OpinionMeister

Monday, January 24, 2005

How Many Palestinians Are There?

It appears that the whole world has accepted the "fact" that there are 3.8 million Palestinians lining in Gaza and the West Bank. Joel Mowbray reports on a new demographic study that finds that number very exaggerated. Link.

An eight-person team has found that the actual number of residents in Gaza and the West Bank is nearly one and a half million fewer than the published population of 3.8 million—and they derived much of that number from Palestinian figures.

By any standard, the official tally of 3.8 million Palestinians is a breathtaking number. Both Israel and the then-new Palestinian Authority (PA) agreed in 1996 that the population was roughly 2 million—which would mean that the number of people living in Gaza and the West Bank has nearly doubled in eight short years.

During the same time frame, however, birth rates have declined all across the Arab world—except for Palestinians. Standard of living for ordinary Palestinians is easily among the highest in Arab world, which should mean that their birth rates would be among the lowest in the region, not the highest.

As improbable as the official PA population figures are, they have not been challenged until now. The United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and even Israel have all accepted the claim that 3.8 million Palestinians live in the territories. And all have used that “fact,” to varying degrees, to argue that Israel needs to have a separate Palestinian state and pronto.

It seems the only ones who knew that the population figures were bogus were the Palestinian leaders themselves. It was from analyzing numbers released by various Palestinian agencies, in fact, that the researchers discovered that the published count of 3.8 million was severely inflated.

I'm not sure what impact this knowledge will have on the so-called "peace process" in the area, but having correct information rarely if ever hurts.

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