Israeli law-makers, intellectuals and even government officials are becoming increasingly open about exploring “prospective solutions” for Palestinian demographic growth in Israel and the occupied territories, with the suggested solutions ranging from collective deportation to institutionalized apartheid.
Meetings, seminars, symposia and workshops are springing up throughout the Jewish state, all bearing, more or less, the same message: unless Israel does something to curb Palestinian population growth, Jews will become a minority in the area of the pre-1948 Palestine mandate (Israel and the occupied territories) within 19 years.
On Monday, 16 July, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee held an “exploratory session,” in which participants discussed “the Arab demographic threat” and the “dangers facing the survival of Israel as a Jewish state.”
The meeting was attended by several experts, including Haifa University’s Arnon Sofer, who advocates “radical solutions for solving the looming demographic problem” facing Israel.
Calling the current demographic situation a threat to Israel’s existence, Sofer pointed out that, by the year 2020, and if the present demographic trends were not reversed, Jews in mandated Palestine would be a minority, outnumbered by Arabs by 20 per cent.
He said that there were already equal numbers of Arabs and Jews in the combined Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with the Jewish population reaching 4.9 million and the Arabs 4.8 million.
The number of Jews, he added, would grow to 6.4 million in 2020, with the corresponding figure for non-Jews topping 8.8 million.
Arab Knesset members denounced the meeting as “naked racism,” and a ” big scandal in a state that claims to be civilised and democratic.”
“It is racist, just racist, there is no other name for it,” said Arab Knesset member Hashem Mohamed, who boycotted the meeting.
Knesset member Isam Makhoul of the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality also castigated the meeting. “If anything like this were discussed anywhere in the world, it would be condemned as brash racism, but here, in a state that claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East, we see dignified lawmakers candidly discussing ways and means to curb the birth rate of a given segment of society on the grounds that they don’t have the right race and religion. It’s racism, it’s disgusting.”
Israeli lawmaker and former Justice minister Dan Meridor, who chaired the meeting, sought to defend the discussion.
He argued that it was imperative that Knesset members understand the demographic situation which, he said, was crucial for the continuation of the Zionist enterprise and a Jewish majority.
However, when asked why only Arab demographic growth was under discussion, Meridor had nothing to say except repeating the old Zionist mantra that Israel was a Jewish state and that it was inadmissible for non-Jews to be allowed to make up a majority of the population in the state.
The Knesset meeting was only the latest in a plethora of secret,
semi-secret and public discussions on the sensitive subject which have been taking place of late.
A few months ago, a number of Israeli strategic planners, former army generals and scholars met behind closed doors in Hertzlya in northern Israel to discuss “adequate solutions for dealing with the demographic threat.” The Hebrew press reported that the “expulsion idea” loomed large during the meeting in Hertzlya and enjoyed “unprecedented acceptance” among participants.
In addition to “transferring” a significant number of the non-Jewish population out of “Eretz Israel,” participants also reportedly discussed other alternatives, including institutionalised apartheid (whereby non-Jews would be granted civil rights while denied political rights), forced sterilisation, induced immigration (through economic pressure), and “other solutions.”
According to Israeli sources, and in light of permeating political trends in Israel, many Israelis who object to adopting “transfer” as official policy are not really opposed to the principle of expelling the Palestinians, but are rather discouraged by what they call “the logistical difficulties impeding the execution of the idea.”
Indeed, the bulk of religious and right-wing Israeli parties, including Likud, support in varied degrees “the expulsion alternative” and only differ on whether it would be realistic to carry it out successfully.
Furthermore, some right-wing and religious elements in Israel believe their government should seek to induce an all-out regional war in the hope of creating conditions conducive to expelling a significant number of Palestinians. Such thinking is gaining a modicum of pre- eminence in the Israeli media, especially in the so-called national camp.
The Palestinians, for their part, are aware of discussions to that effect in Israel and are reasserting their resolve not to repeat the 1948 disaster. “We will not allow them (Israel) to drive us away again. The worst they would be able to do is to murder us, but we shall not leave again,” Palestinian Authority official Ahmed Abdel-Rahman said in a recent interview.