Monday, May 23, 2011

Obama Gets The Numbers Wrong: Palestinian Population Is Not "Growing Rapidly"

Here are the facts we all must confront. First, the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Obama, speech to AIPAC, May 22, 2011

In playing the demographic card, the first question should be: is Obama right--is he taking Palestinian censuses at face value and if so, are they accurate.

The fact is, Palestinian polls are not reliable, in fact notoriously so.
In The Politics of Palestinian Demography, Yakov Faitelson writes:
Palestinian Arab numbers have always been spotty. There is very little historical data. As University of Illinois economics professor Fred M. Gottheil has noted [The Smoking Gun: Arab Immigration into Palestine, 1922-1931],
Palestinian demography of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has never been just a matter of numbers. It has always been—and consciously so—a frontline weapon used in a life-and-death struggle for nationhood … The problem with staking so much on so narrow a focus as past demography is that the data generated by demographers and others since the early nineteenth century are so lacking in precision that, in some matters of dispute concerning demography, "anyone's guess," as the saying goes, "is as good as any other."

Justin McCarthy, a University of Louisville historian with a specialization in demography, notes [Palestine's Population during the Ottoman and the British Mandate Period] that Israel's 1967 census of Gaza's population was the first in more than thirty-five years; before that census, procedures were not rigorous. At best, McCarthy notes, pre-1967 counts of Palestinian Arabs are "estimations" although he also notes that subsequent Israeli-conducted censuses were scientific and objective.
Michael Rubin notes that things really have not changed--Palestinian demographics is still a matter of politics:
Certainly, demography should be a concern if Israel is to remain both democratic and a Jewish state. So much of the demography that’s floating around, however, is little more than junk statistics...The problem is that the Palestinian Authority lets politics influence its numbers. Their Central Bureau of Statistics isn’t allowed to report Palestinian emigration, double-counts Jerusalem (which is also counted by Israel), and has made revisions at the request of the Palestinian leadership when the population in Jerusalem, for example, was found to have declined. The error today may exceed one million people throughout areas claimed by the Palestinian Authority.
Yoram Ettinger, who has written extensively about both Jewish and Arab demographics wrote last year about exaggerations in the Arab population:
The number of Judea & Samaria Arabs is artificially inflated by 66%. It is 1.55MN and not 2.5MN. Thus, the World Bank documents a 32% “inflation” in the number of Palestinian births, a substantial erosion of the Palestinian fertility rate and a significant escalation of Arab emigration from Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Documented entries and exits via international passages feature a 17,000 net Arab emigration from Judea & Samaria in 2009, 14,000 in 2007 respectively and only six years of net-immigration since 1950.

The significant decline in Arab population growth rate has been caused by an intensive family planning campaign, an unprecedented reduction of teen-pregnancy, a swift urbanization process, an all-time-high divorce rate and median wedding-age, an impressive expansion of education especially among women and enhanced career mentality among women.

In contrast with international demographic standards, the Palestinians include some 400,000 overseas residents in their census. They also include 250,000 Jerusalem Arabs, who bear Israeli I.D. cards and are therefore doubly-counted: as Israeli Arabs by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics and as West Bank Arabs by the Palestinians.
In fact, Obama should be especially concerned about getting accurate numbers about the Arab population of the West Bank and Gaza--after all, with the enormous amount of US funding that is going into propping up Abbas, it is likely that besides the US paying for the salaries of Palestinian terrorists, the US is paying for non-existent Palestinians as well.

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