Liberal American magazine says lowering ‘Arab’ birthrate inside Israel is hunky-dory
This is what I don’t understand. Jonathan Tepperman of the “Eurasia group, a global political risk consulting firm,” is I’m guessing Jewish and is doing fine here in the U.S. So for him personally, as for me, the conceptual basis of Zionism– that Jews are endangered in the west– is probably meaningless; and I bet he likes living in a country where a member of a minority gets to be president. But here he is given a platform at the Atlantic to say that Israel is the “refuge for the Jews” and therefore it’s legitimate that it act to limit the population growth of Israeli Palestinians so they don’t threaten the Jewish majority–of a country he has the freedom to move to tomorrow and doesn’t want to.
Yes historically, that was the basis of Israel’s founding. Does it make sense today?
Notice too that throughout this argument, Tepperman speaks of “Israelis” and means Jews, and speaks of Palestinian Israelis as “Arabs.” And Israel is for those Jews “their own land.” Not the Arabs’ land. That seems implicitly racist. Those Palestinians are actually Israelis! Those Palestinians may not be represented in the government, because of racism, but they’re Israeli citizens. Just as many blacks and Jews are Americans and many of us would resent it if, say, we were excluded from higher office in the U.S. As I say, I just don’t get this.
Also note Tepperman’s argument that Israel must preserve its majority because Jews in Arab countries have been oppressed. Interesting realist argument, a two-wrongs argument. Jeffrey Goldberg makes it too. I’ve been in the neighboring Arab countries and he’s right, their governments aren’t pretty, but I don’t see why this should check democratic reform in Israel and Palestine. Tepperman:
Due to a birthrate much higher than Israel’s Jewish population, it was only a matter of time before Jews ceased to be a numerical majority in the territory they controlled. Sure enough: In 1970, Jews represented about 70% of the population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. But by 1995 that figure had fallen to 56% and by 2005 (just before the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza) to 51%.
These numbers forced successive Israeli leaders to face the fact that if they were determined to hold on to the Occupied Territories, they would soon become outnumbered in their own lands. At that point, Israel would have to choose between being Jewish or democratic, but it couldn’t be both. It was this hard logic that pushed such unsentimental men as Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert to eventually accept the logic of withdrawing from Gaza.
But as Lieberman has highlighted, the territories only represent part of the problem. Even if Israel were to shed itself completely of the West Bank today, the issue wouldn’t go away. For Israel proper–as defined by its 1967 borders–also has a sizable Arab population, and that population is also growing fast (or so it is commonly believed), again thanks to a birthrate higher than that of the Jews. The rate of increase is far too fast for the likes of people like Lieberman–but also too fast for many secular Israeli Jews, who worry that once again they risk being outnumbered in their own land.
This fear has merit. By the end of 2008 (the last date for which numbers are available), Israeli Arabs represented fully 20% of country’s population (excluding the territories), according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics. This percentage has steadily risen over the years.
Now, those Israelis who worry about this, and dread being outnumbered by Arabs in their own country, aren’t necessarily racists. The two sides of Israel’s nature–its Jewish and democratic soul–have always coexisted uneasily, and would be quickly upset by a demographic shift. Israel was founded and internationally recognized as a refuge for Jews, and it is legitimate that modern Israelis are determined to keep it so. Given the way Jews have been treated in Arab lands, moreover, they have grounds to fear life under an Arab majority.
For all these reasons, a little demographic-induced panic is understandable.