Daily Israel Report

US Congress Hears Testimony About Inflated PA Demographics

The United States Congress heard a damning report this week about U.S. aid being over-alotted due to deliberately inflated Palestinian population figures.
By Debbie Berman
First Publish: 3/10/2006, 10:47 AM / Last Update: 3/10/2006, 1:18 PM


The findings of an exhaustive study on Palestinian Authority (PA) population statistics claims that the Palestinian Authority has deliberately misled U.S. and international humanitarian efforts by inflating their population figures to attract billions of dollars in relief funds.

Bennet Zimmerman, Project Leader of a recent study entitled "Arab Population in the West Bank and Gaza: The Million Person Gap," presented the findings to the Congress this week. Zimmerman addressed the House International Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East which has been investigating U.S. funding of the Palestinian Authority.

"American tax dollars and other international humanitarian aid have been based on inflated population numbers which have been accepted without question by governments and aid agencies," he said in an interview with the World Net Daily. "Our researchers pointed out that money has been spent to help Palestinians who were double-counted, never born or not present in the West Bank and Gaza."

According to Zimmerman, the current official population for the West Bank and Gaza, which is listed as 3,279,141, is a highly inflated figure that does not reflect the demographic reality, which he estimates at 1.4 million in the West Bank and 1 million in Gaza, totaling 2.4 million. "The U.S. and Europeans have for years accepted entirely exaggerated data. Now Congress has some very tough questions to ask, including how its own State Department and the CIA could have been duped and what do to regarding future aid," stated Zimmerman.

Israeli demographic analyst Yoram Ettinger concurs with the findings in Zimmerman’s report and claims that there is no credence to the myth of a potential Arab majority in Israel. “And so it turns out that the demographic knife is not really hanging over our heads. In 1900 Jews constituted just eight percent of the population west of the Jordan, in 1948 it was 48 percent, and today we are 60 percent. Without Gaza, the Jewish majority is stable at 67 percent within [including] Judea and Samaria,” Ettinger maintains.

Speaking at the Herzilyah Conference in January, Zimmerman stated, “Before the census in 1996, Israel estimated that there were 2.1 million Arabs living in the territories. At the same time, in the census conducted by the Palestinians, they announced their population was 600 thousand larger than what the Israelis claimed. 325,000 from these 600,000 were Palestinians who were living abroad. The Palestinians came up with an estimation of birth rate assumptions that exceeds 140,000 per year.” Zimmerman contends that the Palestinian figures are inaccurate and in many cases citizens were recorded more than once. For example, the study claims that 230,000 Arab residents of Jerusalem were counted twice.

Zimmerman and his researchers discovered inconsistencies after they carefully compared the official Palestinian Authority statistics with Palestinian voting records, birth and death records published annually by the PA's Health Ministry, immigration and emigration data from Israel's Border Control, internal migration of Palestinians from the territories into Israel recorded by the Israeli Interior Ministry, Israeli Civil Administration population studies, U.N. population surveys, and surveys conducted by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics and the World Bank.

Another fallacy regarding Palestinian population statistics has been the recording of an uncommonly high birth and growth rate. “It is important to follow the demographic activities of Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians and update their activities. Jewish fertility is beginning to rise while Muslim birth rates are decreasing,” Zimmerman noted. Zimmerman claims that actual Palestinian growth and birth rates have been declining, but that the PA has been retroactively tampering with its data, attributing a natural growth rate of 4 to 5 percent per year to the Palestinian population. Zimmerman’s findings, based on the Palestinian Ministry of Health records published annually since 1996, contradict the PA's claims and place the actual growth rate at around 3 percent. PA figures indicate a rise in Palestinian fertility rates while the study revealed a dramatic decrease from 7.4 in 1997 to 3.89 in 2003.

Ettinger emphasizes how crucial it is for future policy decisions to be based on proven statistical facts reflecting the reality of the Palestinian population figures. “Only Palestinian immigration to the West Bank – and from there over the "green line" – will upset the demographic scales. Fateful policy decisions must be based on facts, not on statistics provided by the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, and certainly not on superficial assumptions about demography that bear no relation to reality,” Ettinger stated.