What demographic problem?
As opposed to myth, Arab-Israelis do not constitute demographic threat
Published: 07.07.09, 11:50 / Israel Opinion
At times, we need to stop and rethink everything. Our entire history is made up of people who were sure they knew the truth, yet forgot that the truth has an annoying tendency to change on occasion without us noticing it.
After all, only six years ago, President George W. Bush declared total victory in Iraq; five years ago, Ariel Sharon declared that Gush Katif will never be evacuated; only two years ago, we were sure that pure capitalism won and America's economy will continue to flourish; only a year ago, most experts explained that the US will never have a black president; only two months ago, it was clear that Netanyahu will never recognize the two-state vision.
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This week, I will try to reexamine some truths that appear clear and self-evident to us. This is not exact science, but it is an opportunity to take another look at some things that looks obvious, even though they are not.
Cliché #2: Arab-Israelis are our real demographic problem
No, they’re not.
Everyone is familiar with this myth, of course: We will withdraw from the territories, and then discover that the Arabs residing within the Green Line keep on having children, until they became the majority and Ahmad Tibi becomes prime minister.
The rest of the story has to do with us on a boat, sadly observing the distancing shoreline.
Aside from the blatant racism inherent in this story, the facts are wholly different. For 10 years now, we have seen a consistent and sharp decline in Arab-Israeli birthrates.
According to Central Bureau of Statistics figures, until 2000 the birthrate among Arab women was 4.74 children per woman. Yet by 2007 it was down to 3.9 children per woman (and if we take the Bedouins residing in the Negev out of the equation, then the figure is down to 3.2 children per woman, which is very similar to the Jewish figure.)
What can you do; over time, even the Arabs around here adopt the childbearing patterns of Ashkenazi Jews.
Yet during the same decade, we saw a moderate rise in the birthrates of Jewish women. This rise is especially apparent among Jewish women born in Israel. In 1995, these women gave birth to 2.8 children on average. By 2005, the number was up to 3.14 children per woman.
To a certain extent, the demographic war around here pits two groups against each other: The 1.47 million Arabs are faced by the roughly 800,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews, who boast birthrates of about 7 children per woman. Grab a calculator and a ruler, and you’ll discover that time works in our favor.
The only thing the other Jews need to do is to stand on the sidelines and cheer on the ultra-Orthodox women residing in Bnei Brak.
Indeed, it is true that the ultra-Orthodox birthrate raises a series of whole other issues, not all of them pleasant, yet this is a problem amongst us Jews. As to the Arabs, we’ll be able to handle it.