The “demographic” argument for unilateral withdrawal from Yehuda, Shomron and Gaza (Yesha), and even some Israeli Arab towns as well is basically this: the Arab population is increasing rapidly; sooner or later they will outnumber the Jews: it’s a ‘time-bomb’ that can and must be defused. In order to preserve both the democratic and Zionist-Jewish character of the State of Israel and retain a large majority of Jews, Israel should give up land, create a Palestinian state and divest itself (as much as possible) of and separate from Arab populations.

Proponents of this theory hope that eventually the Arabs will accept Israel’s presence, albeit temporarily, even though terrorism and incitement will no doubt continue. Israel will have relative safety and security, however, behind a protective fence, a Jewish majority under Israeli sovereignty and a consensus that will unify the country in common purpose.

This argument, however, is based only on a prediction; there is (of course) no way of knowing what really will happen. Moreover, withdrawal from Yesha does not deal with the “demographic threat” from Israeli Arab and Bedouin populations in the Galilee and Negev. As a basis for the policy decision that will result in a terrorist-based Palestinian state, therefore, it is weak and ultimately self-destructive.


What makes this argument so pernicious is its fundamental fallacy: it ignores Israel’s vulnerability, surrounded by hostile countries and under constant threat from Palestinian terrorists. Israel’s withdrawal from Yesha means the loss of a valuable strategic asset: its ability to pre-empt terrorist attacks and control access to their resources.

Those who argue that it is immoral to occupy another people and suppress their national aspirations fail to understand that in principle this form of liberal egalitarianism sounds nice; in the context of terrorism it is lethal.

If a distinct group of people seeks a separate national and political identity and is ready and willing to live in peace, to accept the responsibilities and obligations that attend statehood, that is legitimate. Terrorism precludes that option.

If “occupation” prevents Palestinian terrorists from achieving statehood and ensures Israel’s survival, then occupation is a necessity, regardless of its moral implications. Violation of civil rights, including the use of violence, for example, is not only permitted but required when a terrorist in custody has information that will save lives. The primary obligation of a state is to protect its citizens. 

The “demographic” argument, moreover, runs counter to Jewish history. 

Had Joshua listened to a “demographic” argument the Jewish people would never have entered and conquered Eretz Yisrael. Moses Montefiore, the Rothschilds and religious Zionists who helped build Eretz Yisrael in the 19th century were probably told by ‘demographers’ that they were wasting their time and money. “Palestine,” of course, did not exist then; the yishuv did and always has.

Jewish pioneers who came to rebuild a Jewish homeland in the early 20th century didn’t have “demographics” on their side either. Nor did those who survived Arab pogroms during the 1920’s and 30’s and the Arab war of extermination in 1948, who fought for and established the State of Israel. 

From the “demographic” point of view Jewish history would never have happened. That’s because “demographics” only tells you what is and projects what might be – not what will be. The alternative is a vision and commitment to the right of the Jewish people to Eretz Yisrael.


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Moshe Dann is a Ph.D. historian, writer, and journalist living in Jerusalem. His book of short stories,“As Far As the Eye Can See,” was published by the New English Review Press in 2015.