I have done this population study eight years ago, but because it is relevant now to the Palestinian’s quest for a state, it is important to understand their population number and trend.
Recently, I was reading research about Palestinian population distribution, and since I have studied population growth the numbers raised a flag in my mind. The numbers seems to conflict with the numbers I usually see in the media, including the CIA website, and some statistical books too.
In the last few years a lot of concerns were expressed that the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza is growing at a very high rate and in the near future will overtake the Jewish population of Israel of 5 million. The former prime minister, Ehud Barak, was so concerned about the growth that he even offered the Palestinans part of Eastern Jerusalem because it is mostly populated with Arabs. He also offered to compensate the areas taken by the "settlements" with land in the Israeli Galil populated by Israeli Arabs to reduce the Arab population in Israel. Barak wanted them be part of the new Palestinian state. Therefore, the actual number of Palestinian is an important factor in the peace process.
As I looked into statistics of world population growth I noticed that nation after nation has a considerably lower population growth rate then the one claimed by the Palestinians. Then I concentrated on the Arab Middle East and, again, the Palestinians claim of the very high rate of 4% per year is higher than almost all other Arab countries. High population growth is usually associated with high infant mortality, low education, and women subservience. All these factors are not experienced by the Palestinians. Under Israeli administration Palestinian infant mortality was reduced significantly. In addition, the Palestinians education level is much higher than most Arab countries, and Palestinian women have higher education and more freedom than most Arab women.
All of these factors challenged me to look further into their growth statistics.
Let me summarize what I found:
1. Arab [Muslim] countries growth rate:
Syria: 2.6%, a poor country, with life style and culture quiet similar to the Palestinians.
Egypt: 1.9%, a poor country, similar to the lifestyles and culture to the Palestinians
Saudi Arabia: 3.4%, one of the richest countries in the area. Understandably a high growth rate since almost all social services have been paid by the government for decades. Also, Saudi import a large number of foreign workers.
Sudan: 2.1%, with 65% of the population Muslims.
Israeli Arabs: 2.7%, they have a stable life and a much higher standard of living than the Palestinians. Also, many Palestinians have entered Israel both legally [to unite families] and illegally, to become Israeli Arabs to better their standard of living and find security. The number of LEGAL Arab immigration I saw was over 100,000.
2. Palestinian Statistical info *:
Western area: 1967 population 586 thousands; 1986 - 965 thousands, including Arabs in East Jerusalem
Gaza: 1967 population 351 thousands; 1986 - 542 thousands.
Total: 1967 - 937 thousands; 1986 - 1.507 million
Under Israeli control, when data collection was realistic, rate of growth for those twenty years: 2.4%.
I do not see any significant reason why this 2.4% rate would have drastically increased during the period 1987 to the year 2000. Contrary, during the last three years of Palestinian - initiated fighting I would expect that the growth rate would go down due to the considerable disturbance to the population, plus the emigration of many of them to safety, especially Arab Christians that have been discriminated continuously by the Muslim majority. Therefore I used the rate of 2.4%, and the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza would have grown from 1.507 millions to currently 2.25 million. This is a far lower than the 3.5 million usually stated by the Palestinans. The Palestinians are claiming an additional 1.25 million! Essentially inflating their number by 50%.
How is it possible that such a large difference exists? Several significant factors may be involved:
1. From the Arab initiated 1948 war, to date, many Palestinians have been sustained by the United Nation relief organization – UNRWA. Families are paid according to the number of people in the family. Being poor, most families do not report deaths. They also report more births than took place to expand their meager support from the "Rich Western Countries". (The US donates 60% of the funds.) Since local Palestinians supervise these funds they are not inclined to report this distortion of population.
2. I have personally read several edicts by Arab religious leaders that not only permit fabricating facts but say that it is commendable to do so, to help achieve the ultimate goal of defeating the enemy.
3. Professional observer of the Middle East wrote: "Egyptian statisticians, like Egyptian journalists, often seem to make up in imagination what they lack in hard data collection." Raymond Stock, Univ. of Pennsylvania, Middle East Quarterly vol. X-4. I am sure this applies to many other Arab nations.
4. The Muslim leadership in the US funded two Muslim population studies several years ago. I have read that one of them came much lower than they wanted and they fired the individual who did the study and selected another set of results. I believe that their goal was to show that there are more Muslims in the US then Jews, and it is interesting that the number came to six million Muslims, just enough above the about 5 million Jews computed.
The number of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is likely to be even lower than the 2.25 million indicated above because many Christians Arabs left the Palestinians areas due to severe discrimination by Muslim Arabs. Also, many wealthy Arabs have left the area in the last three years because of the instability there. In addition, a large number of Palestinians moved to Jordan, the only Arab country who allowed them citizenship. In fact some 60% of the 6.8 million Jordanians have been Palestinians or are their descendents. More Palestinians still want to live in Jordan, but can not. Palestinians who want to pass through Jordan must deposit a very high, refundable, fee until they leave Jordan
In addition, hundred of thousands Palestinians left the areas to work in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other countries with higher wages.
It is questionable if many of the Palestinians who are now living out of the area will want to live in the West Bank or Gaza after the arrival of peace. Even during the "peaceful" years of the Oslo Accord when the Palestinians governed 96% of their own population, corruption and lawlessness have been rampant, the economy was poor, the area small and without many opportunities.
Conclusion: It is likely that the Palestinians have had a similar growth rate** to that of Israel: around 2.4%. Therefore, the number of Palestinans in the West Bank and Gaza is considerably lower than they claim. It is likely to be now around two million total.
* Iyunim Bitkumat Israel, Ben-Gurion Research Center, 1999, Vol 9, p.195
** Note, Palestinian growth rate includes their birth rate, minus death rate, minus emigration, the Israeli growth is due to birth rate, less death rate but plus immigration.
Naturally we want every human being across the world to have the freedom, economic wellbeing and rule of law we are having, but our desire for quick solutions drives us to the wrong conclusions, over and over again. We feel more comfortable matching our desires and expectations with our philosophy of life. How great it is to expect the backward, brutal, extremist, poor Arab/Muslim people to fight dictators and regain their rights for individual freedom and democracy. What a magical dream, based on wishful thinking.
It took hundreds of years for Europe to move from a similar oppressive states to todays more evenly representative governance and we hope the Arabs can do it in a year or two?
Would it not be marvelous that our way of life suddenly emerges as the innermost desire of the mostly religiously constrained, poor, low education, easily influenced Muslims of the Middle East?.
Not so fast, this is NOT the essential driving force, it is not the way their world operates.
The forces that we think drive them to liberate themselves from oppressive dictators are mostly economic deprivation, and their essential need to survive in a very difficult, inhospitable region.
Certainly Egyptians want freedom from police-state oppression. But, if they want personal freedom and Democracy how is it possible that the great majority voted for the Muslim Brotherhood and the more oppressive Salafists? The Muslim Brotherhood, a strongly driven religious organization just won nearly half the election seats. The Salafists, a considerably more fanatic Muslim sect won another quarter of the votes! These groups want to institute oppressive religious Sharia laws that rob people of personal freedom and most other freedoms we in the West cherish so much and are the foundation of a viable Democracy.
Half the Egyptian population lives in rural areas on less than $2 a day!. How can they? By being hungry, growing some of their own meager food, and by extracting a life out of any minor opportunity they can find. Before WWII Egypt had 25 million people, now it is 82 million on the same limited amount of arable land. Most of the country is desert, irrigated ONLY by the Nile River. Egypt does not have rain- period.
Half the 82 million people are below 20 year old, eager for a better life and ready to have families. But they do not see a viable future. Although Mubarak succeeded reducing the wide-open birth rate to the current desire of 3 children per mother, the shear number of young people will drive the population much higher with no natural resources in the land and no ingrained, driven entrepreneurial drive.. Religious Muslims have the fatalistic belief, “Insha’Allah”: God will provide.
The global food crisis is aggravated by US self-serving politics. When US big agriculture businesses like Conagra, and Cargill, convinced Congress to replace 10% or more of our gasoline with corn-ethanol, (a worse global warming fuel than gasoline) the global price of corn jumped up across the world. The US is the largest global supplier of corn, and many food products use corn, from cow feed to soda sweeteners.
That jump in global food cost drove poverty stricken Egyptians, Tunisians, Syrians, and Yemenites to the edge: not enough money to feed their growing families from their limited income. Add to that the impact of Global Warming: higher temperatures, less rains, more deserts, then the long simmering fear and the rage rose to the surface.
The young “intellectuals” in Cairo’s Tahiri Square we so admired, that drove Mubarak out of office, were a vocal minority, but they did not represent the majority of 82 million Egyptians. However, they visibility touched Western attention, as if their desire for freedom is the key drive against the oppressing Arab dictators. Strangely, in the last five years Mubarak did a lot to improve the Egyptian economy, a growth of a respectable 5% per year, but it was not enough and it was not lifting the poorest of the rural poor out of their misery. Now the Egyptian economy is in tatters, no tourism, and little international business.
Here is another key force we forget: the British conquest of the Middle East a century ago. This is one of many examples how ignorant, self-serving Western imperialistic nations, from England, France, Belgium to Italy, murdered and ruined the life of millions, especially in Africa (Rwanda massacre), without an once of regard to the local population. They divided their conquests to fit their own need, not according to the natural, local division of religion, or tribal alliances.
For hundreds of years the Middle East was part of the brutal Ottoman Empire (Turkey, who now is eager to reassert its influence in the Arab world, is not so eagerly accepted). Before and during WWI the Turks killed maybe a half a million Armenians and a quarter million Greeks.
During the long Ottoman rule the Middle East was a primitive, scarcely populated region, subjected to brut force feudalism both from the Ottoman rulers and the local village leaders. Most Arabs were almost slaves to the regional Pashas, and local village Muchtars, and had to cultivate a small parcel of land from daylight to night to sustain their large families. We can not grasp today the misery of the region during the Turkish oppression. The Turks do not consider themselves Arabs. As far as the Turks and the Iranians are concerned, Arabs are the lowest people.
The British conquest of the area during WWI let the British and French divide the Middle East to zones of influence to be controlled and drained, not lead them to independence, as promised during the 1922 Peace conferences in Europe. The British gave the French, (who did not participate in General Allenby’s conquest of the region), Syria and Lebanon. England took all the rest: Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine. The Western rulers thought only of themselves despite the ruse that they are preparing the area for independent nations. They divided the region to states not according to natural borders, to ethnic, to tribal alliances, or according to religious divisions, such as Sunni, or Shiite.
Take Israel for example:
The 1917 Lord Balfur declaration establishing a Jewish state on the two sides of the Jordan was negated by Churchill in 1920 by giving to the irrelevant Hashemite tribal leader “King Abdullah” the Eastern side of the Jordan, some 75% of the Promised Land. Then by placing Sir Herbert Samuel, a Jewish High Commissioner to Palestine, (the 25% remaining Western side of the Jordan), the British gave the impression that their administration would be pro Jewish and help create a future Jewish state as the League of Nation Mandate had directed. Sir Samuel was a British first, and Jewish last. As the Arabs started some minor attacks on Jews in the early 1920s, instead of protecting the Jews he gave in to Arab terrorism (indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians.) Eager to prove his impartiality, Lord Samuel mollified the Arabs by restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine in the White Paper of 1922.
That restriction set a pattern of restrictions on Jewish immigration that caused a heavier blow to Judaism than any of the numerous brutal mass murders/pogroms over the centuries.
Why? Because it amplified the Holocaust and prevented Israel from achieving full sovereignty of the total east side of the Jordan. The numerous British restrictions of Jewish immigration allowed the Nazis to exterminate six million Jews, many of whom could have immigrated to Israel- the only place in the world partially available to them then. The US had closed its gates to Jewish immigration years earlier, and no other nation was willing to accept Jewish refugees. The Nazis originally wanted to drive the Jews out of their own country and then later from their conquered regions. The Nazis did not methodically plan to exterminate the Jews until the early 1940’s, more than a decade later, and two decades after the first British restriction on Jewish immigration to Israel. A few attempts by wealthy Jews to escape by boats to the Western hemisphere where stopped by the US FDR Administration, while the British did the same in Israel.
British diplomats that served in Palestine admitted later in a documentary that I have seen, that their goal was always to strengthen British rule over the two sides of the Jordan to propagate the British Empire control of the Middle East.. And never to fulfill the Mandate they asked for. A typical British duplicity.
If large number of European Jews could have come to Israel before the maelstrom in Europe was ignited with WWII, as some wise German Jews I have known did, Israeli Jews would have been a huge majority on the West side of the Jordan, (previously called Palestine,) and the Muslim population an insignificant minority. Israel would have been a full state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. That could have benefited the total Middle East. The Arab leaders would NOT have focused on destroying Israel and saved hundreds of billion dollars they spent on wars. With a strong, full size Jewish state, the Arab nations would not have been so eager to attack Israel and the face of the region could have been different. The Jewish Scapegoat Arab rulers used to distract their suffering population from focusing internally would have not worked so well. The immense amount of national wealth the Arab nations paid the USSR for weapons over many decades could have been used for internal economic growth and maybe, just maybe, the ME region could have advanced toward more enlighten governance
But, naturally, the French and the British thought only of their own desires. They believed that they were superior to “the natives”. Even the Jews, who were well educated, liberal and cooperated with the British authorities, were considered inferior natives to be controlled and suppressed. I faced this superior attitude as I encountered British officers and their prison system several times. Their “superiority” allowed me to outsmart them, be released from prison, and regained my security clearance despite a large amount of evidence against me, a Jewish Lechi freedom fighter. That superior attitude allowed the British to crush the Arab revolt of 1936-39 using brutality that the Nazis used against their enemies.
The key to grasp is that the self- interest of the French and British divided the region not according to the natural, centuries- old local systems of tribal and religious groupings that could have led to peaceful coexistence, but imposed the Divide and Rule approach to control the “natives.” From the beginning these European rulers drove minorities to rule over the majorities in Iraq and Syria, necessitating dictatorial, autocratic rulers to control the majority of the powerless, hostile population .
For the last few years, after the fall of Sadam Husain for example, we have seen the result of this superior European interference with the natural cultural and religious division of the population, some quarter of a million innocent Iraqi civilians were murdered by sectarian Muslim infighting after 2003, having little to do with our own military actions there. This developed because the Sunni minority in Iraq controlled the Shiite majority, and the Kurdish minority.
So, the main forces driving the movements to eliminate the Syrian, Egyptian and other Muslim dictators are the combination of: hatred of oppressive police states, over population, a worsening global climate that causes less rains, expands arid lands, less arable lands with lower food per person, and increase global food prices partially due to increasing demands by China and India.
The Middle East is impacted by the global economy and by a worsening global climate even more than other regions since it is a very arid region heavily dependent on diminishing water resources, on external food supplies, and the global supply and demand of oil. The financial resources also are distributed very unevenly between poor, large, population and oil income states. The oil-rich Arab nations will not give the needed massive support to the poorer Arab nations, in part because their own oil resources have already started to decline
What will happen in the near future in the Middle East is more instability since the basic problems can not be solved in the near future. The large oil wealth in the ME is not a possible solution in part because the Arabs are first and foremost family oriented, then tribally, then locally, than nationally oriented, not religiously or “Arab” oriented..
1. President Truman’s trusted Stalin…
During the crucial Potsdam Conference July 17 1944 with Churchill and Stalin president Truman said to his assistants:
“I can deal with Stalin; he is honest but smart as hell.”
Comments by the famous historian David McCullough on the above in his biography on Truman:
“Very American- the old American idea that if he can just meet the fellow, shake his hand, look him in the eyes, size him up, that they can work together, to work things out, and every thing would be ok.”
This is still practiced by our current president and is part of the general American belief system:
2. Another example half a century later: Ted Koppel of Nightline admiration of president Putin:
Almost ten years ago President Putin of Russia invited the well known TV commentator of Nightline, Ted Koppel, to visit the veiled Kremlin. Putin spread the red carpet in front of Koppel and his cameras, the glorious halls, the huge and marvelous palace. Koppel was so intrigued, so full of thanks and admiration, he was blind to the reality behind Putin’s generosity. Putin wanted to mislead the West showing us how Western and trustworthy he is: There is no need to worry about the New Russia…
It was sad. Every question Ted Koppel put to Putin, he answered with the best possible way to entice American appreciation, and trust. I watched the players carefully; their faces, their body language. Koppel was blind to the semi-smile that was most of the time on Putin face. Putin is smart; he knew what Americans wanted to hear. He said all the right things, in spade, to get favorable response from the American viewers. He was like us... We are lucky to have him lead the New Russia…
Putin turned out to be of a different color all together.
Koppel was unable to retain the basic attributes of a capable, experienced observer: see the whole Putin, and be skeptical of a person who answers all your questions with perfect appeal to the viewers
Koppel is a typical easily influenced, well educated, liberal American. We want to see the best in every person, independent of reality. Because liberal people are nice, friendly, peace- loving people they believe almost every one else is the same. It is a beautiful dream.
Ignoring reality is a dangerous trait in the actual world.
Again and again Israelis and my friends complain how come no one listen to reason about the Israeli/Palestinian reality. After all, the Israelis are going beyond any nation in history to reduce the suffering of its enemies. Enemies that are dedicated to extinguishing Israel. For example: The civilian casualties in the internal Arab world conflicts were 3 to 1 civilians to military, that is three civilians killed for one military person. [Total 5 millions died]. The Israelis have an opposite ratio, ten military casualties to one civilian. That is, the Arabs have been murdering their own civilian brothers 30 times more than the casualties caused by Israeli defending themselves.
Reasons, facts, logic, make very little impact on our emotionally-driven life. We want quick solutions, peace immediately, and solve problems now. That is the American expectation. But that is a dream. The Muslim world is a slow motion world, they wait, and they remember history of a thousand years back as if it was yesterday. Not long ago a million Shia Muslims run in the streets in Iraq cutting themselves in the memory of one of their religious leaders of more than millennia ago.
As the Arab world is changing radically in front of our eyes we will see more negative impacts, on the typical Arab life and their relationship with Israel and the West.
Expect serious difficulties in the total region for a long time.
The Narrative of Perpetual Palestinian Victimhood - Shelby Steele
The Arab-Israeli conflict is really a war of the Arabs against the Jews. The Durban conferences, the request for UN recognition of a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, and the general animus in the Middle East and elsewhere toward Israel and toward the Jews, what are they really about? Their real interest is to situate the Palestinian people within a narrative of victimization. Supporters of Israel are up against a poetic truth that no facts and no reason can ever penetrate. We keep hitting it with all the facts. We keep hitting it with obvious logic and reason - but it never has an impact.
Who would the Palestinians be if they were not victims? This narrative is the source of their power. It is the source of their funding. The idea among Palestinians that they are victims is the centerpiece of their very identity. It is not an idle thing. Our facts and our reason are not going to penetrate easily that definition. The writer is a Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. (Hudson Institute New York)
Some friends urged me to comment about the Iranian situation, here is a summary:
Six years ago I wrote my first assessment of the Iran nuclear danger. I pointed out then that the Iranians would not back up; they are determined to get the nuclear bomb, AND USE IT AGAINST ISRAEL- FIRST. Iran wants to control the total Middle East and influence beyond it.
I also mentioned that the only non-military way to stop them is a united and concentrated international economic pressure and that is unlikely to happen. Russia and China have been against sanctioning Iran since they want the commercial benefits from Iran and are eager to cause trouble to the West, especially the US.
The long, imbecilic attempts by the US especially and other nations to talk first gave Iran the time to achieve their goal: They now have enough material to make several nuclear weapons, and have almost completed the long-range missile to use it. The interesting sabotage of Iran’s nuclear facilities and the explosion of their missile site just slowed them by a few months.
I have written again over the years that the danger is increasing since the religious fanaticism of the Iranian leadership is deep, dangerous, and beyond our grasp. The Iranian leadership are fanatic Shia, while the majority of the Muslim world (85%) is Sunni, and not so fanatic. The Sunnis are afraid of the Iranian drive to nuclear domination. To grasp Iran nuclear drive read in depth about the Twelve Imam that is supposed to return to earth to reestablish the Muslim Caliphate all over the world, and for him to return we must have global destruction. That is the core belief of most of the Iranian leadership.
Now I believe that the only way to stop them is a concentrated US military air attack on Iran’s military installations, not civilian centers. Only the US has the capability to inflict a serious damage that would curtail Iran military rebuilding in a short time. No occupation, no ground troops.
The retaliation by Iran would be directed mostly towards Israel, from Hezbollah and Hamas unstoppable rockets. The excellent Israeli unti- rocket system, Iron Dome, could handle a limited number of rockets, not a full scale war. Also the US fleet near Iran would be attacked. As we leave Iraq the danger to our troops there is minimal. However Iran will try to incite intensive sectarian massacres in Iraq, as before. But beside that the Iranians are weaker than we think.
Israel would suffer intensely, either from Iran nuclear attacks, and that could finish Israel as we know it, or from the Hamas/Hizbullah rockets mentioned above.
Between these two bad options I would rather take the risk of military destruction of Iran. Leaving Iran with the ability to use nuclear weapons is intolerable according to all experts. The US must destroy all possible military targets in Iran first. Israel should concentrate on massive attack on Hamas- Gaza and Lebanon- Hezbollah. Civilian casualties would be large on all sides, but not so much inside Iran.
The best option would be coordinated attacks by both US and Israel.
Note that we do not know at all what the US and Israel are actually planning. Note also that even if President Obama may criticize Israel verbally, it may be a cover for a more intense cooperation between the two military forces. I read that while President Obama publically denied the Israelis the previously promised massive, ground penetrating bombs, the US actually delivered them quietly.
There is no other way that I can see to stop Iran’s nuclear buildup but mass attacks while we still can. I wish we would not have to go in this military direction and Iran would collapse otherwise, but it is not likely. We can not take a chance of being wrong here.
Remember, it is not what your enemy says/think that matters, but what it is ABLE TO DO.
The Iranian leadership would rather die first than give up their desire for absolute power. It preoccupies all their existence – it is a deep religious obsession.