Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Walls, demographic timebombs, and the convergence of Zionism with fascism

CNN reports that "Israel will build barrier along its southern border with Egypt to stop illegal crossings." Just as with the illegal West Bank barrier, the pretext is fear over "infiltrators and terrorists." However, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has also offered up an anti-immigrant angle of which Europe's far-right would be proud;
This is a strategic decision to ensure the Jewish and democratic character of the state of Israel. Israel will remain open to war refugees, but we cannot allow thousands of illegal workers to infiltrate into Israel via the southern border and flood our country.
Indeed, testifying to the level to which Netanyahu's rhetoric is in-sync with the far-right, the British National Party has come out in praise of this action;
The right of all nations to preserve their identity, culture and heritage has been reaffirmed by the state of Israel with an announcement by its Prime Minister that a wall will be built to prevent illegal workers “flood(ing)” that country and altering its “Jewish character.”

In an official press release issued today, the Israeli foreign office announced that an agreement had been reached with Egypt for the construction of a barrier wall along the border with Israel.

In the statement, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “I decided to close Israel’s southern border to infiltrators and terrorists after prolonged discussions with Government ministries and professional elements.

“This is a strategic decision to ensure the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel,” he said.

“Israel will remain open to war refugees but we cannot allow thousands of illegal workers to infiltrate into Israel via the southern border and flood our country.”

A government committee approved the construction of three barriers along the 155-mile desert frontier that would block the “main infiltration routes,” an Israeli official added.

The Israeli government also announced that new laws would be brought in to punish employers who gave work to illegal immigrants.

Israel has good reason to be concerned about the influx of illegal immigrants and bogus asylum seekers. According to the Israeli interior ministry, some 300,000 illegal aliens — including 100,000 migrants, tourists who overstayed their visit and Palestinians — live in Israel which is home to seven million people.

This means that Israel has an illegally-resident population of around five percent. This does not however tell the real story about Israel’s non-Jewish population.

As of 2008, Arab citizens of Israel comprised just over 20 percent of the country’s total population. The majority of these identify themselves as Palestinian by nationality and Israeli by citizenship. In other words, fully a quarter of Israel’s current population is not Jewish.

This balance is bound to be affected by higher Arab and immigrant reproduction rates. A 2007 study by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies found that “if there is no change in the reproduction rate among Jerusalem residents, by 2035 there will be an equal number of Arabs and Jews residing in the capital.”

The data revealed that the reproductive rate of the capital’s Arab population is double that of the Jewish population.

“If these trends continue, we’ll reach a situation in which the Arab population outnumbers the Jewish population,” Dr Maya Choshen, a researcher at the institute, told the Israeli Ynet news service.

The very real possibility that Israel may cease to be a majority Jewish nation has spurred the Israeli government on to announce the crackdown on illegal immigration.
It would seem that the irony is lost on both sides. For Israel, it is the fact that their policy is seen as vindication of a party whose leader has previously denied that the Holocaust, the very reason for Israel's existence, ever happened. Indeed, even today, he cannot concede that it amounted to anything more than "excessive" death on the Eastern Front. For the BNP, the irony lies in the fact that the vast majority of the Jewish population of Israel are of what they would call "immigrant stock," and that the Palestinian people are indigenous to the land he defends their being barred from entering.

The issue of Muslim birth rates, meanwhile, amounts to little more than alarmist nonsense.

In Europe, studies such as that by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), show that "the fertility gap between Muslims and non-Muslims is shrinking." As "Muslims are far from achieving majority status," making up "less than 5 percent of the population in most European countries," the fact that "their fertility tends to decline over time, often faster than among non-Muslims," renders the idea an absurdity. Justin Vaisse, co-author of Integrating Islam: Political and Religious Challenges in Contemporary France, adds the fact that the fertility rate of immigrants declines to meet that of the native population, and that Muslims are not a homogenous or monolithic group but rather "exhibit strong cleavages based on the country of their origin, their social background, political orientation and ideology, and the branch or sect of Islam that they practice (when they do)."

In the Middle East and Africa, meanwhile, PRB notes that "growth of the mainly Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa has been slowed by a veritable revolution in marriage and childbearing in recent decades. While a young population structure ensures momentum for future growth, the pace has slackened thanks to fertility declines in some of the region's largest countries." Thus, the fertility rate of the region "declined from about seven children in 1960 to three children in 2006." The reasons range from "rising economic aspirations" to "waiting longer to marry," but it decimates the idea that Israel is threatened by non-Jewish reproduction. Iran, in particular, is following developed word trends and facing a decline in fertility to below replacement level.

The "demographic timebomb," then, is a scare story built upon hysteria rather than fact. But it also illustrates the increasing parallel between the far-right of Israel and of the West. In December, I reported how the Israeli Histradut's decision to accept migrants as members marked "only the tiniest of steps forward, but nonetheless ... a vital one," for "those who wish equal rights for all workers and an end to exploitation."

With the Israeli government embracing the rhetoric of Europe's neo-fascists, those attempting to take that tiny step face being forced backwards. Likewise, those fighting to tear down the walls of the Israeli apartheid state now have a new frontier opening up for them. And the consequences of this convergence between fascism and Zionism have yet to be charted.

One thing is certain. Nothing good can come of this new development and it must be resisted fiercely.