Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Demographic Demon is a Dud

I was given this article:

Demography and Politics in the Palestinian Authority by Amnon Kartin and Izhak Schnell in Israel Affairs, 1743-9086, Volume 13, Issue 1, 2007, Pages 95 – 115

Although two years old, its main findings are quite interesting and The Palestine-Israel Journal provides them for us.

It is quite possible that there will be a lowering of the birthrate in Palestinian Authority areas of Judea and Samaria but that depends on three factors: an effective government policy of reduction in the birth rate; enlistment of Muslim religious institutions to actively support this policy; and receptivity to participation of women in the workforce and encouraging them to develop a career and realize their potential. Under these circumstances, there is solid reason to believe that that fertility rates will decline, as has happened in most of the other Arab countries.

In other words, just like I have claimed for decades, similar to other agrarian/conservative societies all over the world, processes of economic, political and social development can bring about a dramatic reduction in the so-called "demographic threat" to Israel.

Professional literature deals extensively with the variables that control the rate of population increase and the reduction of the fertility rate in Muslim and Arab countries. Three groups of factors are particularly influential: government policy, socio-cultural values, and aspirations and personal goals (Khraif 2001, Caldwell, 2004). In the first group are planned policy steps: exposing the public consciousness to the issue of family planning, including contraceptives, and improving the access of the population, especially women, to education and the job market. In the second group there are factors relating to common socio-cultural perceptions, like the status of women in society and in the family cell and the relationship between religion and fertility. In the third group are conscious aspects of the individual, ranging from the “sociological person,” who sees recruitment in the service of collective goals as an important value, to the “psychological person,” who emphasizes self-enhancement.

Funny, the authors seem to indicate that while Arafat pointed to the "ticking biological bomb" of the womb, the key to a reduction in the birth rate is to be found with women:

the variable of women’s autonomy is the main factor predicting the fertility and rates of natural increase of the Arab population.

If the woman is provided with a prophylactic choice, better hygiene facilities and medical treatment opportunities, better employment and advanced education, the rate of births will drop.

The demon of demography is not the element of negativism working against Israel's continued control over all of Eretz-Yisrael west of the Jordan River, even in Gaza.

All is not lost.

My good friend Yakov Faitelson, who is the author of Demographic Trends in the Land of Israel, 1800-2007 (Israeli Institute for Zionist Strategies (IZS), 2008), and the first major of Ariel (2/1981 - 5/1985) and then the manager of the Barkan Industrial Park (11/1988 - 12/1993) and who returned from Russia after a period of Zionist work, makes this observation:

The misuse of demography has been one of the most prominent, yet unexamined, aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many Israelis have so thoroughly absorbed the repeated claims of a diminishing Jewish majority that they do not consider whether their conventional wisdom is false. Before an accurate demographic picture of Israel and the Palestinian territories trickles down to the consciousness of the residents of the region, it must first be understood by Israeli and Palestinian policymakers, academics, and journalists, who need accurate, factual information to do their jobs. The impact on the conflict of such a development would be substantial.

and points to this critical element which conflates with Kartin and Schnell in his article, The Politics of Palestinian Demography, Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2009, pp. 51-59:

Careful demographic analysis, however, should lead to a conclusion in stark contrast to the demographic time bomb thesis. The natural increase of the Jewish population in Israel—that is, its yearly birth rate less its yearly death rate—stabilized thirty years ago and, since 2002, has even begun to grow. The natural increase of the total Arab population, comprising both Israeli Arabs and the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza, continues to descend toward convergence with the Jewish population, probably in the latter half of this century.

Sometimes, there's a natural decay in population.


Micki L. sent me this:

The Debacle of Demographic Fatalism by YORAM ETTINGER, from March 23, 2009 with this conclusion:

In summation, the 2007 census for Judea & Samaria was inflated by 53%, and the Jewish-Arab proportion west of the Jordan River - without Gaza - documents a robust Jewish majority of 67%, compared with a 33% Jewish minority in 1947, including Gaza. The most effective symptom of the Demographic transformation - from Arab to Jewish demographic momentum - has been the absolute annual number of Jewish and Arab births within Israel's "Green Line." While the number of annual Arab births has stagnated at 39,000 during 1995-2007, the number of annual Jewish births has catapulted by 40% from 80,400 in 1995 to 112,000 in 2007.

There is a demographic problem, but it is not lethal, and there is no demographic machete at Israel's throat. In fact, documented births, deaths and migration clarify that Jewish demography has become a strategic asset and not a liability. Hence, awareness to demographic reality could enhance the security, political, strategic, diplomatic and economic options of Israeli Doves and Hawks alike.

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