Demographic intifada

A report predicts that the number of Palestinians will overtake the number of Israel’s Jews by 2016.

Children at school (photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
Children at school
(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” This quote, usually ascribed to Mark Twain, aptly describes the latest propaganda assault by the statisticians of the Palestinian Authority.
Last week’s report by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics on the Palestinian population residing in the geographical area bordered by the Jordan River on the east, the Mediterranean on the west, and from the Gaza Strip to Lebanon, gleefully predicts that the number of Palestinians will overtake the number of Israel’s Jews by 2016.
Predictably, the report set off a scurry of conflicting interpretations by Israeli statisticians of the Left and Right, each claiming the accuracy of its conclusions – which not coincidentally fit their opposing agendas. But both groups of social scientists insisted there were political motivations behind the Palestinian numbers.
One school cast doubt on the accuracy of the statistics, arguing that they were meant to frighten Israel into making concessions in the run-up to a Palestinian state. The other upheld the notion that they accurately predicted Israel’s Jews being overwhelmed by a growing Arab population that would inevitably turn Israel into an apartheid state.
While perhaps the data don’t lie in the sense of “damned lies,” the conflicting interpretations of the statistics reflect political agendas at work. For one thing, the world media’s gullibility in its blind acceptance of the Palestinian figures is mainly due to not unquestioning the statistics assembled by the PA bureau, as if it were a true national authority and as such beyond reproach. For another, the cancerous growth of the mindless BDS movement, especially in academia, has made even social scientists eager to accept bad news about Israel.
At first glance, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics report on data it collected during 2014 seems straightforward.
It calculated the number of Palestinians in the world at approximately 12.1 million, of whom 4.62 million live in the West Bank and Gaza, 1.46 million live in Israel, 5.34 million in Arab countries, and some 675,000 in other countries.
Ominously, the report predicts that the number of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will equal the number of Jews in Israel at about 6.42 million in 2016, if current growth rates remain constant. Worse, it predicted that, by 2021, the number of Palestinians will outnumber Jews by 7.14 million to 6.87 million Jews. If the numbers are true, Israel’s legitimacy is being challenged on a new front – sort of a demographic intifada.
As in previous intifadas, views of the conflict differ among Israelis. There are basically two competing narratives.
One side considers the Palestinian demographic predictions a threat to Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, thus urgently requiring the achievement of the two-state solution.
The other side favors alternative statistics and plays down the need for a settlement, which it anyways argues the Palestinians aren’t really interested in. It cites data that indicate more moderate changes among the Palestinians and a substantial growth of Israel’s Jewish population.
Whatever the prevalent Israeli interpretation will be, the government has enough fact to act upon: The Palestinians have the strategic goal of imposing a solution on Israel via the United Nations, ironically demanding a second chance to get the state they could have had in 1947 but violently rejected.
Their new tactic in their ongoing campaign to delegitimize Israel is to utilize demography as a political tool.
Prof. Sergio DellaPergola, a Hebrew University expert on demography, told The Jerusalem Post that “the Palestinian data must be scrutinized carefully, as they do not constitute the only possible source to assess the demography.”
Former ambassador Yoram Ettinger, a member of the American- Israel Demographic Research Group, told the Post that there are many flaws in the Palestinian numbers.
Essentially, he said, the Palestinian bureau had overestimated the numbers in the West Bank by 1.1 million. As such, the report’s West Bank number of 2.83 million residents is really 1.7 million, and the claimed 1.79 million in Gaza is really 1.4 million.
There are other flaws, but one objective statistic is comforting. Ettinger notes that the Jewish fertility and immigration rates continue to grow, while the Arab fertility rate is slowing. Accordingly, birth patterns are now weighted toward the Jewish population: the Palestinian fertility rate has dropped from 5 babies per mother in 2000 to 2.9 today, while the Jewish birth rate is slightly over 3 babies per mother – and increasing.