Monday, March 13, 2006

Have The Palestinians Cheated The US Out of Millions?

Back in 2002, in an article for the Wall Street Journal, Ben Wattenberg was already saying that the numbers being given for the Palestinian Arab presence and the famous Arab birth rate were exaggerated:

Truth is, fertility rates in Arab and Muslim countries have been falling rapidly in recent decades. Indeed, it would be remarkable were they not; it's been happening everywhere else.

...The U.N. issues data for what it calls the "Occupied Palestinian Territory." On average, Palestinian women are bearing 5.6 children, which is a very high rate, but down from an estimated eight in 1970 and seven in 1985.

Last week a findings were reported along similar lines, challenging the numbers that have heretofore been accepted at face value:

American Researchers Bennett Zimmerman, Roberta Seid, and Michael Wise Say Previous Population Figures for Arabs in West Bank and Gaza Are Highly Inflated While Jewish Births and Immigration Forecasts Are Underestimated

...The researchers who leading U.S. demographer Nick Eberstadt said "caught the demographic professionals asleep at the switch" by finding "the most portentous demographic discrepancy in the Middle East" are now shattering the population axioms that drive Israeli policy in their new study, Forecast for Israel and West Bank 2025.

Zimmerman's web site, PA Demographics, notes the reason for the demographic error in a press release that came out in January 10 of last year:

The assumption that Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza pose a demographic threat to Israel has to be radically revised. The 2004 Palestinian-Arab population was closer to 2.4 million than to the 3.8 million reported by Palestinian Authority (PA) officials. These findings should have a significant impact on politicians, policy makers and international aid agencies.

The million-and-a-half person gap occurred because the PA numbers are based on Palestine Bureau of Statistics (PBS) 1997 projections, not on actual population counts. The PBS used the PA’s official 1997 census as a base population and assumed the population would grow at 4 to 5% a year, one of the highest growth rates in the world. PA Ministry of Health birth data and actual border entry/exit data, confirm that the PBS expectations were not met in any year between 1997 and 2004. There were dramatically fewer births and lower fertility rates, and instead of immigration, the West Bank and Gaza experienced a steady net emigration. When the PBS incorrect assumptions are applied over many years, the error in population forecast compounds exponentially.
The press release lists the mistakes made in calculating the Palestinian Arab population--some resulting from error, while others the result of outright cooking of the numbers:
o Fewer births: PA Ministry of Health birth reports were substantially lower than the number predicted by the PBS.

o Lower Fertility Rates: Palestinian fertility rates declined from the mid-90’s through 2003, according to PA Ministry of Health, consistent with the trend occurring in other Middle Eastern Arab societies.

o Net Emigration: Instead of the large immigration originally projected by the PA, the Territories experienced a steady net emigration averaging 10,000 a year.

o Double Counting: 210,000 Jerusalem Arabs who are already counted in Israel’s population survey were included in the PA survey.

o Inclusion of non-residents: Palestinians with IDs living abroad for over one year were included in the PA Census & Projection.

o Internal migration: 150,000 PA Arabs who have legally relocated to Israel since 1993 are still counted by the PA..

o Retrospective Alterations of Recorded Birth data.
In the Washington Times of January 14th of last year, Joel Mobray wrote that corraboration of these Zimmerman's report came from information produced by the Palestinians themselves:

...The study already has at least one unlikely ally: the Palestine Central Elections Commission. According to the agency's own Oct. 14 press release, a million Palestinians had registered to vote, which represented two-thirds of adults. Of the 1.5 million eligible adults (not counting 110,000 eligible Jerusalem Arabs), the release stated that 200,000 were living abroad.

This PA-released figure meshes almost exactly with the study's final conclusion that the actual Palestinian population is approximately 2.4 million.

On the one hand, the falsified numbers are important to the issue of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the political justification for continued Israeli Disengagement in response to a growing Palestinian Arab population. As IMRA has noted:
Looking back over the last ten years it can be noted that the "demographic issue" took prominence when the miserable failure of Oslo along with the growing effectiveness of Israeli security forces against the "intifada" stripped withdrawal advocates of the security justification for withdrawal.
However, the falsified demographic data is an issue of direct importance to the US taxpayer as well:
Dramatic new findings about the Palestinian population will be presented to the
Middle East Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee, which
is chaired by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, on March 8 by Bennett Zimmerman, Project
Leader of the American-Israeli Demographic Research Group (ADRG).
The name Ileana Ros-Lehtinen should be a familiar name. She is the Republican Congresswoman of Florida, who back in January proposed legislation, according to the NY Sun "to slash American funding to the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations; designate the Palestinian Authority as a "terrorist sanctuary," and close down some Palestinian Authority offices in America as part of a reduction of Palestinian-American diplomatic ties."

The reason that Zimmerman addressed the House International Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East is directly related to its investigation of the U.S. funding of the Palestinian Authority. According to World Net Daily, if in fact the Palestinians have inflated their numbers by nearly 50%, then
almost $3 billion in United States taxpayer funds may have been provided as aid to the Palestinians in part based on fraudulent data.

"American tax dollars and other international humanitarian aid have been based on inflated population numbers which have been accepted without question by governments and aid agencies. Our researchers pointed out that money has been spent to help Palestinians who were double-counted, never born or not present in the West Bank and Gaza," Bennet Zimmerman, head of the new study, titled "Arab Population in the West Bank and Gaza," told WND.
Interestingly, the only mention of the issue of US overfunding has apparently been made by Arutz Sheva, World Net Daily, PRNewswire, and Yahoo--and the Yahoo story uses the PRNews story, mentioning the connection in the headline but giving no other mention or detail in the body of the article.

It was reported that Zimmerman's findings were presented on March 8th. Today is the 13th. Still not a peep from the major media.

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