Israel’s Demographics

Despite non-stop violence against them by Israel’s military, Palestinians found some hope this week when the country’s official census study showed Palestinians growing twice as fast as Jews.

Published by Israel’s leading English language newspaper, Haaretz, the data shows that Israel’s population of 6.8 million consists of 5.5 million Jews and 1.3 million Arabs.

Of course, those number do not include the Palestinians living under military occupation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank where Palestinians are killed at a rate three times faster than Israelis.

It does include citizens of East Jerusalem, which Israel illegally annexed and that the international community still considers occupied territory.

These quirks aside, the study indicated that the Jewish population grew by only 1.4 percent in 2003, compared to 3 percent for the Arab population.

Unlikely that Israel will make the concessions necessary to create a viable Palestinian State, the population trend is the only hope left for Palestinians in a land consumed by violence by both sides. Instead of two states, there will be one multi-national state, forcing Israel to become truly Democratic by default.

If you put those numbers to a calculator, and the growth rate remains the same, you can see where the numbers take you. In about 92 years, Israel will become a predominantly Christian and Muslim nation, unless Israel is planning something like expelling non-Jews.

The current growth rate will result in a population of 20,039,759 Jewish Israelis and 20,314,458 Christian and Muslim Israelis, by my calculations.

As a side note, the survey also showed that the Arab-Moslem population increased by 3.3 percent, while the Christian community increased by only 1.2 percent. That’s a whole other calculation that just means that the Christian presence in the Holy Land will be even more negligible than it already is.

With these statistics in mind, you can bet the pressure will mount on Israel to expel its Arab citizens. You know. The Christian and Muslim “Arab citizens” Israelis constantly assert have “equal rights” in the “Jewish States.”

It seems hard to imagine a time when the birthplace of Jesus might have no Christians, but it could happen.

Even harder to imagine is that a Jewish State built to collect Jews expelled or persecuted mainly from Europe because of growing Christian anti-Semitism, would now start expelling other religious groups.

This is a very cynical way to look at the future. But in today’s environment where fanatics seem to have taken over both sides of the dispute, cynicism sometimes masquerades as hope.

The fact is the Arab-Israeli conflict has always been about population and land. Israel isn’t just a state, it is a Jewish State. The conflict today isn’t about whether Israel should exist or not, but whether Israel should be allowed to keep the lands it occupied in 1967.

But an even more difficult scenario to envision is that Israelis and Palestinians might look past the scars of violence and vengeance to achieve a just and fair peace.

Though 92 years seems far off, nearly the same time has elapsed since the Western Allies of World War I encouraged Jews to leave mostly Western nations to create their own “homeland” in Palestine, a country already populated by Christians and Muslims.

Who would have thought back then, it would lead us to where we are today?

RAY HANANIA is a Palestinian American journalist and columnist based in Chicago. His columns are archived on the web at