The “Palestinian demographic bomb” is a myth created to continue discrimination against Palestinians and Israeli-Arabs.
Irvine, California - Say what you will about Israel’s High Court of Justice, it knows how to name a decision. In titling last Wednesday’s legal decision, upholding the controversial Citizenship Law that prevents Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens from living in Israel “Human rights are not a prescription for national suicide”, the court’s majority well summed up the existential predicament Israel faces today - indeed, has always faced - as it attempts to be both Jewish and democratic.
“National suicide” is, of course, an incredibly loaded term in the Israeli context. In the historical shadow of the Holocaust, Chief Justice Asher Grunis’s appellation immediately raised the spectre of an existential threat to the Jewish people, or nation (Am Yisrael), being posed by the mere possibility of Palestinian Arabs joining Israeli society through marriage. Right-wing lawmakers such as National Union chairman Ya’acov Katz have declared that the law would protect Israel from “the threat of being flooded with two-to-three million Arabs from outside its borders”. But such claims are utterly nonsensical. The true number, as Grunis and the five other Justices who joined the 6-5 majority surely know, would be in the low thousands. So why would they argue that allowing Palestinian spouses to become Israeli, which as the decision’s title clearly admits is a basic human right, constitutes an act of “national suicide” for Israeli Jews?
To answer this question, we need to consider other possible meanings of the national suicide claim. We could imagine that the justices believe that recognising such marriages would accelerate the already “dangerous” trend towards demographic equality between Jewish and Palestinian citizens, based on higher fertility rates among Palestinians.
The only problem with this oft-repeated claim is that it’s false; the growth rate among the Palestinian population of Israel has actually slowed in the past decade, while those of religious Jews has exploded. More