File spoon-archives/postcolonial.archive/postcolonial_2001/postcolonial.0107, message 49

Date: Wed, 18 Jul 2001 01:08:45 -0600 (MDT)
Subject: Apartheid - Zionist style 

Population estimates cause Knesset storm over demography

By Gideon Alon
Ha'aretz Knesset Correspondent
Tuesday, July 17, 2001

The Jewish population living west of the Jordan river will constitute a
minority by 2020, according to calculations by Professor Arnon Sofer of
Haifa University and presented yesterday to the Knesset Foreign Affairs
and Defense Committee.

An Arab member declined to take part in what he called a demographic
debate to encourage racists.

Sofer said in 19 years Arabs will be 58 percent of this population and
Jews 42 percent. He said by 2020 there will be 15.2 million people living
between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean. Inside the Green Line, he
forecasts a Jewish population of 6.4 million (68 percent of the total),
and an Arab and non-Jewish population of three million. In addition, by
2020 there will be 5.8 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and
Gaza - 3.3 and 2.5 million respectively.

Professor Sofer told the committee Israel would stand on the brink of an
existential crisis if the final borders of the country and a clear
separation from the Palestinians were not established. "I am very
concerned. If this is the process, and the problem is not dealt with, our
country is finished in 17 years and there will be a collapse," he said.

Last year, west of the Jordan, Jews were 50.5 percent of the population
and Arabs 49.5 percent. Inside Israel there were 4.9 million Jews - 73
percent of the population - and 1.8 million Arabs. Three million
Palestinians lived in the territories last year.

Sofer said population growth in Israel and the territories was among the
highest in the world. Within the borders of Israel, the average annual
rate of population growth is 3.5 percent. However, in the Gaza Strip
alone, it is 4.5-5 percent. The Bedouin population is also growing four
percent annually.

At the outset MK Hashem Mahameed (United Arab List) said he was not going
to take part in "a meeting that encourages racists, right wingers, and
fascists, and which will be a red light to bridging the two nations in the
country for renewed understanding and coexistence."

In a letter to the committee chairman, MK Dan Meridor (Center), Mahameed
expressed disappointment and protested against raising the issue. "It is
clear such discussion is damaging to democratic and humanistic principles
because the discussions revolve around "demographic dangers" or the
"demographic genie" which causes many racists in the country, who see
every child of the Arab minority in the country as "a ticking bomb," to
lose sleep," Mahameed wrote.

Meridor rejected Mahameed's arguments and said "there is no basis to the
charge of MK Mahameed that holding this discussion constitutes a blow to
democracy." Meridor said the committee also dealt with the issue of future
borders and the demographic issue is a determining factor on the question
of borders. He said Arab Israelis are citizens of the country and
deliberations on demographics do not harm them.


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