Esor Ben-Sorek

Demography and Democracy

Alexander Scholch, in his scholarly article “The Demographic Development of Palestine 1850-1882”, published in the November 1985 edition of the International Journal of Middle East Studies, traces the growth of Palestine’s population in years prior to the birth of the Zionist movement.

According to his records in 1850 there were approximately 380,000 Arabs living in pre-Mandate Palestine. In 1860 the number increased to 411,000 Arabs, in 1899 (during the Zionist settlements) there were 600,000 Arabs and in 1914 on the eve of World War I there were 657,000 Muslims Arabs and 81,000 Christian Arabs in all of Palestine.

The British historian, Martin Gilbert, recorded that some 50,000 Arabs immigrated to Palestine from neighboring Arab countries between 1919-1939 “attracted by the improving agricultural conditions and growing job opportunities, most of them created by the Zionist Jews” who had returned to their homeland.

According to the records of historian Itzhak Gainoor, approximately 100,000 Arabs immigrated to Palestine from Jordan, Syria and Egypt between 1922-1948 due to economic incentives created by the growth of Zionist development in Palestine.

Furthermore, in Jerusalem’s population registry from the Ottoman era until the present era, Jews were the majority of the holy city’s population.

The Arabs cannot contest that fact since the records were initially kept by the Turkish Ottomans and after 1918 by the authorities of the British Mandate in Palestine.

During the Arab riots and massacres of Jews in 1929, 1932, 1936 and 1947 when many hundreds of Jews were murdered by local Arabs (even by neighbors living side by side), Arab immigration to Palestine continued although it was illegal by the British authorities. Many Arabs were arrested and deported.

When Israel declared its independence from Great Britain and proclaimed the independent Jewish state of Israel in 1948, it was attacked on that very day by the Arab armies of six countries, including Palestinian Arabs.

The Jewish defense forces, the Haganah, the Irgun and the Lehi (Stern gang) fought valiantly and won several major victories. The local Palestinian Arabs were incited by the Mufti of Jerusalem, the Nazi sympathizer who met with Hitler, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who urged them to leave the country for a short time until the Arab victory of throwing the Jews into the sea was completed.

Only then could the Arabs return to their homes in Palestine and grab as much of the Jewish property as they could.

Heeding the Mufti’s ill-advice, some 750,000 Palestinian Arabs left their homes and properties and fled to nearby Arab countries, in particular to Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. They remain there together with their natural increase to this very day, yearning for the “right of return” to homes and property which no longer exist.

In 2018, the population of Israel was recorded at 8,452,841 persons. 74.5% are Jews, 20.9% are Arabs, and the remaining 4.6% are non-Arab and non-Jewish minorities.

Theodor Herzl’s 19th century dream of the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, the land of their patriarchs Abraham Isaac and Jacob and their beloved matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah has been fulfilled in accordance with his prophecy, “if you will it, it is no dream”.

In recent weeks, the new Nation-State law was passed by the Knesset. It creates unnecessary problems for our non-Jewish citizens.

Hopefully, with good will and determination to do the right thing, the law can be amended and can provide satisfaction and security to our non-Jewish citizens. That is what is expected to be done in a state which professes to uphold democracy. Can Israel be both democratic and Jewish? I see no conflict.

Jews have a saying that “ha kol b’ydai Shamayim”…. All things are in God’s Hands.

This new law, however, is “b’ydai Bibi”…. In the hands of our Prime Minister Netanyahu.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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