Every year, in almost every country, government reports detailing statistics and demographics of the country’s citizens are published during the last week of December. The reports detail how many babies were born that year and how many people died.
Some of those reports are turned into semi-comic articles on the back page of the newspaper, or discussed on current event radio programs, and sometimes they are simply thrown to the wastebasket.
Last week, the Palestinian Authority’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) published its report summarizing 2011. As one could expect, the conclusions of the report barely rose to Israeli consciousness, and the media almost completely ignored the findings. But a brief look over the report shows a worrying picture, which raises hopes that at least some of the government ministers were exposed to the statistics.
The report revealed that the number of Palestinians in the territories stands at about 4.2 million people: 2.6 million in the West Bank and 1.6 million in the Gaza Strip. Added to them are about 1.4 million Palestinians who are Israeli citizens and about 5.6 million Palestinians that belong to the Arab countries and the rest of the world.
Three days after the Palestinian Authority’s statistics was published, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) released its own report summarizing 2011. According to that report, the number of Israelis stands at 7.8 million people: 5.9 Jews, 1.6 million Arabs and 325,000 defined as “others.”
A conclusion of the findings shows that the number of Jews and Palestinians between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea are almost even. According to the Palestinian Authority’s CBS there are about 300,000 more Jews than Palestinians, while according to the Israeli CBS that number stands at 100,000.
What is especially disconcerting is the bottom line of the Palestinian Authority’s report. “On the basis of the estimations presented by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics in 2010, and provided that natural growth remains unchanged, the number of Palestinians and Jews will become equal and stand at 6.3 million [each] by the end of 2015,” it said. “In addition, by 2020 the number of Palestinians living in historical Palestine will stand at 7.2 million people, while the number of Jews will stand at only 6.8 million.”
Ask yourself – in the past few months, who has been the most effective delegitimizer of Israel: Ahmadinejad? Mahmoud Abbas? The Arab League? The Muslim Brotherhood? The UN? BDS radicals? Durban devotees? The editorial board of the New York Times?
The correct answer, of course, is none of the above. The most competent corroders of Israel’s international image, the most persuasive polluters of its reputation, the most trenchant tarnishers of its good name, its most effective destroyers and layers to waste, as the misconstrued passage in Isaiah 49 says, have come from within.
I am not referring to your usual suspects, to a post-Zionist history lecturer here or to a BDS advocate there, to a tattle-tailing human rights group in this corner or to a right-of-return supporter in that corner – but to a much more powerful, much more popular, broad-based coalition of home-grown, true believers who increasingly dominate Israeli public discourse and who, unbeknownst to you and perhaps even to themselves, are bent on dismantling the modern state of Israel and rebuilding it as something completely different.
The common denominators of the groups that make up this coalition are over-the-top zealotry coupled with absolute disdain for accepted rules and norms, from the new-found fusion between the fervently nationalistic ultra-Orthodox and the increasingly intolerant religious Zionists who have launched an all-out cultural onslaught, including a misogynistic campaign aimed at sending women to the back of the bus and back to the Dark Ages; through the growing ranks of militant and fanatic settler youth whose “price tag” antics succeed in giving even chauvinistic annexationism a bad name and whose elders, while denouncing such delinquency, dispute the democratically-elected government’s right to make any decisions but those that suit their aims; and, most importantly, to the Knesset consortium of religious and right-wing parliamentarians for whom human rights, civil liberties and the protection of minorities are out-and-out abominations. All of these people have caused immense damage to Israel’s international standing and its internal cohesion in recent months, and, consequentially, have harmed Israel’s national security no less than its worst enemies combined.