The issue of demographics in Israel used to be a vague, abstract, gnawing issue. In 2002, Ben Wattenberg wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal that Israel needn't worry about a population implosion. But the demographics problem continued to be discussed--until it became an issue for 2 concrete calls for action in 2 different countries.
On the one hand, the demographic time bomb of the growing Palestinian Arab population was one of the reasons given to justify the need for the Disengagement. On the other hand the findings of American Researchers Bennett Zimmerman, Roberta Seid, and Michael Wise--which seem to indicate that the numbers for the Arab population in Gaza and the West Bank have been highly inflated, while Jewish births and immigration forecasts are underestimated--found their way to the US Congress.
These findings, supported in part by the Palestinian Arabs themselves,were presented in March to the Middle East Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee, chaired by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Republican Congresswoman of Florida--who in January proposed legislation, which would cut American funding to both the PA and the UN, designate the PA a "terrorist sanctuary," and close down some of the PA offices in the US, in order to reduce Palestinian-American diplomatic ties.
But the issue of Palestinian demographics was relevant to the committee for a different reason. The importance of the Zimmerman report for the US, as noted by World Net Daily, is that
almost $3 billion in United States taxpayer funds may have been provided as aid to the Palestinians in part based on fraudulent data.Of course, one could assume that Europe might be interested in the possibility that the Palestinians may have swindled them as well.
"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.
In an article in the Summer 5766/2006 issue of Azure entitle Voodoo Demographics, Zimmerman, Seid and Weiss lay out all the ways the Palestinian Arab population was miscounted:
In sum: By double-counting the Jerusalem Arabs and counting Arabs living abroad, the Palestinians inflated their base data for 1997 by 648,000. By predicting unrealistically high rates of natural population growth, the number was inflated by an additional 276,000; and by falsely predicting massive immigration to Gaza and the West Bank, and ignoring the significant net emigration of Palestinians from the territories, the PCBS[Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics] further inflated the numbers by another 415,000. If we add these figures together, by 2004 the PCBS figures had managed to inflate the population in the West Bank and Gaza by some 1.34 million people-more than 50 percent. When the pcbs’ numerous errors are corrected, the Palestinian Arab population for Gaza and the West Bank drops to 2.49 million people, with 1.42 million in the West Bank and 1.07 million in Gaza in mid-2004.Now, in answer to criticism that their results were given in the form of a presentation instead of actual published research, in February the group published an academic research paper through Bar-Ilan's Begin-Sadat Center Center for Strategic Research--allowing the findings to be properly analyzed. It can be downloaded as a PDF from the Bar Ilan University website.
One possible weakness of the report is that for their prediction for 2025, the group has left their research data for Gaza out of their calculations because, as they note elsewhere in their article Gaza "is no longer under any kind of Israeli rule, and therefore is of questionable relevance when speaking of a demographic threat" Thus, according to their prediction, as Haaretz puts it:
7.5 million Jews will be living in Israel and the West Bank then, constituting 63 percent of the population, as compared to 4.45 million Arabs (of these, 2.25 million in the West Bank), or 37 percent of the population. In other words, for every Arab, there will be two Jews. The population in Israel proper will be 77 percent Jews and 23 percent Arabs - not much different from today.But the bottom line question remains whether Israel is free and clear of the demographic time bomb that was calculated into the considerations for Sharon's Disengagement and for Olmert's Convergence Plan. In their article, they address this point:
Do the Jews of Israel face a demographic threat? The answer is still a qualified yes-but the threat has been greatly exaggerated. As the real numbers make clear, Arab population growth is not an overwhelming force that is destined, sooner or later, to relegate the Jews to minority status. On the contrary: With a greater understanding of demography and the specific forces that drive it, Israeli policymakers can develop a range of choices to affect the long-term demographic trends in the region-from the encouragement of Jewish immigration to the fostering of economic and social equality between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens. More important, Israel must realize that it has time, demographically speaking, to evaluate these choices, and to make the right decisions.If Zimmerman and his group is right, this is one of the very rare issues where time is actual on Israel's side. The question remains whether Zimmerman's report--and implications--will be accepted.
Haaretz concludes, "Now the findings can be discussed, challenged or rejected - but to ignore them would be folly."