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'Israel' already non-Jewish

The dream of Israel's founding fathers of a majority Jewish state in Palestine may have already passed into history, according to an Israeli university professor.

Last Modified: 09 Dec 2003 16:13 GMT
Demographic studies show Israel may be very different by 2020

The dream of Israel's founding fathers of a majority Jewish state in Palestine may have already passed into history, according to an Israeli university professor.

The majority of people within the total area of Israel are not Jews, says Amnon Sofer, a Haifa University demographer.

 

"At this very minute, within the western land of Israel from the sea [Mediterranean] to the Jordan [river], there is already a non-Jewish majority", the Haifa University demographer told Israel Radio on Tuesday.

Asked about the possible influence of future Jewish immigration, Sofer said most studies failed to take into account the influence of the burgeoning population as a whole.

 

Previous research has never included non-Jewish immigrants or the large population of foreign workers in Israel. 

 

"Within 17 years, some six million people will be added to the population, most of them poor Palestinians. This land is entering into a demographic ecological whirlwind," he said.

 

Demographic change

 

Sofer has previously proposed to Israeli officials that, in order to "solve" the demographic problem, Tel Aviv transfer whole regions to Palestine's West Bank in a swap for settlements.

 

Such a move, he claims, could "offload" some 250,000 “Arab Israelis” in one stroke.

"Within 17 years, some six million people will be added to the population, most of them poor Palestinians. This land is entering into a demographic ecological whirlwind"

 

Amnon Sofer,

Haifa University professor

But with an exceptionally high birthrate, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza (six children per mother) and of Palestinians in Israel (4.2 children) have a potential for growth three or four times higher than that of the Jewish population.

Israeli Jewish birthrates average at around 2.6 children per family, one child more than the Western norm.

Consequences

In a review of the statistics, France's Le Monde Diplomatique suggested a stark choice is approaching: either there is proper democracy (in which case Palestinians will dominate) or Israel will be forced into apartheid-like rule.

The demographic rivalry has been to the advantage of the ultra-religious (both Ashkenazi and Sephardi), who account for a quarter of the Jewish electorate.

Their birthrate (six children per family) is not just higher than that of the secular Jews and rivals that of Palestinians.

Countering Palestinian demography by means of Jewish immigration from Russia has proven attractive to some groups.

The Russian party Israel Ba Aliya make no secret of its desire to receive another million Russians - although Israeli statistics point to zero immigration (or even negative).

But Russian migration has its own particular problems  - many are deeply secular, if not atheist, and show little interest in learning Hebrew. A huge influx could just create a major new ethnic group.

Source:
Aljazeera + Agencies
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