A Demographic Threat on the Wane

The number of Jews and Arabs living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean is close to parity.

The publication of the census results by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, which found that the population in the occupied territories has reached approximately 3.8 million people, was not widely discussed among the Israeli media - although the data (along with other figures published earlier this year by the Central Bureau of Statistics in Israel) shows that the number of Jews and Arabs living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean is close to parity. If we subtract the 200,000 East Jerusalem residents, who were counted twice, the number of Jews stands at about 5.4 million and the number of Arabs - both Israeli citizens and those living in the territories - at approximately 5.2 million.

These figures indicate that the "demographic revolution" - the Arabs becoming the majority in the area west of the Jordan River - will happen in a year or two. Such a dramatic development cries for a comment by those politicians and analysts who continuously nourish the idea of a "demographic threat," which they believe threatens the existence of the Jewish Zionist state.

According to their view, a non-Jewish majority automatically turns the Jewish community into a minority in its homeland. Therefore, statistics play a central role in all plans that aim to "erase" the Arabs from the demographic equation - starting from the "disengagement" to the "convergence" to the "removal" of Arab towns in the Triangle region and neighborhoods on the edge of East Jerusalem. The pullout from the Gaza Strip improved the demographic balance: 1.5 million Palestinians were removed from the count.

That is why it is so important to sever the Gaza Strip from Israel and link it to Egypt - all in order to bolster the illusion that Gaza is not part of the Jewish-Palestinian equation.

Right-wing groups in Israel, who want to rid themselves of the demographic justification for evacuating the Palestinian territories, are making a supreme effort to undermine the credibility of the Palestinian data. Indeed, the Palestinians themselves are contributing to this by declaring that the fact that a census was held constitutes an "expression of Palestinian sovereignty."

There is also a certain degree of doubt about the data's reliability, because the census results are suspiciously similar to the prognoses published by the Palestinians in 2004.

Statistical tables have lost their factual scientific significance and become another tool in the struggle for legitimacy and public opinion. The significance of demographic data as a means for rallying political support is also on the wane. The "demographic threat" - the battle cry in the war of womb versus womb - is increasingly losing ground as its realization draws closer. This comes as no surprise since the phrase has always been a rhetorical slogan aimed at the future, not at a real situation that should be dealt with in concrete terms.

In any case, an efficient way to defeat demography already has been found: break down Palestinian communities into smaller groups, which will make it easier for the dominant Jewish community to deal with them. Only the statisticians and geographers - and the politicians on the sidelines of the left and the right - will continue to refer to the Palestinians as a monolithic group. The rest will deal separately with 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip, 2.3 million residents of the West Bank, and 1.2 million Israeli Arabs, as if they were different peoples, and not part of one, single, threatening, mass.

Surprisingly, the Palestinians themselves accept this demographic breakdown and are contributing to the illusion that the demographic threat has passed. As for the 11 million people living in this land, whose lives as Jews and Arabs are defined by their demographic division - they continue to pray for a miracle.