Wednesday, July 06, 2005

 

The "Demographic Threat"

It's always nice when somebody with a good head on his or her shoulders says something reasonable about the "demographic situation" in Israel/Palestine (a topic that is too often dominated by loud-mouth racists or those who cannot seem to break out of the racist construct that frames the discussion). Salim Tamari is that somebody and his short essay on the Bitter Lemons website is that reasonable statement. Tamari writes:
The fact is that high fertility, despite appearances, has little to do with nationalism or ideological struggles. Only in the literary imagination of zealots do people procreate for the nation. High fertility is rather rooted in the perception of children as an economic and social asset, especially in agrarian societies. Demographic nationalism is often added later as an explanation for such mundane factors. Conversely the two main factors leading to dramatic falls in fertility have been women's education and female employment outside the household.
Adding:
The assumption, held by many Palestinians, that eventually "we will overwhelm them with numbers" could be a self-defeating strategy. Except for the Palestinian citizens of Israel, who have made a dubious dent in the demographic balance, the high fertility of Palestinian families is more of a threat to Palestinians than to Israelis, since it contributes to large undereducated households, keeps women in conditions of virtual servitude, and contributes to poverty and ignorance.
Let's face it -- whether the population from the river and the sea (as they like to say) is 49% Jewish and 51% or Arab or the opposite should make no difference if we are to accept universal human and civil rights. The majority has no more right to subjugate and oppress the minority than does the minority to treat the majority similarly.

(Thanks, Amanda, for alerting me to this essay.)

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