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Palestinian-Israeli demographics: The future of settler-colonialism in Palestine

November 12, 2015
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The Israeli Studies graduate program, the Geography department, and the Haifa-based organization Mada Al-Karmel presented a seminar on November 3, 2015 exploring how Palestinian and Israeli demography is changing.

The seminar’s panelists focused on demography in areas under Israeli control in an attempt to contextualize Israeli politics and make some predictions about the future in Palestine.

The speakers included George Kurzum, Ameed Saabneh and Matanish Shehada, and were facilitated by Professor Abedallah Herzallah.

Opening the panel, Saabneh described to attendees how Israeli settlements have increased in the West Bank since 1977. He noted that the population within settlements is proliferating with “a 44% increase of population in West Bank settlements in the last ten years alone.”

Much of the increase in population was attributed to two major factors: immigration and natural birthrate. There has been an annual increase of 15,000 settlers due to immigration resulting in an increasing fertility rate between 1999 and 2003. Saabneh provided different theories and explanations for the increase in fertility amongst Israeli settlers through a presentation of various statistics on demography within settler societies.

Shehadeh, an expert in demographic characteristics and financial policy explains the settler-colonial context in which settlements are built on. He said that the objective of this intentional increase is to “ethnically replace the native population.”

Shehadeh highlighted the disparities between the economical politics revolving around Israeli settlements--deemed illegal under international law--and the rest of Israeli society. The regulations that settlers must adhere to are usually more flexible in comparison with other areas such as Tel Aviv. Shehadeh also noted the discrepancy between the funding going to settlements and the fact that settlers are not active in the work force, i.e. contributing to tax collection. He said that “economic politics revolve around reinforcement of settlement expansion by the Israeli government.”

The seminar’s final panelist, George Kurzum provided a small presentation on counter-immigration, where settlers leave from settlements move abroad. Since 2011, approximately 20% of Russians that immigrated to Israel have returned to their respective cities abroad, he said. Additionally, after the wars on Gaza between 39-50% of Israelis expressed feelings of wanted to leave Israel.

Kurzum notes that if these people would leave, Israel’s population would drop by 42% making Palestinians the majority. This is why, according to Kurzum, Israel continues to feed feelings of fear within international Jewry in order to reinforce support for and immigration to Israel.

The seminar closed after taking questions from attendees. Kurzum grinningly stating “the [Palestinian] population is alive.”

Mada Al-Karmel Organization, located in Haifa I,s a research facility that connects knowledge and academics between the West Bank and ’48 Palestine, especially in relation to Israeli studies.

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