Thursday, May 08, 2008

Bogus numeracy

I usually enjoy reading Caroline Glick’s columns in the Jerusalem Post except when she is busy touting Bibi Netanyahu (current leader of the Likud Party) as the only savior available to the Israeli body politic or when she writes her gloom and doom columns suggesting that Israel is so far down the path to perdition - nothing can save her.

In contrast, most of the Israelis of my acquaintance are overall a rather hopeful, happy lot and get a great deal more satisfaction from their everyday lives than a rather large number of Canadians I know. That said, this week Glick and a little bit of Canadiana crossed paths in the Jerusalem Post. Here is Glick’s take on a Maclean’s magazine article titled Israel at 60.
By Petrou's estimation, "Within one or two decades, the number of Muslim and Christian Arabs will surpass the number of Israeli Jews (including Gaza, the West Bank and Israel itself). When that happens, if there is still no Palestinian state (and in the absence of large-scale ethnic cleansing), Israelis will be forced to choose between two futures. Their country will either be Jewish, but not democratic - in other words, a Jewish minority will control a land mostly inhabited by Palestinians - or Israel will be democratic, but not Jewish, because Arabs will form the majority in what will become a binational state."

While well written, Petrou's piece is a journalistic embarrassment. For his central contention is a fabrication.

The Arab demographic time bomb is a fiction. It was created out of whole cloth in 1997. That year, the Palestinian Authority's Bureau of Statistics published data from a falsified census which claimed that there were 3.8 million Palestinians living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The PA projected population growth of some 4.7 percent per year - far higher than any other place on earth. At that growth rate, the PA claimed that by 2015, the Palestinian population in Judea, Samaria and Gaza would be some 5.8 million and that together with Arab Israelis, who number some 1.2 million, they would comprise the majority of the population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

In January 2005 a group of Israeli and American researchers published an in-depth analysis of the PA data. They compared the census with birth and death records published by the PA's Health Ministry, and education records of children entering first grade published by the PA's Education Ministry. They compared immigration rates published by the PA with immigration records compiled by Israeli authorities at the international borders. They compared population statistics with voter rolls in the 1996 PA elections. Their findings were remarkable.

They discovered that the PA had counted as residents hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lived abroad. It double counted Arab Jerusalemites. It assumed high immigration rates when in fact except for 1994, the PA has experienced net emigration every year. The PA inflated birthrates and deflated death rates. It ignored the tens of thousands of Palestinians who had immigrated to Israel.

ALL IN ALL the American-Israeli Demographic Research Group discovered that the PA's census data was exaggerated by some 50 percent. Its researchers discovered that there were only 2.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza, Judea and Samaria in 2004. They found that Israeli Jewish fertility rates are higher than Palestinian fertility rates in Judea and Samaria and the Jewish fertility rates are converging with Israeli Arab fertility rates. Fertility rates in Gaza are similarly declining steadily. So too, Israel's net Jewish immigration rates are positive and rising.

Most striking, the researchers found that Israel's Jewish majority west of the Jordan River has remained remarkably steady since 1967. Today Jews make up a 3:2 majority over Arabs in Israel, Gaza and Judea and Samaria. Jews comprise 67 percent of the population of Israel and Judea and Samaria and nearly 80 percent of the population within sovereign Israel.

The AIDRG's initial and subsequent reports have received significant attention in Israel. Had he wished, Petrou could easily have accessed its work on the Internet. But that would have upset his conclusions.

Petrou's story reveals a consistent message of many anti-Zionists. That message is that no matter what Israel does, it remains essentially powerless, just as Jews were powerless for 18 centuries in exile. It is meant to demoralize Israel's supporters by telling them there is no point in trying to prevent the inevitable. And it is meant to console Israel's detractors. They needn't worry. Israel is on its way out.
Ha’aretz carried a report last October announcing the Palestinian Authority was undertaking a massive new census would begin in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It appear on the surface the one area in which Hamas would co-operate with Fatah but it was not long after this article appeared that Hamas opted out of Fatah’s census taking activity and then just as mysteriously opted back in.

Of course, none of the shennigans stopped the Palestinian Authority from announcing (or Reuters from reporting) a 30% increase in the population since the last very flawed census undertaken in (1997) in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The current census puts the Palestinian population at approximately 3.89 million which is approximately where the same bogus number the 1997 census arrived at. A thirty per cent rise in population – don’t bet the farm on it.

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