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Study shows Palestinian "baby boom" has been grossly overstated

By israelinsider staff  January 16, 2005

    A landmark demographic study presented last week at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Heritage Foundation in Washington contends that the Palestinian population has been tendentiously overstated by as much as 1.5 million and that dire predictions of the Jewish population majority west of the Jordan River being overtaken in the near future has no merit. On the contrary, the study indicates that a solid Jewish majority is expected for decades.

The study contends that today the Palestinian-Arab population of the West Bank (1.4 million) and Gaza (1 million) totals 2.4 million, rather than the 3.8 million reported by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). A Jewish majority of 60% has been sustained -- between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean -- since 1967. A solid 80% Jewish majority has been maintained within the "Green Line".

In recent years, the Conventional demographic wisdom (as expressed in March 2003 and Oct. 2004 publications by Prof. Arnon Sofer of Haifa University) has contended that: "In all of Western Israel [between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean] Jews constitute 49% of the population; in another 18 years, this percentage is expected to amount to 40%...."

However, the new study points out that the PCBS figures and projections have been refuted every year since 1997. A systematic reliance on erroneous data produces exponential errors. PCBS figures have been at gross variance with those produced by the Palestinian Ministry of Health (PMOH), by the Palestinian Election Commissions of 1996 and 2005, by Jordan (a twin demographic sister of the West Bank), by the Muslim and Arab blocks, by Third World countries, by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics and by the Trend Impact Analysis, which factors the relative demographic impact of unpredictable military, terrorist, economic, diplomatic and social developments.

In fact, a dramatic decline in the Palestinian population growth rate has been recorded by the PMOH - 2.4% in 2003 compared with 3.8% in 1997, in contrast with the 4.5% claimed by the PCBS. This number is consistent with Jordan's 2.7% population growth rate and with the overall sharp decline in the Third World in general and in Muslim and Arab countries in particular.

In addition, a drastic decline in total Palestinian Fertility Rate (number of children per woman) has been documented by the PMOH - 3.89 in 2003 compared with 7.4 in 1997 (3.89 benefits from past higher fertility of older women, who gave birth to 8-10 children).

A sharp reduction in the Palestinian birth rate has been documented by the PMOH - 27.2 in 2003 compared with 43.7 births per 1,000 in 1997. The natural increase of the "Green Line" Arabs -- excluding the 150,00 -- is 2.1%, while the population growth rate of the Jewish population is 2.5%.

Birth reporting by the Palestinian Authority has been overstated by more than 20,000 annually. Death reporting has been systematically understated.

An annual net negative migration of 10,000 has been recorded from the West Bank and Gaza at least since 1950 (including the 1990/1 Gulf War and the 1993-5 Oslo years of positive net migration). The 3.8MN PCBS figure is based on a projected 230,000 net positive migration during 1997-2005, which were in fact net negative migration years.

The study points out two cases of Double counting. 200,000 Jerusalem Arabs are counted both by Israel (Green Line) and by the Palestinian Authority (West Bank and Gaza). Also, approximately 150,000 West Bank and Gaza Arabs have received Israeli citizenship since 1993 (mostly via marriages), according to a November 2003 study by Israel's Ministry of Interior. Israel counts them as "Green Line" Arabs and the PA counts them as West Bank and Gaza Arabs.

Furthermore, the PA's inclusion of non-residents has added 300,000 Palestinians, who have resided abroad for an extended period to the total Palestinian population.

The study was conducted by a U.S. team lead by Bennett Zimmerman, a strategic consultant with Bain, historian Dr. Roberta Seid, and statistician Dr. Michael Wise. In Israel, the team included strategic consultant Yoram Ettinger, Brig. General (ret.) David Shahaf, Former Commander Civil Administration in Judea&Samaria, who served on the Israeli-Palestinian DOP Commission, Prof. Ezra Sohar, Prof. David Passig, and Avraham Shvoot.

The significance of the new report cannot be understated. Carolyn Glick, writing in the Jerusalem Post, asserts that "the greatest single victory the PLO has scored in its 46-year-old war with Israel was the publication of a single report in 1997. That report, "Demographic Indicators of the Palestinian Territory, 1997-2015," is based on a census carried out by the PA's Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) in 1997 [which] projects that the Arab population west of the Jordan River will by 2015 outnumber the Jewish population."

The adoption of this direct prediction by prominent Israeli demographers, she wrote, was a key factor in influencing Israeli policymakers, including Ariel Sharon, who uses the threat of the Palestinian womb as a key reason for withdrawing from Gaza. Preceding Sharon's radical policy shift, and justifying it, Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wrote: "Above all hovers the cloud of demographics. It will come down on us not in the end of days, but in just another few years. We are approaching a point where more and more Palestinians will say: 'There is no place for two states between the Jordan and the sea. All we want is the right to vote. The day they get it we will lose everything."

The study presents three separate scenarios for more correctly calculating the actual Palestinian population in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Its authors prove that the first scenario, based on the PCBS numbers, minus the double counted Jerusalem Arabs and minus the internal migrations, is not statistically plausible. Yet even that scenario estimates the Palestinian population at 3.06 million, or 770,000 less than the number that currently informs Israeli decision makers!

The average of the last two scenarios, which correct for the Palestinians living abroad and were based on base populations comprised of ICBS Palestinian population survey projections from the 1990s and Palestinian voting records in 1996 and 2004, brought the projected number of Palestinians in Gaza, Judea and Samaria to 2.42 million -- nearly a third less than the 3.83 million figure currently being used.

The study, which has passed muster with prominent American demographers Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt and Murray Feshbach, shows that contrary to common wisdom, the Jewish majority west of the Jordan has remained relatively stable since 1967. In 1967 Jews made up 64.1% of the total population and in 2004 the Jewish share remains 59.5%. Inside Israel proper, including Jerusalem, Jews make up 80% of the population.

"While reading the report," Glick concludes, "the inescapable sense is that something has gone very wrong within Israeli society. The numbers are so clear. The data have always been readily available. And yet, like bats attracted to the darkness of a cave, we preferred the manipulative lies of the PA to the truth. [I]t shows that the government's current policies are based in large part on an uncritical acceptance of fraudulent data whose purpose was to demoralize us into capitulating to our post-modern foe."

The full 117-page report is available on-line at


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