In Israel, Jewish and Muslim Birthrates Are Converging

Aug. 24 2022

Those who would push Jerusalem to make precipitous territorial concessions often point to projections that Jews will otherwise become a minority in Israel’s borders. But, as the Economist reports, the demographic realities suggest something else. (Free registration required.)

Yasir Arafat, who led the Palestinians for three-and-a-half decades, described “the womb of the Arab woman” as his “strongest weapon.” . . . At the time there was indeed a wide demographic gap. In Israel itself Arab women were having almost twice as many babies on average as Jewish women. But in the past few decades this gap has disappeared, as the birthrate of Israeli Arabs has fallen while that of Israeli Jews has risen.

In this, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs have followed a path trodden by women elsewhere. Across the OECD, a club mostly of rich countries, the average fertility rate has fallen from almost three in 1970 to 1.6, well below the rate of about 2.1 needed to keep a population from shrinking.

This makes the rising birthrate of Jewish Israelis all the more surprising. Between 1960 and 1990 their fertility declined from 3.4 to 2.6, suggesting they were in step with their sisters elsewhere. But then they began to buck the trend, driving the birthrate back up to its current level of 3.1.

Some of this trend can be attributed to the high birthrates of Israel’s ḥaredi population. But the Jewish state’s demographic miracle is also in part due to the fertility rates of secular families, which are significantly higher than those in economically similar countries:

One . . . explanation may be that Israeli grandparents tend to help out more than their peers in many other rich countries. Since Israel is small and densely populated, grandma is never far away. In one survey 83 percent of secular Jewish mothers aged twenty-five to thirty-nine said they were supported by their child’s grandparents, whereas only 30 percent of German mothers said the same. In Israel the traditional family structure is still strong. In France and Britain more than half of babies are born out of wedlock. In Israel it is under 10 percent.

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Read more at Economist

More about: Demography, Fertility, Israeli society, Yasir Arafat

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy