Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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9 Shevat 5765 - January 19, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Report Debunks Demographic Threat

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

An extra-academic document that debunks one of the foundations of the disengagement plan, "the demographic bomb," was presented in Washington. The document argues that only 2.4 million Palestinians live in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip today, and not the 3.8 million claimed by the Palestinian Authority.

In sharp contrast to population studies conducted in Israel, the document argues that Jews can easily continue to maintain a solid percent majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

An Israeli-American group authored the ABC Demographic Project. The group disputes a prevailing assumption in Israel's public debate — that Jews have ceased, or will soon cease to be, a majority in Israeli territory.

Della Pergola, the most famous Israeli demographic expert, called the document "groundless," politically slanted and baseless from a research perspective. None of the authors is a professional in demographic research.

Among its authors are former Israeli consul in Texas Yoram Ettinger, former West Bank Civil Administration head Brigadier General (res.) David Shahaf and former Israeli health official Professor Ezra Zohar.

The research was initiated and funded by Los Angeles Jewish businessman Ben Zimmerman and U.S.-based partners, historian Dr. Roberta Seid of the University of South Carolina and businessman Michael Wise.

The document claims that the 2004 statistic presented by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics on the Palestinian population in the territories — 3.8 million people — is not accurate.

It doesn't incorporate emigration from PA territory, which they estimate at hundreds of thousands, a drop in fertility, or tens of thousands of deaths, and it includes about 200,000 residents of East Jerusalem, who are also counted in the Israeli census.

According to the document, Palestinian population growth was 2.4 percent in 2003, not the 4.5 percent reported by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. In 2003, the population in Israel grew 1.7 percent.

PCBS data is based on a 1997 census. The figures are controversial. Various Palestinian and foreign sources claim that the population registry includes data on many who are dead or living abroad.

The ABC document says that data from Israeli Border Police indicates consistent negative emigration from the territories of about 10,000 annually.

Its authors allege that 300,000 Palestinian expatriates live in the in other parts of the world but nonetheless appear in the population registry.

They note that a Norwegian research institute Fafo, situated in Ramallah, found negative Palestinian immigration of 100,000 in 2001-2002.

Yoram Ettinger said, "The demographic issue has great importance in shaping the approach of the administration, the press and the public on a critical matter to the future of Israeli society. These positions should be determined based on facts and not distortions."

Works by Sofer and Della Pergola, based largely on data from the PCBS, find that the Jewish population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is currently about 50 percent. Sofer estimates that Jews will be a minority of 40 percent in 2020, while Della Pergola maintains the figure will be 46.7 percent (including foreign workers and non- Jews).


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