Editorial

This Is How Israel Inflates Its Jewish Majority

Israeli stats bureau's annual population report is a ludicrous piece of propaganda that includes settlers but not all Palestinians under Israeli control

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish boys play soccer in the Israeli settlement of Modi'in Illit in the West Bank, March 27, 2017.
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish boys play soccer in the Israeli settlement of Modi'in Illit in the West Bank, March 27, 2017. AMIR COHEN/REUTERS

Every year before Independence Day, the Central Bureau of Statistics releases a festive report starting with Israel’s population figures and moving on to various demographic and economic metrics showing the state’s development and achievements. This year the bureau counted 8.68 million people in Israel, 74.7 percent of them Jewish, 20.8 percent Arab and the rest “other” (mainly non-Arab Christians). This is the numerical manifestation of Zionism’s success in establishing a state with a solid Jewish majority, appearing in an official publication of an authorized professional agency.

But the Central Bureau of Statistics’ announcement is misleading and includes many imprecisions and manipulations that turn it from a dry statistical report into a ludicrous piece of propaganda. Let’s begin with Israel’s number of inhabitants.

The bureau counts the Jews in all areas under its control from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. But it counts only the Arabs living within the pre-1967 border, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are left out. Thus Jewish settlers in Hebron are “residents of Israel” and included in the count, while their Palestinian neighbors are not.

The problem isn’t that the bureau doesn’t know how many Palestinians are living in the territories. Israel controls the Palestinian Authority population registry in the West Bank and even that of the Gaza Strip. Every birth, trip, marriage, divorce or death of Palestinians in the territories is reported to the Israeli authorities. Full figures can be published for the population under direct and indirect control of Israel, a population that pays with the same shekels and is connected to the same infrastructure. But then the Jewish majority would shrink amazingly, raining on the Independence Day parade.

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The artifice grows when the Central Bureau of Statistics describes the area of the 69-year-old state. The map in the official announcement shows Israel with the Golan Heights, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, without internal borders such as the pre-1967 border, the Oslo Accord lines or the Gaza disengagement lines – the whole Eretz Yisrael. But the area of the state as cited by the report – 22,072 square kilometers – doesn’t include the West Bank and Gaza.

A map included in the CBS' booklet on Israel's demographics. Note borders include West Bank, Golan Heights and Gaza Strip

So are these areas part of Israel or aren’t they? Are the settlers included in the national statistics and the land of the settlements isn’t? Do the settlers live in the air?

This distortion of figures isn’t a new trick. The Central Bureau of Statistics has included the settlers among Israel’s residents since 1972, when Golda Meir was prime minister. To this day, all government statisticians have been part of the deceptive counting of Jews and Arabs differently, even though the law requires them to act “according to scientific considerations.”

The bureau’s current head, Prof. Danny Pfeffermann, received an honor last year: His title was upgraded to “national statistician.” It’s a pity that like his predecessors, he has lent his professional prestige to a government PR effort designed to show a large Jewish majority and erase the Palestinians from our consciousness, ostensibly in the name of science.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.