The Demographic Scare – Repudiated by Facts

"Israel Hayom" Newsletter, December 08, 2011

The prophets of demographic doom have contended, since the establishment of modern day Zionism in 1897 and the Jewish State in 1948, that Jews are doomed to become a minority west of the Jordan River.  The facts prove them wrong! 

In 2011, in defiance of demographic fatalism, Israel’s Jewish demography benefits from a tailwind while Arabs, throughout the Mid-East, experience a demographic headwind.

For instance, the annual number of Jewish births has surged by 56% since 1995 – reflecting a rising fertility rate (number of births per woman) - while the annual number of Israeli Arab births has grown by 10% - reflecting a sharp decline in fertility rate.

The annual number of Israel’s Jewish births has expanded from 69% of total births, in 1995, to 76% of total births in 2011. In 1995, there were 2.3 Jewish births per each Arab birth, compared with 3.1 Jewish births per each Arab birth in 2011. 

The secular Jewish sector – especially the Olim (immigrants) from the former USSR and the Tel Aviv area yuppies - is mostly responsible for the demographic surge. At the same time, the ultra-orthodox sector is experiencing a drop in fertility, resulting from its gradual integration into the employment market and expanded service in the Israel Defense Forces.

The Jewish-Arab gap of fertility has been reduced from 6 births in 1969 to 0.5 births in 2011, trending toward a convergence at 3 births per woman. In fact, Jewish-Arab fertility convergence is already in place among younger women and in northern Israel (the largest Arab community), while the fertility rate among Israeli-born Jewish women exceeds 3 births per woman.  In Jerusalem, the Jewish fertility rate (4.3 births) is higher than the Arab rate (3.9).

In fact, Israel’s Jewish fertility rate is higher than most Arab countries, other than Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria. For example, Jordan, a twin sister of Judea and Samaria in many respects, features 2.8 births per woman, Egypt has declined to 2.5 births and even non-Arab radical Islamic Iran has taken a dip to 1.7 births per woman (a 2.1 rate is required to sustain the current numbers) .

The sharp decline in the Arab fertility rate, west of the Jordan River, is a derivative of the successful integration of Arabs into the infrastructure of modernity. Israeli Arabs have blended into the infrastructure of education, medical, employment, leisure, banking, agriculture, sports, politics, academia, media and the arts. Most Arab women marry at the age of 20+, instead of 15-18, and stop the reproductive process at the age of 40+, instead of 50+.  The phenomenon of Arab teen pregnancy is vanishing.  Family planning and the use of contraceptives has become an acceptable norm among Arabs.  This process has been faster among Judea and Samaria Arabs due to dramatic urbanization: 70% rural population in 1967 and 75% urban population in 2011, burdened by 30% unemployment, a PLO-Hamas civil war and a rising divorce rate.

Modernity has also reduced the Arab natural increase - birth minus death - due to the diminishing number of births on the one hand, and the increase in the number of the elderly – as a proportion of the Arab population - on the other hand.  The latter is the result of the rapid rise of Arab life expectancy, causing a rapid shrinking of natural increase.

Net-Arab-emigration, from Judea and Samaria, has been an annual phenomenon since 1950 (with the exception of six years).  Most emigrants are in the reproductive age.  In contrast, net-Jewish immigration has benefitted Israel, with most Olim in the reproductive age.  Waves of Jewish immigration (Aliya) have occurred every 20 years: 1950s, 1970s and 1990s. Another wave is possible, should Israel and the Jewish people rise to the occasion, leveraging economic, social and (Jewish) educational realities in Russia, Ukraine, other former USSR Republics, France, England, Argentina and the USA.

In 1898, the leading Jewish demographer/historian, Shimon Dubnov, referred to Theodore Herzl, the father of modern day Zionism, as “a messianic wishful-thinker.”  Dubnov projected a 500,000 Jewish population in the land of Israel by the year 2000 – an insignificant minority.  He was off by more than 5 million Jews. In 1948, the founder of Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, and the mentor of today’s prophets of demographic doom, Prof. Roberto Bacchi, projected a 2.3 million Jewish minority of 33% in 2001.  He was off by 3.5 million Jews. 

Since 1967, Israel’s demographers of doom have contended that Jews are doomed to become a minority west of the Jordan River. They prescribe the panacea to the demographic threat: conceding geography (Judea and Samaria) in order to secure demography.  In defiance of these demographic projections, over six million Jews constitute a 66% majority in the combined area of pre-1967 Israel, Judea and Samaria. The number of Judea & Samaria Arabs has been inflated by one million (including overseas residents, double-counting Jerusalem Arabs, inflating birth numbers, etc.) since the arrival of one million Olim from the USSR.

Demographic facts conclude that anyone suggesting that Jews are doomed to become a minority west of the Jordan River is either dramatically mistaken or outrageously misleading.

Policy-makers should base policy upon facts and not upon refuted numbers!