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March 20, 2014 7:18 am

The Politics of Demography

avatar by Jerold Auerbach

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A crowd in Tel Aviv. Photo: Wiki Commons.

It is endlessly – and mindlessly – reiterated that demographic disaster looms for Israel if it does not relinquish its biblical homeland for a Palestinian state. Everyone from Yasser Arafat to Barack Obama has said so. The PLO leader gleefully predicted: “the womb of the Palestinian woman will defeat the Zionists.” The American president ominously warned: “Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine.”

But predictions of Israel’s looming demographic calamity are hardly new. During the First Intifada, Haifa University professor Arnon Sofer anticipated that Israel would become “non-Jewish” by the turn of the century. Early in the new century, Israeli demographer Sergio Della-Pergola imagined that before its first decade ended “Jews will become a minority in the lands that include Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.” It did not happen.

Such “demographic panic” has been fed by false data from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. In 2007 it claimed that 2,500,000 Arabs inhabited the West Bank and Jerusalem. But even the Bureau head conceded that these exaggerated numbers represented “a civil intifada” designed to undermine Jewish settlements. Other Palestinian ministries acknowledged a considerably lower West Bank population of 1.6 million Arabs. As Israeli demographer Yoram Ettinger has warned: “Beware of Palestinians bearing demographic numbers.”

During the past two decades Arab births west of the Jordan River have stabilized while Jewish births have increased. When Israel celebrated its sixty-fifth anniversary of independence in 2013, six million Jews (including 350,000 settlers in Judea and Samaria) comprised 75.3% of its population, which also included 1.6 million Arab citizens (20.7 percent). Even including 1.6 million West Bank Palestinians, Israel still enjoyed nearly a 2:1 majority west of the Jordan River.

Birth-rate projections indicate continued Jewish population growth, largely concentrated among settler and ultra-Orthodox families, in conjunction with a declining Arab share of Israeli births. The most recent numbers from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics report that in 2013 the Jewish birthrate increased by 1.3 percent while the Muslim birthrate fell by 5.5 percent. Given available data, it is highly unlikely that Jews will be outnumbered in the foreseeable future, except in the forebodings of settlement critics and the longings of Palestinians for a Judenrein state.

But there will always be gullible journalists, New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren conspicuous among them. In her interview with Tareq Abbas, son of the president of the Palestinian Authority (now in the ninth year of his four-year term), she wrote (March 19): “Palestinians are comforted by demographics. There are already more Arabs than Jews living between the river and the sea, plus millions of Palestinian refugees, and generally higher Palestinian birthrates.” She was glaringly wrong on all counts.

As for actual Palestinian refugees, only UNRWA, the United Nations organization that exists to exaggerate and perpetuate their numbers, believes that bloated figure. There surely are millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees (as there are of Holocaust victims). But the actual number of Palestinian refugees still living is estimated at 30-50,000. Even if they all returned to Israel next month it would make no significant demographic difference in the Jewish state.

The far more horrific refugee problem, which the world prefers to ignore, is 2.5 million Syrians who have recently been driven from their country. As Anne Barnard wrote in the Times (March 18), “the Syrian displacement dwarfs the exodus from British-mandate Palestine during the war over Israel’s founding in 1948.” Palestinians take notice.

What does it say about Israel’s critics that egregious distortions continue to place Palestinian refugees on center stage, feeding the worldwide delegitimization of Israel as a racist apartheid state, while Syrian refugees are all but ignored?

Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of Jewish State Pariah Nation: Israel and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy, to be published in April.

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  • Markus Elkana Brajtman

    Time for your writers to stop refering to “settlers”
    The Jews/Israelis are not ‘setlers” in their own G-D given, Biblical homelands.

    The only settlers are the Arabs/”Palestinians” who came from Arab lands, to find work, as they could not find world in the deserts whence they came from.

    The world “Palestinian” is, as many politicians have called, THE INVENTED PEOPLE”. Invented by arch terrorists, Arafat.

    The Jews living in what was called Palestine, were, and are also Palestinians
    There never were Arabs called palestinians.

    Mark Twain said that when he travelled theough the Holy land, he found it mainly desolate deserts.
    Jerusalem was a small town, with a few hundred inhabitants.
    It was never an Arab town, but was always known as THE JEWISH HOLY CITY”

    FOR 2000 YEARS, JEWS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD have been praying a few times every day, “to return to Yerushalaim, Jerusalem.”

    The Arabs/Muslims have never ever had any prayers for Jerusalem. It is mantioned in the Torah more than 600 times, but not once in the Koran.

    Why do the Muslims want to take part of Jerusalem?

    because they built their two mosques on the Jewish Holy temple.

    Unfortunately, when the IDF captured Jerusalem from the real settlers, the Jordanains, the one eyed general, Moshe Dayan, who must have been blind in his other eye, tld the WAKF that they can control the Ol City, which houses the Kotel.

    That was a desaster beyond words. What right did he have, just “off the cuff” to give control to the sworn enemy of the Jews, without the approval of the PM and the Jewish people?

    Not one inch of Jewish biblical land must ever be given to our sworn enemy who is going all out to destroy Israel and the Jews

    • Chuck

      Op-Ed: A Palestinian State is Double Fraud
      A must read article with hard facts, necessary for countering spurious Arab claims. The Palestine Post, run by Jews, was called that until it became the Jerusalem Post after the state of Israel was declared.
      Tuesday, September 27, 2011 7:41 AM
      David Heilbron Price
      The writer is a British historian/ journalist based in Brussels. He is…
      Calling for the creation of a State of Palestine in 2011 is an obvious incitement to political fraud. It has all the hallmarks of what Robert Schuman, the Father of Europe and the EU, warned democrats would lead to a disaster.
      ‘Nothing is easier for political counterfeiters to exploit good principles for an illusion, and nothing is more disastrous than good principles that are badly applied.’ In that he was agreeing with two French philosophers, Bergson and Maritain.
      In 1948 the government of the Holy Land changed its name from ‘Palestine’ to Israel. Previously it was the Jews who mainly bore the name Palestinians.
      If there were no Palestinians in Roman times how can there be ethnic Palestinians today? Did the people who were dead for the best part of a millennium, spring up and beget children?
      The Arab population preferred to call themselves simply Arabs, or Bedouins, but more often villagers of a certain place. Nationalism was not a factor.
      After World War One, the lack of any strong national identity presented western nations with a problem. When the victorious Allied powers divided up the Ottoman empire and freed the peoples from the yoke of control from Istanbul, they had to carve the borders according to lines on a map, not natural or ethnic boundaries. Ancient Persia had also lost its geographical identity. The other nations had had their boundaries completely changed by the invasion of the Huns, Mongols and Arabs. Massive migrations of populations took place in the first millennium.
      The only indigenous people who were sure about boundaries were the Jews. Western people educated in history were also familiar with the boundaries of ancient Israel.
      Some of those living in Palestine called themselves southern Syrians. Then there was a large influx of Arabs in the nineteenth century from neighbouring countries who wanted to benefit from the economic revival under the Jews. Many accounts speak of how barren and bare the land was before the immigration of educated Jews.

      In this post-Ottoman period after WW1, when the world powers agreed legally to a Mandate to return the land to the Jews, the term Palestine was used. This was because it was the ‘normal’ but anti-Semitic term that Europeans had used for the land of Israel since around the time of emperor Hadrian in the second century CE. Many in the so-called ‘Christian’ West did not consider that the term Palestine was abusive.
      It was a Latin word used of a long-extinct troublesome mini-state of the Philistines in the extended area of Gaza.
      Who Were the Philistines
      The use of iron instead of bronze was known in ancient times, but the Hittites in what is now eastern Turkey were among the first to produce iron goods on an intensive scale. Iron was previously found in meteorites, the mysterious stones that fell from the heavens. They had religious significance. The Egyptian pharaoh, Tutankhamun, had a magnificent steel dagger obtained by his father from the Hittites.
      Iron technology is quite different from copper or bronze. The early iron was an oddity. It was brittle and of little practical use, unless special and secret techniques were applied. It also required higher temperatures. It was later found iron ore could produce the same results if special furnaces funneling the prevailing winds could cause the charcoal to blaze extra hot. A range of other trade secrets were developed by the iron-smiths who learned how to make the metal stronger than bronze.

      The Philistines in the Gazan towns seemed to have made a cartel agreement with the Hittite empire (or Hatti). That way they could deal with the Egyptians and traders to the east. While the Philistines were not particularly numerous, they were powerfully backed and the iron monopoly gave them power over the Israelites and far beyond in the Grecian islands.
      They were able to forbid the Israelites from even owning iron tools at the time of the Israelite judges such as Samson, as recorded in the Book of Judges. With more abundant iron they could not only make swords but chariot wheels and other armoury that helped them easily to subjugate the surrounding nations.
      The cartel power was however as fragile like the early, unskilled iron. The Philistines were also the weak point of this international military-industrial complex. It is there that the Samson, a Danite judge, attacked and brought the cartel-complex down.
      Archaeologists have discovered that Philistine houses were often supported on central pillars. Samson destroyed the assembled Philistine leadership by demolishing the two central pillars of the crowded temple of Dagon (Judges 16). With hundreds or thousands of the leaders killed, Philistine power collapsed and they were reduced and eventually exterminated by the Assyrians.
      The Hittite Empire which also had a highly central administrative structure was invaded and collapsed around this time. The surrounding nations that had suffered cruelly under this oppression made sure that the Philistines disappeared from existence.
      Palestina from Roman Times Onward
      The Romans applied the term Philistia or Palestine to the land of the vanquished Jews because of the enormous efforts the Roman Empire had had to destroy Jewish freedom of thought under Vespasian, Titus 67-73 and Hadrian 132-4 CE. The Roman name Palestina implied that it was the land of a totally extinct empire. It had been dead a thousand years. It could be interpreted to mean Dead-as-a-Dodo land.
      The Roman enemy name, Palestina, applied only to the land. Nearly all Jews were cleared out. The land reverted to the name of the state of the Philistines that had existed a thousand years before the Roman-Jewish Wars.
      The state and all its people, the Palestinians or Philistines, were long extinct. Nobody in Roman times called themselves Palestinians even though the land was called Palestina. It was just a bad, anti-Semitic joke. The people called themselves Syrians the name of the Roman province. Some of the Jews who managed to live there were also called Syrians. There are gravestones of ‘Syrians’ around the Roman Empire, some witness to the fact that some of the ‘Syrians’ were Jews.
      The use of the term Palestine for the Mandate of the League of Nations was bizarre and insensitive. Yet that was how the League and the United Nations created an international legal system to return the land of Israel to the Jews. Palestine was the name of an extinct race, dead for 2800 years. Geographically it defined what must be returned to the Jews, not “Palestinians”.
      If there were no Palestinians in Roman times how can there be ethnic Palestinians today? Did the people who were dead for the best part of a millennium, spring up and beget children?
      If nowadays people call themselves Palestinians it shows (1) they are ignorant of history (2) they are a complete fraud because the Palestinians or Philistines were extinct in 800 BCE; (3) they are anti-Semites because the name of Palestine since Roman times is anti-Semitic abuse. We can add a fourth conclusion: They think that the rest of the world are as ignorant and fraudulent as they are.
      Anyone who claims a Palestinian State is an utter fraud and anyone who says he sincerely supports them is foolish. The Europeans set on this self-delusion when after the massive deployment of the Oil Weapon it agreed to the Venice Declaration of 1980. Oil prices in the 1970s were quadrupled and quadrupled again by the oil cartel. A total embargo of oil was targeted on European States who refused to trade the truth for lies under these blackmail conditions.
      The Europeans agreed to pay for the ‘Palestinians’. They began to pay, and pay, and pay.
      Now European taxpayers are paying for more than half of the cost of all Arab Palestinian refugees, their children and their children’s children. All Jewish Palestinian refugees arising from the illegal invasion by Syrian, Egyptians, Jordanian and other foreign armies that were registered under UNRWA have been re-settled more than sixty years ago. The displaced Arab Palestinians were refused a proper home in Arab countries.
      Consider an equivalent potential fraud case. The Celtic Britons have been in the British Isles about three thousand years. When the Romans left, some Anglo-Saxon tribes were originally invited to support the Britons in the fifth century. They called the native Celtic Britons the Welsh. What does Welsh mean in Anglo-Saxon? It means Foreigner!
      Now consider someone who arrived in the last few years and says I am owner of the British Isles and I can prove it. I am of a tribe which calls itself, Foreigner! That is a double fraud, the use of a name initiated by a later arrival and the name itself obviously fraudulent for an indigenous people.
      It is obviously a fraud to claim to come from an extinct nation. Anyone who calls himself Palestinian is a fraud who does not know where the name came from — the Romans.
      If a group, a would-be nation, does not have a history, then it is not a nation. It does not deserve to be considered a nation. It is merely a group of peoples, some who have lived there plus many who arrived only a year or two before 1948.
      If this type of fraud becomes a common place other nations had better watch out. Turkey for example. Maybe some group will claim they are descendants of the Hittites, another empire that disappeared from history. No Hittite appears to have been around for more or less the same period. There is no genealogical connection. No trace of continuity. No trace of the blood-lines. How would Turkey react if some Arab migrants now said they were ancient Hittites and claimed all of eastern Turkey? What if they bought favours with oil largesse and blackmail and took the case to the United Nations? Would the other nations in the United General Assembly know or care that the Hittites, and their empire disappeared 3000 years ago?
      Why Palestine Belongs to the Jews
      The reason the nations of the world decided that ‘Palestine’ should be returned to the Jews was simple. Jews had continuously prayed that they would return to the land during the two thousand years of exile. They mourn the loss of the Temple many times during each year. They remembered the loss of Jerusalem and Israel for more years than most of the States of the world have existed.
      Those who managed to move to their ancestral land despite massive persecution tended the graves of their patriarchs, there. Joseph’s and Joshua’s tombs were tended at Shechem. Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Israel and other patriarchs were honoured near Hebron, and Rachel’s near Bethlehem. They kept up the rituals for celebrating their forefathers that had with extreme difficulty been handed down over centuries by courageous Jews who returned. The presence and the claim for the land of Israel has been continuous for two thousand years.
      King David is also commemorated in Hebron as he is in the city of David, Jerusalem. Under David the cartel was broken and iron was produced in abundance, 1Chron 22. The earth of the land is full of archaeological treasures proving this Israelite connection, including seals of personalities mentioned in the Bible. The 2000-year old Dead Sea Scrolls containing parts of nearly all the books of the Hebrew Bible were found in the Judaean desert of the so-called ‘West Bank’.
      Today’s Hebrews can trace their genealogies back to the twelve tribes of Israel. It is an obligation and condition for priests, Levites and Israelites when they participate in some the synagogue rituals of the community worldwide.
      There were no finds of Philistines dating more recently than 2800 years ago! Palestinians and Philistines are extinct.

  • Efram

    To any Jew hater, truth is the enemy, always has been, always will be. When you start out with a working hypothesis that Arabs will dwarf the Jews soon, no facts can be permitted to get in the way.

  • Clyde Mann

    Amen Edward!

  • Jeffrey Cheah

    The State of Israel is promised by the God of Israel, thousands of years before to the patriarchs of old, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob(Israel)and how can men go against the will and the promise of Israel’s God. Any Jew who believes in the writing of Isaiah, the prophet can find comfort that the present Israel will remain Jewish! If those who have not read the Book of Isaiah, read Chapter 19 – 30 and then Chapter 60 to the end of that Book, you can find the comfort from the reading and you will have no worry of its demographic change!

  • Edward Alexander

    Another indispensable utterance from Prof. Auerbach of Wellesley. He is a reminder that American Jewry is divided between those who judge Judaism by the standards of the New York Times and those who judge the New York Times by the standards of Judaism.

    • Markus Elkana Brajtman

      Edward Alexander.

      Beautifully written

      Markus Brajtman