Latest posts by Varda Epstein (see all)
Those in favor of the two-state solution (TSS) have long cited demographics as the one argument that the anti-TSS people cannot refute. TSS proponents claim that there will soon be an overwhelming majority of Arabs in Judea and Samaria, making it a gross faux pas to continue to insist this territory remain part of a “Jewish” state. But demographics are statistics and statistics are funny things. They are facts and yet they can be skewed to offer a false picture through the manipulation of context.
Those of us who bother to look beyond the statistics presented for public consumption have long known that the demographics argument was skewed because the stats were skewed. The sheeple, however, continued to insist we were wrong.
One member of the flock, veteran anti-Israel columnist Tom Friedman, wrote about the demographics bomb in 1987, when he said that in 12 years’ time, that bomb would go off and Israel would meet a perilous end. My Israellycool colleague, Brian of London, put it best in his own inimitable way when in a recent blog piece he said, “When I add 12 to 1987 I get, errr, a long time ago.”
Well, you can’t blame old Tom (actually you can) for swallowing whole the myth that the Palestinian population growth is wildly out of control. Like so many other people, including Ira Stup, Director of JStreet U, he bases his argument on inflated Palestinian statistics which were, in some cases, doubled by the Palestinian Authority (PA). Surprise! (Not)
Ira asked to meet with me this past July. He planned on bringing a student tour to Israel and had a proposition for me. He came all the way out to beautiful Efrat to take me out to breakfast in a local café (don’t tell the BDS people—he could. ZOUNDS. Lose his job). Ira wanted to know if I would be interested in offering my settler perspective to groups of students. Did I know other articulate settlers that could take part in this endeavor? Would I be willing to secure a venue and create an ongoing program for this purpose?
Hmmm. Did I really want to take money from JStreet? Feh.
But I promised I would think it over. I threw out a few names and I said I’d be in touch after speaking to some of my contacts.
The conversation then moved on to our world views.
Ira told me about the poor oppressed Arabs he’d met with in Judea and Samaria. Didn’t they deserve a state? They were treated so badly by Israel and the IDF, he said.
I said, “They are lying to you.”
“Oh, no,” he said. “They wouldn’t do that.”
Um. Oh yes they would.
I asked him what he thought his grandfather would say about his work for JStreet. He said, “I think my grandfather would see my work as a natural continuation of his Zionist ethic, making sure that Israel is held to the highest moral standards.”
Cue The Violins
Oh puke vomit. Cue the violins.
Ira asked me, “What will you do when, in a few years’ time, the Palestinian Arabs way outnumber the Jews in the settlements? Will you continue to occupy them? Will you continue to insist this territory be labeled a “Jewish” state?”
“Um, Ira? The whole demographic argument is based on skewed stats provided by the PA. They doubled the numbers. It’s been proven,” said I.
He said, “I don’t believe that. I’d like to see those stats.”
I promised I would email him the links and I did.
I received an out-of-office response. I sent him some more links a few weeks later and he never responded. He never got back to me about the program he wanted me to create, and I knew he never would.
I thought about all this when I watched this video (in Hebrew with English subtitles) of Dr. Guy Bechor citing data culled from both the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS) and the CIA World Factbook:
Dr. Bechor describes a collapse of the Arab birth rate throughout the Middle East and a corresponding rise in the Jewish population in Israel, not only in the Haredi community but in the wider secular population as well. Bechor describes a “magic number” for analyzing demographics of 2.1 children per family and says that any figure lower than this represents a negative growth in population below replacement level. Only Israel has an average birth rate of above 3 children per family, higher than anywhere else in the world!
For Israeli families in which both parents are Israeli-born Sabras, the average birth rate is 3.4 children per family. In Europe, the figures hover at averages of 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 children per family. Bechor cites these low figures as the reason for Europe’s impending collapse because, according to these real, unskewed demographic figures, there will be no future generation of Europeans.
Bechor then talks about the Middle East. According to the CIA website, which carries statistics from 2003, the average Palestinian birth rate in 2003 was over 5. By 2013, however, the average birth rate had dropped to 2.7! In 2003, the average birth rate in Saudi Arabia was over 6. By 2013, it had dropped to an astonishing average of 2.2 children per family.
The panel in the clip goes on to discuss the causes of the dropping Arab (and world) birth rate and mentions higher standards of living and education as known factors in lowering the birth rate. Most Arabs have migrated to large cities. They no longer need such large families and Arab women want to do more than just take care of children.
Dr. Bechor says that California has the lowest birth rate in America with an average of just 1 child per family. When asked why they have so few children, Californians will tell you that they’d rather go to the movies than save up money for raising children. Children are expensive. It’s a matter of self-fulfillment.
The funny thing is, when you ask Israelis why they have so many children, the answer they’ll give you is, “Self-fulfillment.” Dr. Bechor calls this the, “Same reason but the opposite effect.”
I would love to quote Dr. Bechor to Ira Stup, in particular, the part of the clip in which he states that the highest population growth in Israel is in Judea and Samaria (Yesha), in what Ira would call the “West Bank”). The average number of children per family in Yesha is 6 children per family.I’d like to think I played a part in skewing those statistics, but in a truthful way.
I have 12 children. And it’s true what they say about the education factor. I didn’t go to college.
I may be on to something here.