows to the sensibilities of the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims, it is treated in all seriousness.
As a matter of full disclosure, I want to put my personal view on record: The mainstream view amounts to a repulsive and depraved exercise in hypocrisy that merits the harshest punishment that a just God might devise.
In this looking-glass world of hypocrisy and hoax, though, the most noteworthy deception is the physical existence of the Palestinians themselves: in Judea and Samaria (sometimes called the occupied West Bank), there are perhaps half the number of Arabs as the Palestinian Authority’s census has counted, or the international community acknowledges. As Jerusalem Post reporter Caroline Glick reports in her new book, The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East, Israeli researchers have demonstrated that:
The 1997 Palestinian census was a fraud. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics [PCBS] had exaggerated the Palestinian population figures by nearly 50 percent, or 1.34 million people… First, it had inflated the existing Palestinian population base. In the 1997 census, the PCBS had included 325,000 Palestinians who lived abroad. It had also included 210,000 Arab residents in Jerusalem, who had already been accounted for in Israel’s population count.
The Palestinian census had included an additional 113,000 persons whose existence was not noted in the 1996 Israeli civil administration. When the data was compared to the voter base published by the Palestinian Central Elections Commission (PCEC) in 1996 and 2005, the PCEC data substantiated the Israeli data. That is, the 113,000 people did not exist.
Taken together, these three moves increased the Palestinian base population by 648,000 people or approximately 27 percent. Imagine if the US Census Bureau had predicted that, in 2012, the United States would have a population base of 400 million, instead of its actual 2012 base size of 314 million. The second stage of the population inflation involved exaggerating future growth. First, it predicated the projections for future growth on a population base that — as we have seen — was massively inflated. Every annual growth assessment based on an inflated population model is necessarily false and inflated.
This fundamental problem was compounded by other factors. The PCBS inflated birthrates and massively inflated immigration rates . Moreover, it ignored the high numbers of Palestinians who immigrated to Israel by marrying Israeli citizens. All told, the PCBS census claimed that the compound annual growth rate of the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza was 4.75 percent — the highest population growth rate in the world. Significantly, just as the Palestinians were claiming to be the fastest-growing population in the world, the Arab world, and the larger Muslim world, were entering a period of unprecedented demographic contraction, even collapse.
The data are well known and long-debated; I took the same position as Ms. Glick in a 2011 essay for the Jewish webzine Tablet. But Ms. Glick, an American immigrant to Israel and a former captain in the Israel Defense Forces, draws a bold conclusion: Israel should annex Judea and Samaria just as it did the city of Jerusalem. Jews will comprise a demographic majority well in excess of 60% between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. As Palestinians continue to emigrate and Jewish immigration picks up, she adds, “some anticipate that due almost entirely to Jewish immigration, Jews could comprise an 80 percent majority within the 1949 armistice lines and Judea and Samaria by 2035.”
Under Ms. Glick’s plan, Israel would offer to West Bank Arabs the opportunity to apply for Israeli citizenship; all would have full civil rights, and those who chose Israeli citizenship would have voting rights as well. Israel no doubt would earn the anathema of the international community were it to annex Judea and Samaria, but from Ms. Glick’s way of looking at the matter there is little to lose.
As an American friend of the State of Israel, I do not instruct Israelis as to which of the unpleasant choices they should choose among the many that confront them. Caroline Glick’s one-state plan, though, stands on its merits. As she reports, it has been obvious since the Six-Day War of 1967 that Israel required most of the West Bank in order to defend itself:
Just weeks after the end of the war, President Lyndon B. Johnson instructed the US Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare a map of the territories that they believed Israel would require in perpetuity to ensure its ability to defend itself. A few weeks later, General Earl Wheeler, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, presented a map to Johnson that included most of Judea and Samaria, parts of the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, and the eastern Sinai, as well as Sharm el-Sheikh, along the Suez Canal at the southern tip of Sinai.
If you read only one book about the Middle East this year, it should be Caroline Glick’s. Whether or not you agree with her conclusions, she illuminates the contorted landscape by pointing to an audacious solution. It is only by considering alternative actions that we understand our present circumstances, and Ms. Glick concentrates the mind wonderfully.
What are the chances that the Palestinian regime might implode and force Israel’s hand? The Palestine Authority, established two decades ago by the Oslo Agreements, is in extreme disarray. Its president, Mahmoud Abbas, is in the seventh year of a four-year term and loathe to call new elections, for he might lose to the Iran-backed rejectionists of Hamas, who have ruled Gaza since 2007. Abbas last year dismissed the one senior Palestinian official who might be viewed as a moderate, Salam Fayyad. New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, an embittered left-wing critic of Israel, lamented at the time that Fayyad’s resignation was:
a reflection of Palestinian paralysis and disarray. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president with whom Fayyad feuded, knows that he needs his outgoing prime minister’s rigorous competence. He needs Fayyad’s standing with the United States and Europe, major sources of funding for the beleaguered Palestinian Authority. He needs Fayyad’s grip on security. Yet the Fatah old guard with their sweet deals wants Fayyad gone; Hamas hates him as a supposed American stooge, and Abbas has tired of this US-educated “turbulent priest.”
In theory, Israel might beneficially maintain the messy status quo indefinitely after the American-mediated peace talks collapse, as they inevitably must. With Syria in full-scale civil war and Egypt and Iraq in low-intensity civil war, and Turkey in a major internal crisis, the entire surrounding region is in disarray, excepting the small Kingdom of Jordan.
To presume that the bitterly divided Palestinian kleptocracy might create an island of stability amid the surrounding chaos seems whimsical. No Palestinian government can agree to a formal end of conflict with Israel on any terms without meeting violent opposition from its rejectionist constituency, much less acknowledge that Israel is a Jewish State, so there will not even be the charade of a peace agreement.
It is hard to imagine Israel executing Ms. Glick’s approach unless the Palestinian Authority broke down into chaos. A powerful constituency inside Israel, with the support of the majority of the American Jewish leadership, continues to take at face value the Palestinians’ own population count. The Hebrew University professor usually characterized as Israel’s foremost demographer, Sergio della Pergola, continues to warn of demographic disaster for Israel (on the strength of numbers that Ms. Glick and the critics have shown to be at least questionable and at worst fabricated out of whole cloth).
Professor della Pergola has said in an interview:
Demography is changing rapidly. The Arabs are multiplying twice as fast as the Israelis. The Israeli majority over the whole territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River is shrinking so that they may have at the moment an advantage of 52%, but they cannot govern effectively with such a slim majority. It was as if the democrats in America were trying to govern the US with a 52% majority in the congress. If we limit our geography to Israel plus the West Bank — Gaza, having been effectively evacuated in 2005 — the Jewish majority in Israel overall would still be slightly above 60%. There is no way that Israel might call itself a Jewish state with a Palestinian minority of 40%. But if we consider Israel within the 1967 boundaries, plus east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, the Israeli majority would be less than 79%, a significant difference. The demographic question continues to loom high, and only some territorial sacrifice (beginning with the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem) on the Israeli side will guarantee that Israel remains Jewish and democratic. By denying the right of Palestinians who are under Israeli control to vote might eventually generate unbearable international pressure on Israel, causing damage to both its image and economy.
The claim that “Arabs are multiplying twice as fast as the Israelis” rests on the premise that there are twice as many Arab women of child-bearing age as Israeli women, and that in turn relies on the phony Palestinian Census. Nonetheless, della Pergola’s view still has considerable purchase.
The chairman of one of America’s largest Jewish organizations assured me recently that he continues to believe della Pergola’s version of Palestinian demographics. I cannot think of another occasion in history when the question of the self-determination of a people revolved around the factual question of whether the people were there or not. The matter will be settled on the strength of the facts eventually, but clarification of the facts will not make liberal American Jews any happier.
The so-called world community, to be sure, would express outrage at the annexation that Ms. Glick advocates. No doubt the European Community might try to punish Israel with economic measures, but the risk of Israeli isolation is far smaller than timid minds conceive. The efficacy of international law has been thinned by the corrosive effect of having been bathed in hypocrisy for decades. Historical rights of the kind that Israel might assert to Judea and Samaria have a certain resonance: think of China in Taiwan and Tibet, or Russia in Crimea.
The Israeli Solution, by Caroline Glick. Crown Forum, New York 2014. ISBN-10: 0385348061. Price: US$19.08; 352 pages.
Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman. He is Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum. His book How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is Dying, Too) was published by Regnery Press in September 2011. A volume of his essays on culture, religion and economics, It’s Not the End of the World — It’s Just the End of You, also appeared that fall, from Van Praag Press.