The July 11, 2016, Palestinian Authority report claiming that Jews are a minority west of the Jordan River is a classic case of “lies, damned lies and statistics.” The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics often manipulates statistics to misrepresent reality and mislead observers in a way that is deliberate and systematic, despite a powerful Jewish demographic tailwind and a rapid Westernization of Muslim demography west of the Jordan River, and throughout the Muslim world outside the sub-Saharan region.
Deliberate Palestinian misuse of statistics has resulted in unwarranted demographic pessimism and fatalism both in Israel and among Israel’s supporters. The key aim of this demographic manipulation has been to convince Israeli policymakers to hand over Judea and Samaria under the false assumption that it would be the only way to ensure an Israeli majority in Israel.
Despite the Palestinian statistics, and the display of gross negligence by the international establishment in accepting the data at face value without proper auditing, there is currently a solid, long-term, 66% Jewish majority in the combined area of Judea, Samaria and pre-1967 Israel, benefitting from an unprecedented robust tailwind of Jewish fertility and immigration. Moreover, there is a gap of 1.15 million people between the number of Arabs the Palestinians claim are living in the West Bank (2.9 million) and the well-documented number of 1.75 million.
So how does the PCBS manipulate its population statistics?
It began in June, 1997, with the first Palestinian census in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. In that survey, 648,000 people were artificially added. The census was conducted by the Palestinian Authority, which, at the time, was concerned that the arrival in Israel of 1 million Soviet Jews would dispel the myth of the Arab demographic time bomb, eliminating the motivation generated by the Jewish fear of becoming a minority west of the Jordan River.
The 1997 Palestinian population census in Judea, Samaria and Gaza was inflated by including 325,000 overseas residents, as documented by the PCBS website; counting the 210,000 Jerusalem Arabs twice, as they were also included in the Israeli census; and documented inconsistencies (of 113,000 people) between the PCBS on the one hand and the Palestinian Health and Education ministries and Central Election Commission on the other.
As further proof, in 1996, the Palestinian Central Election Commission population data (2.146 million) and Health and Education ministries’ data (2.270 million) were dramatically lower than the 1997 census (2.783 million), but almost identical to those of Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (2.111 million), which validated its numbers against the number of newly issued ID cards and immunization records.
Demonstrating the creativity of Palestinian statistics, PCBS head Hassan Abu Libdeh, admitted at a February 26, 1998 press conference in el-Bireh that — in violation of international standards — “we counted 325,000 people [13% of the total population!] living outside the Palestinian lands for more than one year.”
The inclusion of overseas residents in official counts has been also practiced by other Palestinian agencies. For instance, according to an October 14, 2004 press release issued by the Central Election Commission, 200,000 overseas residents were included in the (last) Palestinian election in 2005. According to a 1993 study by the World Bank, 350,000 overseas residents were included in the Palestinian statistics as well.
Explaining the inconsistencies between the PCBS and other Palestinian departments, Louie Shabanah, a former head of the PCBS, stated during a June 8, 2005 debate in Haifa that “the Palestinian Health Ministry accounts for fewer births because — unlike the PCBS — it excludes overseas births.”
The aforementioned statistical bloats expand annually, hence the widening 1.15 million gap in the West Bank in 2016. The gap consists of:
400,000 overseas residents, as reaffirmed by Palestinian Deputy Interior Minister Hassan Ilwi: “Since 1995, we have registered about 100,000 children born abroad,” he has stated.
300,000 Jerusalem Arabs with Israeli ID cards are counted twice — as residents of both Israel and the West Bank.
240,000 net emigration of West Bank Arabs has been documented by Israel’s Border Police since the 1997 Palestinian census.
Over 100,000 Palestinian (mostly West Bank) Arabs have married Israeli Arabs since 1997, receiving Israeli ID cards, but are still (doubly) counted as West Bank residents. In November 2003, the Knesset passed a statute terminating automatic eligibility for an Israeli ID card upon marrying an Israeli citizen.
An inherent under-documentation of deaths (represented by the inclusion of Arabs born in 1847 in the June 2007 census) comprising about 110,000 people, and over-documentation of births (represented by a World Bank study documenting a 32% gap between its own documentation and PCBS birth statistics).
In 2016, Israel’s Jewish fertility rate (3.15 births per woman) is higher than the fertility rate of all Arab countries other than Sudan, Yemen and Iraq, reflected in a unique 73% increase in the number of births from 1995 (80,400) to 2015 (139,000), irrespective of the moderate decline in the fertility of the ultra-Orthodox women, but due to the unprecedentedly robust secular fertility. The norm of one to two children among secular Israelis 20 years ago has now shifted into a norm of three to four children.