JERUSALEM, Israel - For the past generation, Israel has found itself engaged in post-modern warfare. Whereas Arab armies have proved themselves in five wars to be no match for the Israeli Defense Force on the battlefield, since Israeli forces withdrew from most of Lebanon twenty years ago, enemies of the Jewish state have found that the most effective means of fighting it is on the post-modern battlefield.
The most conspicuous component of the post-modern battlefield is terrorism. Terrorist foot soldiers of the post-modern army sow fear and revulsion in the heart of the target population in order to induce a sense of helplessness. In the face of photographs of the charred remains of babies being pulled from bombed-out cafes and buses, the mighty Israeli army suddenly seems small and impotent.
While terrorism is the outward face of the post-modern aggressor, social psychology is perhaps his greatest weapon. If the target population can be manipulated to view itself as the aggressor, if it can be brought to view its position as untenable, then it will sue for peace and surrender. So it was that Kadoura Fares, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and one of the heads of Fatah who signed far left-wing Israeli politician Yossi Beilin's capitulationist Geneva Accords in October 2003, said in an interview with the pan-Arab London-based newspaper Al-Hayat that month that the Palestinian aim in signing the accords was to "foment a piercing public and political debate in Israel."
While Hamas has placed its emphasis mainly on the terrorist aspect of the post-modern battlefield, the PLO has placed an equal emphasis on the psychological component of the war. In fact, it could be said in retrospect that the greatest single victory the PLO has scored in its 46-year-old war with Israel was the publication of a single report in 1997. That report, "Demographic Indicators of the Palestinian Territory, 1997-2015," is based on a census carried out by the PA's Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) in 1997. It projects that the Arab population west of the Jordan River will by 2015 outnumber the Jewish population.
These numbers were immediately adopted by such prominent Israeli demographers as the University of Haifa's Arnon Soffer and the Hebrew University's Sergio Della Pergola, who have both warned that by 2020 Jews will make up between 40 and 46 percent of the overall population of Israel and the territories. The Palestinian projections, which place the Arab population of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip at 3.83 million and the Israeli Arab population at 1.33 million for a total of 5.16 million Arabs west of the Jordan River, put Israel with its 5.24 million Jews at the precipice of demographic parity with the Arabs.
Largely in reaction to these statistics, which were bandied about by everyone from politicians to diplomats to defense officials, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided a year ago to adopt the left wing Labor Party's campaign platform and withdraw the IDF from Gaza and the northern West Bank and forcibly remove the Jews living in those areas from their homes. In his interview with Israel's largest circulation daily Yediot Aharonot in December 2003, which was the curtain raiser for Sharon's announcement of his policy shift later that month, Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: "Above all hovers the cloud of demographics. It will come down on us not in the end of days, but in just another few years. We are approaching a point where more and more Palestinians will say: 'There is no place for two states between the Jordan and the sea. All we want is the right to vote.' The day they get it we will lose everything."
BUT WHAT if the numbers are wrong? What if the doomsday scenarios Israelis hear on a daily basis, arguing that Israel is about to be overrun by the Arab womb, are all based on fraudulent data ? part of an ingenious Palestinian plan to psychologically manipulate Israel into capitulating?
This week a team of American and Israeli researchers presented a study of the Palestinian population statistics at the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation in Washington. The team, led by American businessman Bennett Zimmerman and Israeli strategic consultant Yoram Ettinger, compared the PCBS data to birth and death records published annually by the PA's Health Ministry; to immigration and emigration data from Israel's Border Police at the international crossing points into the Palestinian Authority and at Ben-Gurion Airport, and to internal migration records of Palestinians from the territories into Israel recorded by the Israeli Interior Ministry.
The researchers also compared Palestinian population data from the PCBS to voting records compiled by the Palestinian Central Elections Commission before the 1996 Palestinian elections and this week's Palestinian elections, as well as to the Israeli Civil Administration's population survey of Palestinians carried out in the 1990s before the transfer of authority over Palestinian population records to the PA.
The PCBS forecast was further compared to Palestinian population surveys carried out by UNRWA and the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS) in the mid-1990s, and to World Bank Palestinian population studies. All of the team's comparative analyses led to the conclusion that the Palestinian population forecasts upon which Israel is basing its current policy of withdrawal and uprooting of Israeli communities in the territories are faulty in the extreme.
The PCBS count includes the 230,000 Arab residents of Jerusalem. Yet these Arabs are already counted by the ICBS as part of Israel's population, which means that they are counted twice.
The PCBS numbers also project Palestinian natural growth as 4 to 5 percent per year - among the highest in the world and significantly higher than the natural population growth of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Yet Palestinian Ministry of Health records published annually since 1996 show that Palestinian natural growth rates in the West Bank and Gaza average around 3 percent. In 2002, the Palestinian Ministry of Health retroactively raised its numbers but even the doctored figures never extended beyond 3.7 percent. The original data show a steady pattern of decrease in natural growth leading to a natural growth rate in 2003 of just 2.6 percent.
Indeed, the total fertility rate of Palestinian women has been trending downward in recent years. Palestinian women in the West Bank averaged 4.1 children in 1999 and 3.4 in 2003. Palestinian women in Gaza averaged 5 children each in 1999 and 4.7 in 2003. The multi-year average of Israel's compound growth rate from 1990-2004 is 2.5 percent. And even as Israel's growth rate went down to 1.7 percent between 2000 and 2004, a similar decline occurred among Palestinians in Gaza, where growth decreased from 3.9 percent to 3.0 percent, and Palestinians in the West Bank, where growth declined from 2.7 percent to 1.8 percent.
The PCBS also projected a net population increase of 1.5 percent per year as a result of immigration from abroad. But the study's authors found that except for 1994, when the bulk of the Palestinian leadership and their families entered the areas from abroad, emigration from the Palestinian areas has outstripped immigration every year.
Aside from this, the PCBS numbers include some 200,000 Palestinians who live abroad. This fact was corroborated by an October 14 press release by the Palestinian Central Elections Commission which stated that "200,000 eligible voters are living abroad." The number of Palestinians living abroad constitutes 13 percent of the Palestinians counted in 1997 and forms the basis of the projections of that population's growth in spite of the fact that they don't live in the territories.
The report also shows that while the Israeli Interior Ministry announced in November 2003 that in the preceding decade some 150,000 residents of the Palestinian Authority had legally moved to Israel (including Jerusalem), these 150,000 residents remain on the Palestinian population rolls. Parenthetically, this internal migration is largely responsible for the anomalous 3.1 percent annual growth in the Israeli Arab population. Absent this internal migration, the Israeli Arab natural growth rate is 2.1% ? that is, below the Israeli Jewish growth rate.
The study presents three separate scenarios for calculating the actual Palestinian population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Its authors prove that the first scenario, based on the PCBS numbers, minus the double counted Jerusalem Arabs and minus the internal migrations, is not statistically plausible. Yet even this scenario places the Palestinian population at 3.06 million, or 770,000 less than the number that currently informs Israeli decision makers.
The average of the last two scenarios, which corrected for the Palestinians living abroad and were based on base populations comprised of ICBS Palestinian population survey projections from the 1990s and Palestinian voting records in 1996 and 2004, brought the final projected number of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank to 2.42 million ? nearly a third less than the 3.83 million figure currently being used.
The study, which has been accepted by prominent American demographers Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt and Murray Feshbach, shows that contrary to common wisdom, the Jewish majority west of the Jordan River has remained stable since 1967. In 1967 Jews made up 64.1 percent of the overall population and in 2004 they made up 59.5 percent. Inside Israel proper, including Jerusalem, Jews make up 80 percent of the population.
While reading the report, the inescapable sense is that something has gone very wrong within Israeli society. The numbers are so clear. The data have always been readily available. And yet, like bats attracted to the darkness of a cave, Israelis preferred the manipulative lies of the PA to the truth.
The entire 117-page report can be accessed on-line at www.pademographics.com. Given that it shows that the Israeli government's current policies are based in large part on an uncritical acceptance of fraudulent data whose purpose was to demoralize Israeli society into capitulating to its post-modern foe, hopefully Olmert and Sharon will take a look at it.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post where this column first appeared.