New study: Palestinian birth rate dropping, emigration on the rise
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
A new U.S.-financed study has reported significant Palestinian emigration as well as a sharp drop in the birthrate over the last seven years.
The report by the ABC Demographic Project asserted that the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has decreased through emigration and a declining birthrate. The report said nearly 200,000 Palestinians have emigrated since 1997.
About 2.4 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the report said. The Palestinian Authority said 3.8 million Palestinians live in these areas, a claim supported by several prominent Israeli demographers, according to Middle East Newsline.
The report said the Palestinian growth rate was 2.4 percent in 2003, nearly half of the 4.5 percent growth rate cited by the PA. In 2003, Israel's population grew by 1.7 percent.
Members of the ABC Demographic Project said they would present the report to Israeli policy-makers, U.S. Congress members and diplomats. They said the report, funded by U.S. businessmen and academics, would be used to dispute claims that Jews were rapidly becoming a minority and must withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza Strip to ensure that Israel remains a Jewish state.
At least 10,000 Palestinians leave the West Bank and Gaza Strip every year, the report said. The study, citing data by the Ramallah-based Norwegian institute, Fafa, reported the departure of 100,000 people from the West Bank in 2001 and 2002, during the height of the Israeli-Palestinian war.
In a presentation to the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute on Monday, the ABC Demographic Project said Jews comprise 60 percent of the population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The report said previous studies that asserted that Arabs were becoming a majority in this area were based on faulty data.
"Conventional demographers have employed an erroneous methodology — linear extrapolation — while demography west of the Jordan River has been shaped by non-linear unpredictable military, economic and political developments in the Middle East and beyond," the report said. "A solid 60 percent Jewish majority — west of the Jordan River -- has been sustained since 1967."
"Aliya-migration —-- annually since 1882 —-- rather than natural increase, has been the key factor, shaping Jewish demography," the report added. "Migration — more than natural increase — played a key role in boosting Arab population to 473,000 in 1890 and to 1,200,000 in 1947. A significant expansion in the number of Arabs in the West Bank, between 1946 [465,764] and 1953 [742,289], was due to the migration of 180,000 refugees of the 1948 war."
The ABC Demographic Project, which cited Israeli police statistics, argued that data gathered by the PA Central Bureau of Statistics, were incomplete. The report said the PA claim of 3.8 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has not accounted for massive emigration as well as a decrease in the birth rate.
"The PBS used the PA's official 1997 census as a base population and assumed the population would grow at 4-5 percent a year, one of the highest growth rates in the world," the report said. "When the research team reviewed PA Ministry of Health birth data and actual border entry/exit data, they found that the PBS' expectations were not met in any year between 1997 and 2004."
The report also said the PA census also included tens of thousands of deceased. Another 200,000 Palestinians in the PA census comprised residents of Jerusalem and were counted twice, the report said.
ABC Demographic cited data by the PA Health Ministry and the Palestinian Election Commissions, which the report termed "at gross variance" with the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. The Health Ministry reported a "dramatic decline" in the Palestinian population rate from 1997, when it was 3.8 percent per year, to 2.4 percent in 2003.
The report also said the Palestinian birth rate per capita has undergone a drastic decline. ABC Demographic cited PA Health Ministry that reported 3.89 children per woman in 2003, down from 7.4 children in 1997.