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Media Analyses





Minority Report: Akiva Eldar Responds


In his column today, veteran Ha'aretz correspondent Akiva Eldar responds to criticism from Presspectiva, CAMERA's Hebrew site, concerning misinformation in his article last week ("The Jewish majority is history," Oct. 16). Eldar's initial report alleged that the Israeli government has acknowledged that Jews are the minority population residing between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Today, when Eldar revisits the issue, he acknowledges that he was wrong on one point, but also introduces a new error. (Please read the CAMERA/Presspectiva criticism, in English, here.)

His full response, under the heading "Still no majority," reads:

The data published by Haaretz last week regarding the loss of the Jewish majority among the 12 million people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea has sparked sharp responses on right-wing Internet sites.

Critics claim that in the amendment to the law aimed at raising the threshold of eligibility for tax benefits given to industrialists, the Finance Ministry does not provide data about the population in Israel and the territories. They also point out that the Central Bureau of Statistics' data does not note the fact that 12 million people live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, and that my calculation is baseless.

Indeed, the memorandum of the law does not provide details regarding the size of the population between the sea and the river, but this doesn't change the demographic reality.

Since I was accused of fabricating proof, allow me to lay out the data: According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, there are some 5.9 million Jews and 2 million non-Jews (including those in East Jerusalem ) living today in Israel. According to data on the official site of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, updated on October 4, the population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip stands at 4.3 million people. If we add the 2 million non-Jews living in Israel, and if the 300,000 East Jerusalem Arabs are deducted, one gets exactly 12 million. Of these, 5.9 million are Jews and 6.1 million are non-Jews. Incidentally, according to data from the United Nations, the number of residents in the Gaza Strip and West Bank is 100,000 higher than the number provided by the CIA.

Below is our response to Eldar's clarification, of sorts:

Eldar acknowledges (albeit rather weakly) just one of his errors -- that the Ministry of Finance memorandum does not note the population residing in Israel and the Palestinian areas. He does not explicitly acknowledge as fact that he also misrepresented data from the Central Bureas of Statistics. Instead, he merely states that "critics," or "right-wing Internet sites," "point out" that the CBS did not state what he said it did.

Eldar does not respond to the primary complaint concerning his article, namely that contrary to what he wrote, the Israeli government never acknowledged that Jews are a minority between the river and the sea. The false claim was Ha'aretz's headline, and it has gained traction at a number of Web sites. Headlines in both the print and Internet editions were false:

 
Eldar is under the mistaken impression that the thrust of our criticism concerns his numerical calculations of the Israeli and Palestinian population. Regardless of his calculations, the fact remains that the government never acknowledged that Jews are the minority in Israel and the Palestinian area, and yet Ha'aretz falsely reported that it did.
 
The numbers themselves were not the crux of our objection to his complaint, but since Eldar dwells on them it is worth noting that even in his second attempt Eldar's calculations don't add up. He adds 5.9 million Israeli Jews (CBS), plus 2 million non-Jewish Israelis, and 4.3 million West Bank and Gaza Arabs (CIA, but this also includes 300,000 Israeli settlers). Then he subtracts 300,000 east Jerusalem Arabs. If you compute all of numbers he cites, and ignore the fact that he counted 300,000 Israeli Jews twice, "one gets" 11.9 million, not "exactly 12 million," as he states. Furthermore, if you deduct the 300,000 Israeli settlers which Eldar counts as West Bank Arabs, one gets 11.6 million residents from the river to the sea, of which 5.9 million, or 50.9 percent, are Jewish. A majority, still. But, as noted in our earlier piece, West Bank Palestinian population figures are hotly disputed. Those cited here are the maximalist figures. Critics such as Israeli demographer Yoram Ettinger put the Palestinian West Bank figure much lower, at 1.6 million. If Ettinger is right that the Palestinian figures are vastly inflated, due to under-reported Palestinian emigration, the inclusion overseas residents, and other demographic anomalies, then there are 11.1 million residents between the river and the sea, of which 53.2 percent are Jewish.
 
In any event, Eldar's insistence on focusing on the numbers obscures our primary objection: Ha'aretz's publication of a report which falsely claimed that the Israeli government acknowledged that Jews are a minority between the river and the sea.
 
For the Hebrew version of this article, please visit Presspectiva.

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