The "demographic" argument for unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, and even some Israeli Arab towns as well is basically this: the Arab population is increasing rapidly; sooner or later they will outnumber the Jews: it's a 'time-bomb' that can and must be defused.
In order to preserve both the democratic and Zionist-Jewish character of the State of Israel and retain a large majority of Jews, Israel should give up land, create a Palestinian state and divest itself (as much as possible) of and separate from Arab populations.
Proponents of this theory hope that eventually the Arabs will accept Israel's presence, albeit temporarily, even though terrorism and incitement will no doubt continue. Israel will have relative safety and security, however, behind a protective fence, a Jewish majority under Israeli sovereignty and a 'consensus' that will unify the country in common purpose.
This argument, however, is based only on a prediction; there is (of course) no way of knowing what really will happen. Moreover, withdrawal from Gaza does not deal with the "demographic threat" from Israeli Arab and Bedouin populations in the Galilee and Negev. As a basis for the policy decision that will result in a terrorist-based Palestinian state, therefore, it is weak and ultimately self-destructive.
What makes this argument so pernicious is its fundamental fallacy: it ignores Israel's vulnerability. Surrounded by hostile countries and under the constant threat from Palestinian terrorists Israel's withdrawal from Gaza means the loss of a valuable strategic asset: its ability to pre-empt terrorist attacks and control access to their resources.
Those who argue that it is immoral to occupy another people and suppress their national aspirations fail to understand that in principle this form of liberal egalitarianism sounds nice; in the context of terrorism it is lethal.
If a distinct group of people seek a separate national and political identity and are ready and willing to live in peace, to accept the responsibilities and obligations that attend statehood that is legitimate. Terrorism precludes that option.
If "occupation" prevents Palestinian terrorists from achieving statehood and ensures Israel's survival, then occupation is a necessity, regardless of its moral implications. Violation of civil rights, including the use of violence, for example, is not only permitted but required when a terrorist in custody has information that will save lives. The primary obligation of a state is to protect its citizens.
The "demographic" argument, moreover, runs counter to Jewish history.
Had Joshua listened to a "demographic" argument the Jewish people would never have entered and conquered Eretz Yisrael. Moses Montifore, the Rothschilds and religious Zionists who helped build Eretz Yisrael in the 19th century were probably told by 'demographers' that they were wasting their time and money. "Palestine," of course, did not exist then; the "Yishuv" did and always has.
Jewish pioneers who came to rebuild a Jewish homeland in the early 20th century didn't have "demographics" on their side either. Nor did those who survived Arab pogroms during the 1920's and 30's and the Arab war of extermination in 1948, who fought for and established the State of Israel.
From the "demographic" point of view Jewish history would never have happened. That's because "demographics" only tells you what is and projects what might be – not what will be. The alternative is a vision and commitment to the right of the Jewish people to Eretz Yisrael.
Advocates of unilateral withdrawal admit that there won't be peace, but "conflict management" (an acceptance of something less than an all-out attack on Israel). They envision that Arabs on the other side of a separation barrier will no longer be able to work or study in Israel and will then emigrate.
But what if it doesn't work the way they anticipate? Should Israel continue to allow "Palestinians" to work in Israel? Prime Minister Sharon recently doubled the number of work permits of West Bank residents from 40 to 80,000. Some "disengagement!"
What if millions of Arabs from the "refugee camps" in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan flood into "the West Bank?" Think about the explosive potential of those demographics! And what about the ecological disaster that will ensue?
When Palestinian terrorism explodes on an even larger scale, this time aided by more deadly weapons and troops from foreign countries and other terrorists (like Hezbollah) how will Israel be in a better position to respond?
There are also internal Israeli issues in dealing with the dramatic leap in its Arab population such as the inept policy of supporting Bedouin families with multiple wives and many children – in violation of Israeli law and (in the last decade alone) allowing more than 240,000 Palestinians to enter Israel via legal and illegal marriages and "family reunifications." In addition, hundreds of thousands of "Palestinians" have moved to "East Jerusalem" (areas which Israel annexed to Jerusalem after the 1967 War).
If the demographic argument is applied to the Galilee, where more than half the population is Arab ("Palestinian") and volatile Arab towns like Umm el-Fahm increasingly support terrorism, and parts of the Negev which are exclusively Bedouin, should Israel abandon these areas? Recently, MK Ehud Olmert suggested that East Jerusalem (which includes the Old City, Mount of Olives and Temple Mount) with its predominant Arab population, become part of the Palestinian entity.
Unilateral withdrawal and the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank may postpone but won't solve Israel's 'demographic problem.' It will not solve the Palestinian problem, since there will be no "justice for Palestinians" until Israel itself is destroyed and all the "refugees" returned; only then will the perpetual 'victims of Israeli aggression' be vindicated.
The "demographic" argument is but a thinly veiled support for unilateral retreat, forced "transfer" of Jews (only) from their homes and the creation of a terror-based Palestinian state. Supporters of this policy have yet to show how this is in Israel's strategic interest.
The author is a writer and journalist living in Jerusalem. firstname.lastname@example.org