The Demographic Problem
By Prof. Paul Eidelberg

This article is written in response to recent reports that the Israel’s demographic problem has been exaggerated. No less than Israel’s Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, dismisses this problem as non-existent. Needless to say, however, Mr. Sharon is not a reliable source. What are the facts?

The September 26, 2003 report of the Central Bureau of Statistics reports that Israel's population is 6.716 million. Of this number, 5.143 million are Jews, and the ID cards of another 282,000 state "other" in the nationality space. The latter are new immigrants and their families who are not registered as Jews by the Ministry of the Interior Population Registry.

The September 26 report indicates that a fifth or 19.2% of Israel's population — 1.291 million — are Arabs. This is not contradicted by the more recent Central Bureau of Statistics report of February 1, 2004 that the 16% of Israel’s population are Muslims, if the latter does not include the Bedouin and Druze population.

Now, it should be emphasized that a significant percentage of the 5,143 million “Jews” listed as such by the Ministry of Interior Population Registry are not halachically Jewish, that, like the 282,000 whose ID cards state “other” in the nationality space, they, too, came from the former Soviet Union under the “grandfather clause” of the Law of Return. However, there is no way to substantiate this from the Population Registry.

Nevertheless it should be recalled that a significant minority of non-Jews came to Israel in 1989-91, and that thereafter the percentage of non-Jews increased and eventually became a substantial majority. I believe that in the early years of that Russian immigration, halachically non-Jewish Russian immigrants either did not, or could not, designate themselves as “other” in the nationality space. (Of course, I will be happy to be corrected in this very important matter.)

Unless I am mistaken, but based on conversations with a well-informed Russian, there are at least 400,000 non-Jewish Russians in Israel, in which case the Jewish majority in this country is diminishing and now stands at no more than 74.8%. This number will further decline given the permissive immigration and citizenship standards of the Interior Ministry headed by Avraham Poraz. Nor is this all.

Although the Muslim birthrate is declining, the February 2, 2004 report of the Central Bureau of Statistics indicates that it is 2.4 times that of Jews. The report also states that 450,000 Muslims are under the age of 15, one quarter of the country’s children, and that only 3% are over the age of 65, which is far below that of Jews. This portends an increasing Muslim voting power—to say nothing of their fighting power—compared to that of Jews.

Finally, current immigration tendencies are not favorable. As previously indicated, a large majority of those immigrating to Israel are not Jewish. Although anti-Semitism in France prompts Jewish immigration, many French Jews prefer to immigrate to the United States and Canada rather than to Israel. And it goes without saying that the on-going terrorism in Israel, the corruption in its government, and the economic downtrend are not favorable to Jewish aliya.
In view of these considerations—and I welcome well-documented contrary reports—it is a dangerous error to minimize the demographic problem confronting the supposed-to-be Jewish state

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