The Demographic Doom Bomb (DDB) threat is dropping once again. The DDB was first dropped on David Ben-Gurion, back before the rebirth of the Jewish state. Ben-Gurion was told then that Jews will become a minority in their own land in the not-too-distant future.
Today, everyone who will listen – and too many are listening – is told that soon Jews will be a minority in their own land, and that is true with a vengeance if the disputed territories are annexed.
But the people lobbing the DDB are relying on population numbers from the Palestinian Arab census bureau. That center makes several (intentional or otherwise) errors: it undercounts Arab deaths, it over counts Arab births, it double-counts Arabs, it fails to count altogether Arab emigration and it counts Palestinian Arabs living abroad.
At the same time, that census bureau undercounts the rocketing Jewish birthrate and the ever-continuing and increasing rate of Aliyah. And upon what do the Israeli Jewish demographers rely for their predictions? Why, the Palestinian Arab numbers, of course.
In 1944, an Italian demographer, Roberto Bacchi, informed Ben-Gurion that the Jewish state would be a non-starter. Bacchi warned Ben-Gurion against the undertaking because the 600,000 Jews ready to pioneer was not a sufficient critical mass.
By the 1960’s, according to Bacchi, the Jews will be a minority in the state. In his best case scenario – about which Bacchi was not sanguine – by 2001 there would only be 2.3 million Jews in Israel.
Well, Bacchi was wrong then and so are his demographic theory heirs, Sergio DellaPergola of Hebrew University and Arnon Sofer, of Haifa University. Those two continue the doom and gloom prognostications, even though it’s consistently been proven wrong by reality. But the predictions have taken root and multiplied, more rapidly than have the non-Israeli and Israeli Arabs in their predictions.
The reason this is relevant today, in 2015, is that the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics just released a new report. It contains projections based on 2014 data. These data, like Bacchi’s information, are wielded as kryptonite to subdue any thoughts about Jewish sovereignty in parts of the Middle East. Back in the ’40’s it was used to deter any thoughts of a Jewish state in the region at all. Now it is being used to forestall talk of annexing territory beyond the Apartheid Green Line, beyond which all foes and even some friends demand no Jew should live.
After reading one article in particular which continued the tradition of treating the truth as false and the flawed as truth, The Jewish Press sought some answers.
In a wide-ranging interview, former Ambassador and ardent iconoclast Yoram Ettinger of the American-Israel Demographic Research Group once again patiently shared why the “official” Israeli numbers are so skewed, and what that means for everyone’s understanding of the DDB. Ettinger was skewered in some articles by Bacchi’s disciples. But that’s okay with Ettinger, so long as he’s allowed to respond.
Bacchi’s disciples, according to Ettinger, get their numbers wrong primarily for the same reasons he did: they failed to comprehend the enduring lure of Aliyah, and they failed to understand fertility reality both for Jews who make Israel their home and the same for Israeli Arabs.
They all vastly underestimate the will of Jews to make Aliyah to a hostile, largely inhospitable region. But Ben-Gurion and his peers built it, and boy did Jews come. And they are still coming. They are coming in numbers Bacchi could never imagine, and they keep coming despite DellaPergola and Sofer’s refusal to acknowledge that reality.
The other reason their numbers are off the mark is that, despite their insistence to the contrary, the birthrate for Israelis is not consistent (as in downward spiraling) with the rest of the West, while the birthrate for Arab Israelis and those living more western-style lives is.Lori Lowenthal Marcus