Experts debunk Palestinian census claim of Arab population parity with Jews

Experts claim that the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics released “heavily inflated” population figures for ‘West Bank,’ Gaza and eastern Jerusalem.

By Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), the number of Palestinians living in the” territories” has grown from 2,895,683 in 1997 to 4,780.978 in 2017.

The numbers officially released by the PCBS on Wednesday indicate a near parity in the population of Jews and Arabs between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. But a leader of a respected research group that has conducted extensive demographic studies in the region says that the Palestinian numbers are inaccurate and heavily inflated.

The PCBS claims there are about 2,450,000 Palestinians in the “West Bank” (Judea and Samaria), 1,900,000 in the Gaza Strip, and 435,000 in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Nearly two million of the residents are identified as “Palestinian refugees.”

Earlier this week, Uri Mendes, the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT ), presented an early release of the Palestinian findings to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, setting off a heated discussion in which opposition Members of Knesset pointed out that if the statistics are accurate and if the number of Israeli Arabs is added to the Palestinians, the Arab population in the Land of Israel will have reached about 6.5 million, which nearly equals the number of Jews.

MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) quoted the figures to make the point that there are implications of demographic parity. “If we do not wake up from the delusions of “annexation,” we will lose the Jewish majority. It’s simple,” she said.

Moti Yogev, a lawmaker from the coalition’s Jewish Home party, accused Mendes of relying on highly inflated Palestinian figures and suggested that he return to the committee with “more reliable studies.”

The most comprehensive independent study of Palestinian population trends was conducted in 2005 by the ABC Demographic Project, an Israeli-American group led by Michael Wise and Yoram Ettinger. Their findings indicate that Jews remain a sizable majority in the Land of Israel and that this majority is holding steady. Ettinger told World Israel News (WIN), “The Palestinian numbers are mistaken and misleading. Our well-documented data is much more reliable than the Palestinian propaganda numbers that are meant to scare Israelis. It’s been documented by the World Bank that the Palestinians have artificially inflated its number of births by about a third.”

“The ‘demographic time bomb’ concept accords mythical standards to Arab fertility, while assigning European standards to Jewish fertility. They ignore the Westernization of Arab fertility and the surging secular Jewish fertility, while significantly underestimating Jewish immigration (Aliyah) to Israel, which has been steady and continuous since 1882,” said Ettinger.

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‘It doesn’t really matter in the long run’

What is the correct number of Palestinians in the territories? According to Ettinger, “In 2018, in Israel, there are 7 million Jews along with 130,000 Druze, 130,000 Christian Arabs and 1.6 million Muslims. There are no more than 1.85 million Arabs living in Judea and Samaria. That means there is a 65.5% Jewish majority in the combined area of Judea, Samaria and pre-1967 Israel. The concept that Israel is ostensibly facing a demographic time bomb is either dramatically mistaken or outrageously misleading.”

Dr. Martin Sherman, head of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, told WIN, “The demography figures of Ettinger are more persuasive than those of the PCBS. But it doesn’t really matter in the long run. If we annex the territories with all of its Arab population, we will not have a cohesive society. The Muslim population is drenched in vile Jewish hatred and Israel could become like Lebanon. There must be incentivized initiatives for the Muslim population to leave and disincentives to remain. The two-state solution is a recipe for another Gaza in the West Bank. This would be a mortal danger to the Zionist enterprise.”

Dan Diker of the Jerusalem Center for Policy Studies agrees that the PCBS numbers are inflated. “There has been a major debate questioning the validity of Palestinian population numbers,” he told WIN. “They tend to double count those who live abroad and neglect removing those who have died. The ABC Demographic Project is more reliable.”

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‘Plenty of other viable alternatives’

According to Diker, there is no demographic problem because Israel has no intention of ruling over a vast majority of the Palestinians. He explained, “There is no demographic problem because Israel conceded the seven major Palestinian cities in the West Bank, the PA administers the vast majority of the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria, and nobody in Israel is talking about annexing those areas. Gaza is also out of the equation because it’s been administered by the Palestinians, and not Israel, since 2005.”

“Political interests use the false demographic claim as a scare tactic to prop up a dangerous proposition of a two state solution,” Diker said. There are plenty of other viable alternatives, and in none of them does Israel administer the entire the majority of the Palestinian population between the [Jordan] river and the [Mediterranean] sea.