Demographic threat (Israel)

Demographic threat (Israel)

The phrase demographic threat, (or demographic bomb) is used in Israeli politics to describe the perceived threat that the growth of its Arab citizenry and the growth of the Palestinian population in the occupied territories poses to the maintenance of its status as a Jewish state with a Jewish demographic majority.


In an analysis of the dominant demographic discourse in Israel in the 1950s, Shoham Melamad found that the high fertility rate of Palestinians was viewed as a demographic threat to the Jewish nation.Shenhav, 2006, p. 191.] According to Nur Masalha, issues of demography and the demographic threat, became an obsession among Israeli leaders after Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the wake of the 1967 war. Masalha pointed to a Maariv editorial by Shmuel Schnitzer published on 29 September 1967 that suggested that Jews should be encouraged to have large families, while Palestinians in the occupied territories and in Israel should be encouraged to adopt birth control measures. Schnitzer also advocated for the adoption of an open policy encouraging Palestinians to emigrate overseas.Masalha, 2000, pp. 200-202.]

As applied to Arab citizens of Israel

The term was famously used by Benjamin Netanyahu in 2003 [cite news |url=
title=Netanyahu: Israel's Arabs are the real demographic threat
author=Sedan, Gil
] when he put forward his opinion that if the percentage of Arab citizens rises above its current level of about 20 percent, Israel would not be able to retain a Jewish demographic majority, the basis of Israel's self-definition as a "Jewish democratic state". Netanyahu's comments were criticized as racist by Arab Knesset members and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. [cite news |url=
title=MKs slam Netanyahu's remarks about Israeli Arabs
] Earlier allusions to the "demographic threat" posed by Arab citizens can be found in an internal Israeli government document authored in 1976, and known as The Koenig Memorandum.

The increasing population of Arabs within Israel, and the majority status they hold in two major geographic regions - the Galilee and the Little Triangle - has become a growing point of open political contention in recent years. Dr. Wahid Abd Al-Magid, the editor of Al-Ahram's "Arab Strategic Report" predicts that "...The Arabs of 1948 may become a majority in Israel in 2035, and they will certainly be the majority in 2048." Among Arabs, Muslims have the highest birth rate, followed by Druze, and then Christians. [ [ Statistics Regarding Israeli Arabs ] ]

Forms of "transfer:" Land swaps and population exchanges

On the subject of Israel's Arab citizens, Israeli historian Benny Morris, a self-proclaimed left-wing Zionist, [Ari Shavit. [ "Survival of the fittest"] Haaretz, 09/01/2004] has stated:

The Israeli Arabs are a time bomb. Their slide into complete Palestinization has made them an emissary of the enemy that is among us. They are a potential fifth column. In both demographic and security terms they are liable to undermine the state. So that if Israel again finds itself in a situation of existential threat, as in 1948, it may be forced to act as it did then. If we are attacked by Egypt (after an Islamist revolution in Cairo) and by Syria, and chemical and biological missiles slam into our cities, and at the same time Israeli Palestinians attack us from behind, I can see an expulsion situation. It could happen. If the threat to Israel is existential, expulsion will be justified... [cite web|title=Survival of the Fittest|date=2004-01-16|author=Ari Shavit|publisher=Haaretz|url=]

Some Israeli politicians advocate land-swap proposals in order to assure a continued Jewish majority within Israel. One specific proposal is that Israel transfer sovereignty of part of the Arab-populated Wadi Ara area (west of the Green Line) to a future Palestinian state, in return for formal sovereignty over the major Jewish settlement "blocks" that lie inside the West Bank east of the Green Line, an area known as the Seam Zone. [cite web|title=Trading Places|date=2005-08-14|author=Aluf Benn|publisher=The Washington Post|url=] Right-wing critics of the Wadi Ara land swap plan have argued that this measure will not be enough since, "The number of Arab Israelis would drop by 116,000-148,000, or a total of 8.2-10.5 percent of the Arab population of Israel, and just 2.1 percent of the population in general," while most Arab citizens object to trading their Israeli citizenship for citizenship in a tenuous Palestinian state. [cite web|title=Israeli Arabs and the vote|date=2006-03-24|author=Uri Dromi|publisher=International Herald Tribune|url=]

Avigdor Liberman of the far-right party Yisrael Beytenu, the 4th largest faction in the 17th Knesset, is one of the foremost advocates for the transfer of large Arab towns located just inside Israel near the border with the West Bank (e.g. Tayibe, Umm al-Fahm, Baqa al-Gharbiyye), to the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority in exchange for Israeli settlements located inside the West Bank. [Amayreh, Khalid. [ Israeli minister wants Arabs expelled] . "al-Jazeera." May 9, 2005.] [Avnery, Uri. [ The Israeli Elections] . "CounterPunch." March 30, 2006.] [ [ Israel’s new political reality] . "ISN". March 31, 2006.] [Prusher, Ilene. [ Israeli right nips at Kadima] . "Christian Science Monitor". March 27, 2006.] [O'Loughlin, Ed. [ Israel's shunned Arabs watch poll with unease] . "The Age". March 24, 2006.] [Dromi, Uri. [ Israeli Arabs and the vote] . "International Herald Tribune". March 24, 2006.] [Halpern, Orly. [ Umm el-Fahm residents angry and apathetic before elections] . "The Jerusalem Post". March 26, 2006.] [Sofer, Ronny. [,7340,L-3231312,00.html Kadima's new 'enemy' - Lieberman] . "YNet News." March 23, 2006.] As the London "Times" notes: "Lieberman plans to strengthen Israel's status as a Jewish state by transferring 500,000 of its minority Arab population to the West Bank, by the simple expedient of redrawing the West Bank to include several Arab Israeli towns in northern Israel. Another 500,000 would be stripped of their right to vote if they failed to pledge loyalty to Zionism." [Farrell, Stephen and MacKinnon, Ian. [,,251-2109796,00.html Winners and Losers on Israeli political scene] . "The Times". March 29, 2006.]

In October 2006, Yisrael Beytenu formally joined in the ruling government's parliamentary coalition, headed by Kadima and also made up of the Labour Party and the Pensioner's Party. After the Israeli Cabinet confirmed Avigdor Lieberman's appointment to the position of Minister of Strategic Planning, Labour Party representative and Science, Sport and Culture Minister Ophir Pines-Paz, resigned his post. [cite web|url=?|title=Labor's Paz-Pines resigns as government minister| Staff|publisher=The Jerusalem Post, Online, English Edition|date=2006-10-30|accessmonthday=October 31 | accessyear=2006.] [cite web|title=New Cabinet Appointment Tilts Israel to Right|author=Jim Teeple|publisher=Voice of America, Online English Edition|date=2006-10-24|accessmonthday=October 31 | accessyear=2006|url=] In his resignation letter to Ehud Olmert, Pines-Paz wrote, "I couldn't sit in a government with a minister who preaches racism." [cite web|url=?|title=Pines-Paz: I can't sit in gov't with racist|author=Mazal Mualem|publisher=Ha'aretz Online, English Edition|date=2006-10-31|accessmonthday=October 31 | accessyear=2006]

Changing birth rates

See also: Demographics of Israel

A January 2006 study by the American-Israel Demographic Research Group rejects the "demographic time bomb" threat based on statistical data collected since 1995 which the group submitted provides evidence attesting to a rapid increase in Jewish Israeli births and the beginning of a decline in birth rates among Arab citizens. [Zimmerman, Roberta Seid and Michael L. Wise: [ Forecast for Israel and West Bank 2025] . Sixth Herzliya Conference, January 23, 2006] The study noted shortcomings in earlier demographic predictions (for example, in the 1960s, predictions suggested that Arabs would be the majority in 1990). The study demonstrated that Christian Arab and Druze birth rates were actually below those of Jewish birth rates in Israel. Using data from a Gallup poll, the study submitted that the desired family size for Arab and Jewish Israelis was the same. The study's population forecast for 2025 predicted that Arabs would comprise only 25.0% of the Israeli population.

As applied to 'Arab Jews'

Melamad's study of demographic discourse in Israel in 1950s also found that due to the fertility gap between Ashkenazi Jews and Mizrahi Jews (or Arab Jews), the Mizrahim were viewed as posing an "internal demographic threat"; that is, by threatening to "Levantantize" Israel. At the same time, the "fertile womb" of the Mizrahi community was also perceived as a weapon to be used in the "demographic war" against (non-Jewish) Arabs.Shenhav, 2006, p. 191.]



*Masalha, Nur (2000). " [,M1 Imperial Israel And The Palestinians: The Politics of Expansion] ". Pluto Press. ISBN 0745316158
*Shenhav, Yehouda (2006). " [ The Arab Jews: A Postcolonial Reading of Nationalism, Religion, and Ethnicity] ". Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804752966

External links

* [,7340,L-3213608,00.html Ynet: Demographic threat a myth]
* [ Jewish World Review: Demographic bomb proven a dud]
* [ Arnon Sofer's view]
* [ Haaretz: Netanyahu's use of the term "demographic bomb"]

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