April 15, 2005: Opinions & Cartoons

Letters to the Editor

Soffer figures disputed

To the editor:

It has come to my attention that Arnon Soffer made a presentation in Portland in which he delivered his dire demographic forecast for the state of Israel.

This past year I organized a team of American and Israeli researchers and professors to audit the population claims made by the Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). Through an exhaustive audit of Palestinian, Israeli and third-party sources, we found that the reported population of 3.8 million was in error, and that the actual number was closer to 2.4 million.

The most significant sources of error were as follows:

  1. The actual number of births recorded by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health was dramatically below 1997 PA predictions.
  2. The PA saw significant net emigration in recent years, rather than the large-scale immigration they had predicted.
  3. Significant numbers of Palestinians living abroad were counted by the PA as current residents.
  4. Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem were double-counted (i.e., counted as residents by both Israel and the PA, with both counts then added by Soffer to his total).

We have noted that in his October 2004 booklet on demography, Soffer made a population claim equal to that of the PCBS, having relied on PCBS statistics; but by January, shortly after the publication of our study, he had reduced his population estimates for West Bank and Gaza by a full one million, to a 2.8 million total. And yet, he has repeatedly resorted to name calling and personal attacks on members of our team. Perhaps he doesn't like our results.

Meanwhile, our data-driven report speaks for itself. Our facts have been checked, our numbers and methodology have been professionally audited, and our study in its entirety--the same study that we presented to the Knesset Foreign Relations Committee in January, and to the Knesset Operations Committee in February-€”is available on the Web site of the American Enterprise Institute at www.pademographics.com.

Members of our team would be happy to come to Portland to present our findings.

Bennett Zimmerman, Project Leader

Arab Population in the West Bank and Gaza: The Million and a Half Person Gap

Santa Monica, Calif.

(Ed. note: Bennett Zimmerman is a former strategy consultant with Bain and Co., a global management consulting firm-€”www.bain.com. He was assisted in the U.S.-based Arab population project by historian Dr. Roberta Seid and Dr. Michael L. Wise, a physicist and expert in mathematic modeling techniques. The team presented their findings to the American Enterprise Institute Jan. 10 in Washington, D.C.)

Soffer faulted for 'attacks'

To the editor:

Aside from his inaccurate numbers and flawed conclusions, what was especially troubling in Arnon Soffer's attacks on the PA Demographics project was his description of its members as extremists, even as his own words and writings have made clear his own biased views.

As we all heard quite clearly, Soffer considers even loyal, taxpaying, army-enlisting non-Jewish Israelis to be no better than a "demographic time bomb," no matter their contributions to Israel's defense, economy, culture.

In addition, Soffer has written of moving the Green Line west of Umm el Fah'm, and revoking the citizenship of these Arab Israelis, in reference to which he has said, "They'll go where they're told." Yet "they" have already discussed moving westward en masse, to avoid being made subject to the Palestinian Authority; just as the bulk of the Golan's Druze population intends to resettle in the Galilee, in the event that the Golan is delivered to Syrian control.

So the result of all this would be not fewer Arabs in a smaller Israel, as Prof. Soffer claims; but rather, the same number of Arabs in a smaller, more crowded Israel-€”with the added bonus of increased alienation, as Arab citizens start to wonder if they'll soon get the boot. Perhaps I lack imagination, but if there is a more self-destructive plan than this, I cannot envision it.

As we celebrate Pesach, we recall that "a mixed multitude went up" with us out of slavery. Then as now, their presence among us made life difficult, but not nearly as much as their gifts and talents enriched us. To reject these contributions runs counter to all we have learned since our escape.

Susan Blatt


'A beautiful, honorable position'

To the editor:

Thank you for your recent article about the speeches given in Portland by Yonatan Shapira, one of the Israeli pilots refusing to fly what they consider illegal missions in the occupied territories (Jewish Review, March 15).

From what I heard, Shapira and this group of pilots has an amazingly clear and lucid position.

That they are clear about their love of Israel makes their choices all the more poignant.

They were trained in the Israeli military that it is wrong to obey an illegal order. That position flows, of course, from the trials at Nuremberg after World War II.

These pilots have risked their lives to protect Israelis from suicide bombers; however, they are not willing to carry out attacks where it is known in advance that most of the victims will be innocent civilians.

Shapira told his superior officer that, if the order Shapira was refusing was a legal order, then the superior officer should arrest him.

The fact that Shapira was not arrested by his superior officer speaks for itself.

Shapira outlined a beautiful and honorable position, aligned I think with the deepest Jewish beliefs.

Judith Aftergut


'He is not a lone voice'

To the editor:

I am a member of Brit Tzedek. I heard Yonatan Shapira's speak at a small gathering the evening before his talk at the MJCC.

I believe that the essence of Shapira's message is that he is no longer willing to contribute to the cycle of violence.

He is not a lone voice of dissent in Israel. Many leading intellectuals and writers including Amos Oz, David Grossman and Aharon Shabtai have reached the same conclusion.

Willa Schneberg


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