Are 1.4 million Palestinians missing? (UPI) VIA-WASHINGTON TIMES) By Joshua Brilliant - Jerusalem, Israel 02/01/05)
UPI} UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL
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Jerusalem, Israel, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Some 40,000 to 50,000
Palestinians followed their then-President Yasser Arafat to the West
Bank and the Gaza Strip when he returned there in 1994 under the Oslo
Many did not stay. They obtained Palestinian papers
themselves as local residents and returned with their families to
Amman, for example.
Their new papers were a kind of insurance
policy, recalled retired
Israeli Brig. Gen. David Shachaf, who at that time headed the Israeli
Civil Administration in the West Bank.
If they would be expelled
from their countries of residence, as they
had been from Kuwait three years earlier, they could return to the
West Bank. "I know of senior officers (in the West Bank) who left
their wives in Jordan and went there frequently to visit them," he
Their numbers are now a small part in the debate on one
of the key
issues affecting the Israeli-Palestinian dispute: How many
Palestinians reside in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip?
Minister Ariel Sharon cited their numbers as a reason for his
decision to withdraw, unilaterally, from the Gaza Strip and parts of
the northern West Bank. The withdrawal is scheduled for this
A Palestinian state "is not the dream of my life,"
Sharon told his
ministers in May 2003. But "Israel cannot, it would be wrong and
unjustified, to continue ruling over 3.5 million Palestinians," he
For decades Sharon headed Israel´s extensive settlement
Suddenly, it seemed he accepted the argument Israeli doves have been
making all along: Israel cannot remain a Jewish-democratic state if
it keeps the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. To remain a Jewish state,
it would have to deny Palestinians the right to vote and risk being
branded an apartheid state. If it grants the franchise, it can
eventually forget about being a Jewish state.
parlor groups have suggested that the Palestinians
wait to have a majority and then control all of historical Palestine,
including what is now Israel, but they have no significant following.
That idea "was always at the very fringe, never (accepted) by any
serious organization," Arab Knesset Member Issam Makhoul of the
predominantly Communist Democratic Front for Peace and Equality Party
There is no doubt about the Jewish
According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics,
residents lived in Israel at the end of 2004. Of those, 5.2 million
(76 percent) were Jews, 1.3 million (20 percent) were Arabs, and
230,000 (or 4 percent) were non-Jews who came to Israel with their
There were also some 190,000 foreign workers
in Israel, the bureau
The head of the Jewish People Policy Planning
University´s Prof. Sergio Della Pergola, maintained that was enough
to question labeling Israel "a Jewish state."
"A Jewish state
with 20 percent non-Jews is already a bi-national
state," he said.
How many Palestinians, then, live in the West
Bank and the Gaza
The answer depends on whom you ask.
the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics´ projection
for last year, 3.8 million Palestinians lived there. (The figure is
derived from adding 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank,
including East Jerusalem, to 1.4 million in the Gaza Strip, the PCBS
However, these figures have been treated with caution.
The head of
the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research,
Prof. Khalil Shikaki, said the civil register Israel had given the
Palestinians was not updated. There are no reliable figures on the
number of deaths, nor on the number of people who left the area and
did not return. Shikaki´s center, which is considered highly
reliable, nevertheless works on the assumption that 3.6 million
Palestinians live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and some 200,000
Palestinians live in East Jerusalem.
Della Pergola estimated the
West Bank and Gaza Strip population at
3.4 to 3.5 million.
Recently a group of American and Israeli
Jews, some of whom support
the settlers, completed a year´s study of the Palestinian data. They
maintained that only 2.4 million Palestinians live in the West Bank
and the Gaza Strip.
Appearing before the Knesset Foreign Affairs
and Defense Committee,
and then before diplomats and foreign correspondents in Jerusalem,
their leader Bennett Zimmerman said the Palestinian Health Ministry
records show the Palestinian birth rate was "significantly below the
Zimmerman claimed the Palestinians upped their
figures "to what the
original projection was supposed to be ... and there is not more than
a tenth of a percent difference."
An examination of border
crossings showed that each year, since
1994, "there was a net emigration of people leaving their land. ...
They (the Palestinians) expected 50,000 be coming in, and instead
10,000 are leaving," Zimmerman said.
If the Palestinian figures
were true, then their rate of
growth "would be greater than anything the Palestinian Authority has
ever projected or said," he added.
A Senior Research Fellow at
the International Policy Institute for
Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Shalom Harari, suggested the
Palestinians have always had an interest in inflating their numbers.
With greater numbers, they expect more foreign aid.
line, according to Zimmerman´s group, is this: If Israel
were to keep the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, there would be three
Jews for every two Arabs. If it were to keep the West Bank
alone, "you would have two Jews for every one Arab," he said.
member of the team -- geographer Avraham Shvut, who is a strategic
adviser to the settlers´ Samaria Regional Council -- concluded the
Palestinians "would never" be a majority. One cannot just consider
rates of birth and migration to estimate population growth, he said
in an interview. "All those who made mathematical and statistical
predictions in the past 100 years have erred," he added.
group´s argument seemed to undermine Sharon´s case for a
pullback, and the PCBS pounced on it.
"They are trying to misuse
statistics for political purposes," Luay
Shahabaneh, assistant to the PCBS´ President for Statistical Affairs
told UPI. "They misused statistics on our Web site and made false
assumptions," he charged.
Della Pergola told UPI: "There are
problems, no doubt," with the
PCBS. However, its president, Hassan Abu-Libdeh, "is no clown." He is
a graduate of Cornell University who told his Israeli counterparts he
wished to learn from them and bring the PCBS to their level.
Palestinian who tells you something like this is not a terrorist
who just wants to kill you. He has a professionalism, at least a
minimal one," Della Pergola said.
He maintained that
Zimmerman´s figures on the Palestinian birthrate
are "unrealistically low."
The Palestinian birthrate is,
indeed, higher than in other Arab
countries. It is a reaction to the political conflict, he said, and
one can see the same phenomenon among some Jewish groups. All the
Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics projections about the Israeli-
Arab birthrate, over years, turned out to be too low, he told
Israeli health standards have increased life expectancy and
infant mortality, he continued.
According to Della Pergola,
10.6 million people live in Israel, the
West Bank and the Gaza Strip - or, put differently, between the
Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Only 51 percent of them are
If one adds to the "Jewish side" the non-Jewish
immigrants who came
to Israel with their Jewish families, one gets a 53 or 54 percent
On the other hand, the Palestinian population
There is "barely" a Jewish majority in the 15-24 age
group, when Jews
serve in the army and Palestinians fight in the intifada. There is a
slight majority when adding the non-Jewish immigrants who serve in
the army, "but soon it will be lost," Della Pergola
Israeli hardliners confronted with the demographic issue
pinned their hopes on Jewish immigration, but Della Pergola
maintained Israel has pretty much exhausted that source.
Jews who lived in Arab countries are already in Israel. Those who
wanted to come from the former Soviet Union and other Eastern
European countries, and had been denied exit permits, have also come.
Last year some 20,000 new immigrants came to Israel, down from
in 2003, the Israeli CBS reported.
Most of the remaining Jews
abroad live in affluent countries, and
Della Pergola did not expect them to come to Israel unless they face
a catastrophe. (Copyright 2005 United Press International 02/01/05)
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