A new census, published this week by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), claims the number of Palestinians living in “historical Palestine” (Israel, Gaza and the West Bank) is nearly equal to the number of Jews, and will eclipse that number by 2020, Ma’an News Agency reported. This is not surprising, however, as the Palestinians have been making similar claims for over a decade.
According to the census results, 6.08 million Palestinians live in the region, as compared to 6.10 million Jews. Taking the current birth rates into account, the PCBS predicts by 2016 the Palestinian population will equal that of the Jews living there, at about 6.42 million, and surpass the Jewish population by 2020, with 7.14 million Palestinians to only 6.87 million Jews.
There are, however, glaring differences in the statistics reported by the PCBS and that of Israel’s Central Bureau for Statistics, reports The Times of Israel. For example, CBS listed 6.218 million Jews in Israel at the end of 2014, a discrepancy of 118,000 from the PCBS numbers. CBS numbered 1.713 million Palestinians living in Israel while the PCBS noted only 1.46 million, a difference that can be account for by East Jerusalem, which each group considers part of its own territory.
Following the Oslo Accords in 1995, Israel stopped keeping statistics on the Palestinian population living under the Palestinian Authority, and the PA established the PCBS, which published its first census result in 1997. Since then, the PCBS has been predicting an imminent Jewish-Palestinian demographic shift every year, adjusting the date of the anticipated change by a year or two as needed.
In 2003, the PCBS determined the populations would reach parity by 2006, while in 2010 it claimed Palestinians would outnumber Jews by 2014. Although the numbers are close today, even by Israeli statistics, it has yet to happen.
The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies conducted a study published in 2006, which questioned the accuracy of PCBS figures and the methods by which they are obtained. It listed ways in which the PCBS “inflated” the Palestinian population, in some cases by as much as 50 percent.
Not ignoring the failure of Palestinian population to meet past PCBS predictions, the Ma’an report cited Russian immigration to Israel in the 1990s after the fall of the Iron Curtain for the “artificial” boost in Jewish numbers.
The PCBS census also recorded the estimated number of Palestinians living world-wide, which reveals more Palestinians living world-wide than in Israel and the PA combined. According to the bureau, there are 12.10 million, “of whom 4.62 million are in State of Palestine, 1.46 million in Israel, 5.34 million in Arab countries, and around 675 thousand in foreign countries.” This, claims Ma’an, demonstrates the impact of the establishment of the State of Israel, which Arabs call the “Nakba”, or tragedy. It goes on the call 43.1 percent of residents living in PA-controlled regions “Palestinian refugees”.
Additionally, the report shows a steady decline in the Palestinian birth rate, from 6.0 births per woman in 1997 to 4.1 between 2011-2013. The Israeli birth rate has risen in that same time frame from 2.94 to 3.04 (ending 2012).