LONDON (Nov. 27)
With the Palestinian intifada sputtering, a leading Arab think tank is backing an old strategy — to defeat the Jewish state from within by encouraging the growth of its Arab population.
The prime proponent of the conquest-by-demography theory is Wahid Abdel Maguid, chief editor of the Arab Strategic Report, the publication of Egypt’s premier think-tank, the Al-Ahram Institute. The institute is part of the group that runs Egypt’s semiofficial newspaper of record, Al-Ahram.
“We are capable of increasing the demographic threat against Israel, if we demonstrate the necessary determination,” Maguid declared in a recent interview with the London-based Al-Hayat Arabic newspaper.
Israel’s Arab population is estimated at some 1.2 million, compared with approximately 5 million Israeli Jews.
However, the Arabs’ birthrate is far higher than the Jews’, and Maguid estimates that Israel’s Arab population will equal its Jewish population in 34 years’ time through natural population increase.
Israel, of course, is not unaware of the demographic threat. Israeli surveys also warn of the dangers the Arab birthrate poses to Israel’s nature as a Jewish state, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stresses the need to bring as many Jewish immigrants to Israel as possible.
Maguid outlines a five-pronged strategy for making sure this “population bomb” can be accelerated, thus defeating Israel without another major Arab-Israeli war. Several of these processes already are under way, though not as part of a concerted Arab strategy:
limit or reverse immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union. In fact, levels of immigration have fallen sharply from their highs in the early- to mid-1990s;
bring Arabs living inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders into close alignment with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, encourage them to spurn their identity as Israeli citizens and give them decision-making roles in the anti-Israel campaign. This development, which began with the Oslo peace process and has been encouraged by the Palestinian Authority, saw its fullest expression in the Israeli Arab riots that accompanied the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada in the fall of 2000;
maintain a continual intifada to discourage Jewish immigration to Israel and encourage Israelis to emigrate;
build worldwide condemnation of Israel as a “racist” state to prevent Israeli pressure on Arabs to leave Israel or to reduce their birthrate. This fall’s U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, was the apex of this effort to date;
promote an influx of Arabs into pre-1967 Israel through infiltration and marriage. This also is occurring, according to Israeli media reports.
Maguid proposes that future anti-Israeli actions be spearheaded by Arab citizens of Israel and be coordinated with the Palestinians and other Arab states.
He believes that Arab infiltrators into Israel should focus on marrying Israeli Arabs, making it virtually impossible for Israel to expel the illegal immigrants — at least without opening itself to charges of racism.
The population battle already has been joined, though not yet in the organized way Maguid advocates. According to Israeli estimates, more than 50,000 Arabs have moved into Israel since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993.
They are mainly Palestinians, Jordanians and Egyptians who enter Israel to find work and take up residence in Israeli Arab communities. Security sources claim that some have carried out or supported acts of terror, and some are believed to be agents of the Palestinian Authority.
A key battleground of the future may be in the field of aliyah. One plank of the new Arab strategy should be undermining Israeli aliyah efforts, Maguid argues.
He urges Arabs to meet with candidates for immigration to Israel — especially in the ex-Soviet states — and tell them that living in Israel will present more daily hardships and security threats than they currently experience.
This is hardly new, however, as the Arabs and Palestinians mounted a fierce — though unsuccessful — propaganda effort to convince ex-Soviet leaders not to allow Jewish emigration in the early 1990s.
Key to discouraging aliyah will be continuing the intifada, Maguid says. He also recommends stressing the feelings of “marginalization and disappointment” that some Russian immigrants reportedly feel.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon constantly stresses his commitment to Jewish immigration from the Diaspora, often talking of bringing 1 million more Jews to Israel in coming decades, especially from the former Soviet Union, South America and South Africa.
The Palestinian Authority also recognizes the importance for Israel of immigration. Its spokesman condemned Sharon’s proposal for increased immigration as a “powder-keg” likely to set off a new explosion in the tense region – - even as the P.A. insists that some 4 to 5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants be granted a “right of return” to homes they left in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.
The P.A. statement expressed fears that new Jewish immigrants could be placed in settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but Maguid’s fear is that — even if settled within Israel’s pre-1967 borders, as are the vast majority of immigrants — these immigrants would help Israel maintain a Jewish majority.
Both Sharon and Maguid would agree on one thing: To the winner of the population battle will go control of the state. Should the Arabs become the majority within Israel, Maguid has no doubt about the type of state that would be imposed.
“Palestine can be made Arab again — Arab, and not binational — Arab Palestine,” he writes. In a new, Arab-dominated state, those Jews who wished to remain could live “strong and respected under the umbrella of our Arab culture,” he proposes.