There’s no such thing as natural growth

Jewish vs. Palestinian "natural growth"Natural growth is a lie.

The settlements are subsidized by the government to the tune of millions — the average settlement resident gets more government money in roads, infrastructure, schooling, and tax breaks than citizens inside Israel. This slants growth towards the settlements in direct contravention of stated agreements. Settler growth may be 5.6%, but 1/3 is immigration, not birth rates, making “natural” growth just 3.7%.

In Nov 2008 Meretz MKs introduced legislation to direct the purse strings to reward moving back into Israel. Their research indicated at least 50% of settlers would willingly move with economic incentive. The Labor and Kadima parties viewed it favorably at the time. Presently, it’s dead in committee because that’s not the way Likud rolls. Likud’s coalition wants settlements. Period.

Additionally, if birth rate were the trump card to who gets to build where, then the Palestinians should are owed more than settlers. West Bank’s Palestinian growth rate is 2.2% (West Bank settlers adjusted to 3.7%, mainland Israel’s is 1.8%). But are their towns and villages zoned for growth? NOPE! They get bulldozed regularly, leaving a huge housing shortage. Where’s the extra land or construction allocated to Gaza for it’s naturally high 3.4% growth rate? Plus Gaza’s recent 24,000-home drop in available housing?

What about the 25,000-unit housing shortage in East Jerusalem, where Israel hasn’t approved a growth/zoning plan at all? Presently 60,000 East Jerusalemites are under threat of house demolition. Knee-jerk defenders of house demolitions say bulldozed houses are only those built without permits — but no permits will be authorized because that entire Arab swath of Jerusalem hasn’t been zoned! However, settlements like Pisgat Ze’ev continue to grow.

Don’t forget that while settler vs. Palestinian rates might be off by a couple of percent points, there are several million Arabs and just several hundred thousand settlers. Palestinains are objectively speaking lacking far more housing than settlers by the tens of thousands.

And why should settlements that were dubious from inception be expanded when there’s land inside Israel proper that half of the Israeli electorate doesn’t approve of dismantling?

There is no such thing as natural growth in the West Bank. The policies which fuel the growth are deliberate — and notably, reversable. Building in settlements is a deliberate middle finger to the Palestinians and a political demand from the Greater Israel crowd. It’s not in any way for real population growth.

Natural growth is a lie. Don’t buy it.

28 Responses to “There’s no such thing as natural growth”

  1. I wouldn’t go far as to say “there is no such thing” as natural growth, but I completely agree, it’s an incredibly weak argument.


    Jason · June 9th, 2009 at 5:01 pm
  2. I don’t like the hyperbole.

    There is natural growth, it’s just much smaller and insignificant than the growth caused by public policy incentives.


    Kari · June 9th, 2009 at 5:02 pm
  3. Two related pieces up at Boston Review:

    bostonreview.net/BR34.4/pressman.php
    bostonreview.net/BR34.4/shulman.php


    Naomi · June 9th, 2009 at 7:17 pm
  4. 1. There is natural growth. You’re right in that the Palestinian birth rates are higher, and therefore their natural growth rate is quicker, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t natural growth among the Jewish settlers as well, there is.

    Secondly, I would agree that there is no reason to be expanding settlements in the areas around Hevron and deep in the West Bank were Jews haven’t been living,and even now are more “squatting” then living. The tent colonies popping up daily benefit no one, and only serves to delay a peace process, should we be so lucky as to have a succesful one someday, B”H.

    In terms of new construction within the boundaries of places like Ma-aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion, those are beautiful established communities (and I know you’ll say that Palestinians had beautiful established communities there first (which is debatable depending on your interpretation of biblical geography) but the point is, as long as Israel is there, these communities will be). Regardless of whether or not the Israel government allows new construction within these communities, they won’t allow Palestinians to live on that land, (at least not in an foreseeable agreement) so there’s no point beyond political appearances to stopping it.

    As far as the housing and space crisis in Gaza and the West Bank, I hesitate to be so stark, but PARTICULARLY in Gaza, I just don’t see how that’s our problem. Hamas governs in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank, and they need to work on the crisis of their people. If Hamas were to declare peace with a Jewish state and start an HONEST peace process, it’s possible they would have more land and better opportunities to provide for their people, which is what they SHOULD be doing now….not working on further reaching rockets to shoot into Israel proper.

    I realize this is long and rambling…and I apologize, but these were the things I had to get off my chest right upon reading your entry…


    beershevaboheme6 · June 9th, 2009 at 8:24 pm
  5. “Natural growth is a lie. Don’t buy it.”

    Why shouldn’t we buy it?
    Based on these sad, few, demanding paragraphs,
    we should stop thinking and submit?

    Its a simple idea if I don’t politicize it. People have natural growth.
    Don’t say its a lie – that sounds foolish.
    People grow, they have babies, kids grow up, and move near their parents, friends move in from other cities, cities grow, new cities are formed. Thats life – its true for everyone.

    Stop playing around with peoples lives here. Its cruel. Nobody deserves that.


    Saki · June 9th, 2009 at 9:19 pm
  6. Does someone have a right to live next door to their parents? The entire country is a six hour drive from top to bottom, how far apart could they be? No, there is no right to live next to your parents. It’s nice, but it’s not a crisis. It’s certainly nothing when paying this compromise is one of the biggest items of trust-building in the Road Map.

    This whole argument by Bibi is a sham.


    Kung Fu Jew · June 10th, 2009 at 12:45 am
  7. Yes, families being allowed to grow is a human right. We all deserve that – Jew and Arab alike. Life shouldn’t be dictated by cynical politicians. Most of the people who live in settlements are families, and the majority of their life is spent in the struggles of raising one. For those of us so removed from what our families – that we have no idea of its importance – lets at least not destroy other peoples’.
    For that matter, not only does a family have a right to grow – but so does a city. The survival of its citizens depends on that. Politics must be put aside, because thats exactly what it is, politicians in a cynical eye-poking contest, destroying peoples’ lives – Arabs and Israelis have to allow each other the right to live their lives, and share this earth.
    The settlements are people living their lives on the land. Besides from upsetting other people by their existence, they do very little actual damage to anyone. On the other hand, New York City and most of cities which WE live in, by the consequences of their existence, and their demand on this planet’s resources as a city, IS destroying this planet at alarming rate. Everyone on this planet, millions of other species, and future generations are dying because of OUR cities, OUR glut, and OUR uncontrollable lust for other peoples’ resources. There is a crisis, but its not them. Our building and demand for oil causes more political unrest, and loss of life in the middle east , and the planet, than any settlement does. But would we call for an immediate halt to American Building?
    no. Because as addicts, we cannot see that its killing us and destroying everyone around us.
    Let’s wake up.


    Saki · June 10th, 2009 at 3:49 am
  8. Beersheva Boheme: It *is* our problem, because we are the ones with the power to commence or halt any economic activity in both areas. We sit on the borders, we control the supply of cash, goods and services, and we shoot at will. The “self rule” of the Palestinians is a lie, and a pretty stupid one at that.
    Also – I don’t see “natural growth” arguments to give me a house near *my* parents in Rehovot, especially not at the taxpayer’s expense (and all west bank construction is, essentially at the taxpayer’s expense).
    So yes, natural growth is a lie, settlements should be disbanded, and the ones that are already there should by no means be expanded. It’s just stupid.


    Amit · June 10th, 2009 at 3:52 am
  9. Amit,
    You have a right to live near your parents in Rehovot. You may have to spend some money but the settlers I met paid for their houses as well, some even built their own. Its very easy to call for the destruction of other peoples’ lives when yours is not in question. But when the Polish Jewish settlers left the more densely populated Rothchild managed areas and settled Rehovot they displaced the Arab’s who where living there. What right do you have to be there? What happened to the Arab’s “self-rule”? Would you call for a halt on Tel Aviv and Rechovot? Would you consider removing your parents from their home and giving it to the descendants of those Arab Families your city displaced? The only consistancy is our inability to feel our brother’s pain.

    Arab’s should have a right to live and raise their families in the land of Israel. It’s not the Israeli’s right to deny them of that – we have to share this planet with our neighbors. Jews should also have the same right to live and raise their families in the land of Israel. The Land of Cannan was given to Israel, and then to the Rome, and then to the byzantines, and then to Arabs, and now back to Israel. (with some assorted mongols, mamlucks, and Brits in on the party) Human beings have been displacing each other for all of known history. The state is not the solution. Its the people. We must love our neighbor like ourselves. This planet is ours, we have to take care of it, and we have to share it. Israel must allow Arab’s to share this part of the planet called the “West Bank” and Israel must even share it with their own brother’s as well. Handing it over to another state is pointless, especially when the other state will not share it.
    The paradigm shift here. Is moving from the concept that we own the earth, it is ours to rape and plunder, fence off and horde, trade with states for military and political reasons – and moving to a concept of the earth and our land as a gift – to serve and to tend it – to defend and protect it, and most importantly to share and rejoice in. The earth becomes the reason for peace instead of war. There is no better place for this to start than with Israel herself.


    Saki · June 10th, 2009 at 5:26 am
  10. Saki, your very lovely wishes for peace on earth aside, economics guides reality. If there is no room to move in, you live elsewhere. If you have more kids, you move to a different house. Which in Israel’s case, is not so far away.

    Natural growth in settlements is policy-induced. Their affordability is subsidized — those homes that settlers “built” and “bought” are supported by tax breaks, the construction of schools, power lines, and (not least!) security implements. Instead of building infrastructure in Israel proper, successive governments opted to build settlements in contested areas.

    The settlers can turn their upset upon their own government for decades of idiocy, not Obama.


    Kung Fu Jew · June 10th, 2009 at 10:30 am
  11. Yes, politicians create policies. This has a tremendous effect on HOW things are implemented. The State encouraged settlement so that it would be able to retain control of the land for security considerations, so they would be able to say it IS theirs because Israelis live in it. But the settlers are not there as a policy of the State of Israel. They are there living their lives and raising their families, for a lot of reasons some out of a love for the land, and a desire to settle it, some as the only way they can survive economically, some as a way to get out of the big cities. No settler is raising their family on the land out of a hatred for Arabs. No Arab is raising their family out of a hatred for Jews. I am not denying there is hate. But that is not the reason they are living there. The settlers are living in relative peace with their neighbors, by Middle East Standards. If the State of Israel doesn’t want the land, and doesn’t want to protect it – than simply pull out. Let the settlers make a choice if they want to live there. If they want to fight for control of it, or if they want to live under Arab rule, or if they want to share it. Its their life. Politicians shouldn’t use peoples’ lives and the earth as a bargaining chip.
    I agree that “the settlers should turn their upset on their own government, not Obama.”
    This is not his problem – he has his own. His country has left 85,000 iraqis dead, and 4.7 MILLION displaced, desperately trying to secure its “supply” for it’s addiction. The series of US wars in order to secure oil to sustain its selfish consumption of the planets resources has destabilized the middle east, supported oppressive dictators, impoverished the poorest countries, killed off millions of species and endangered the survival of the human race for generations to come.
    There is nothing the US can do in the Arab/Israeli conflict. Besides looking in a mirror.


    Saki · June 10th, 2009 at 1:14 pm
  12. There is nothing the US can do in the Arab/Israeli conflict. Besides looking in a mirror.

    I strenuously, vociferously disagree.

    The U.S. funds both Israel and Palestinian society by several billions, in military aid to both Israel and the PA, in food and social service grants, and loan guarantees. The U.S. vetos what is and isn’t permissable to say in the UN General Assembly and Security Council. The U.S. has diplomatic ties to countries that Israel and the Palestinians do not, and is many times the most capable arbiter between the two.

    For these and tons more reasons, the U.S. is obligated to play an active role in reducing tensions, proposing continued negotiations, and holding carrots and sticks for both sides to fulfill their agreements.

    Unfortunately, the actions of Israel and Palestine can and do American lives. It’s in the U.S.’ interest in preventing the spillover from hampering American diplomacy in the region.

    I am glad the Obama administration is doing what it is.


    Kung Fu Jew · June 10th, 2009 at 3:22 pm
  13. “The U.S. is obligated to play an active role in reducing tensions ”
    I agree that we are obligated to take that role. Only I know that the US must take that role by changing ITS policies. The US agenda in the Middle East is dangerous.


    Saki · June 10th, 2009 at 4:07 pm
  14. What is the definition of a settlement. Is it a mobile home on a hill, a little shanty town. Is it a city with running water, electricity and 30,000 people.

    At what point does a place change into something other than settlement. Without an answer to what it is this discussion is useless.


    Jack · June 10th, 2009 at 5:01 pm
  15. If I might be so bold as to edit your statement Saki, I think that:

    There is nothing the US SHOULD do in the Arab/Israeli conflict. Besides looking in a mirror.

    President Obama is more than welcome to express his opinions and wishes for an Israeli/Palestinian roadmap, expressing his vision for the world is part of his job, but when it comes to ACTION, that is for the Israeli and Palestinian governing bodies to take. Frankly, the region has enough issues,and one of them is that other world powers won’t butt out. If that means Israel loses the American government’s contribution to the budget, so be it, she’ll survive. And at least that’s one financial source guaranteed not to become weapons in the hands of Hamas.

    Jack, a settlement (at least as defined politically) is any community of Jewish Israeli citizens living over the agreed upon borders post 1967. It doesn’t seem to matter if these people are living in tents, trailers, or cities much nicer than my “legal” home, such as Efrat in Gush Etzion. I think the biggest issue is that much of the world thinks all settlers are a bunch of squatters in caravans or tents, and as such are easily movable…let them see a city with schools, homes, daycare’s and malls, and perhaps they’ll see things a bit differently.


    beershevaboheme6 · June 10th, 2009 at 5:20 pm
  16. In this case, I believe its used to describe any dwelling in the Gaza and West Bank. But with one caveat – it is referring strictly to Jewish settlements and not Arab settlements. And by that definition a jewish dwelling will always be called a settlement – from 1 guy in a tent all the way up to a modern city -because it is Jewish and not Arab. The reason for this is a time honored tradition known to all the world, mainly, that Gaza and the West Bank where given to the Arab’s as a gift from God and no Jews are allowed. If a Jew dishonors this eternal covenant and dwells within its borders, his dwelling is referred to as a settlement – in the colonial sense of the word – meaning he does not belong there and never will. Tel Aviv and Jewish settlements out side of Gaza and the West Bank are referred to as colonial settlements by the Arab world as well – but Israelis politely insist on referring to them as cities or towns. Their rational seems to stem from their belief that displacing Arabs is OK if it happened on black and white film instead of color.


    Saki · June 10th, 2009 at 5:42 pm
  17. There is no such thing as natural growth in the West Bank. The policies which fuel the growth are deliberate — and notably, reversable.

    That “natural growth” is a misnomer for what is essentially a longstanding policy of engineering “facts on the ground” is not news to me, but I admit I tend to worry that the settlements *aren’t* reversable. (Look at the balagan that’s been made of Gaza since the withdrawal.) I believe that withdrawal needs to happen, but I fear that it becomes less possible all the time.

    So I’m buoyed to hear you assert so plainly that the status quo is reversable. That change is possible. Bimheirah v’yameinu!


    Rachel Barenblat · June 10th, 2009 at 9:26 pm
  18. Ironically, this is the saddest statement of all:
    “The U.S. funds both Israel and Palestinian society by several billions, in military aid to both Israel and the PA…”
    America provides military aid to both Israel and the PA.

    Killing me softly.


    Saki · June 11th, 2009 at 4:28 am
  19. What is the definition of a settlement. Is it a mobile home on a hill, a little shanty town. Is it a city with running water, electricity and 30,000 people.
    A settlement is a transfer of Israeli citizens to occupied territory against the 4th geneva convetion; the size and demographic makeup do not matter.
    And if we’re all for equality, then have the courage to say the Palestinians should finally be enfranchised, after 42 years of occupation.


    Amit · June 11th, 2009 at 4:59 am
  20. A question to my fellow Jewschoolers:
    If the State of Israel wants to withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank,
    why can’t the Jews who are living there stay and live in the Palestinian State?


    Saki · June 11th, 2009 at 8:28 pm
  21. They would have to apply for citizenship to the Palestinian state, and if allowed to stay, sure. Abbas just said so a week ago. But I don’t think the settlers will consent to being protected by Palestinian police, do you? My bet is almost all will leave.


    Kung Fu Jew · June 12th, 2009 at 12:52 am
  22. Then why does their growth need to be halted, if they can be citizens of the Palestinian State?
    Why are families being forcibly removed from their homes? Without a religious justification, the State of Israel was created on dubious ground. The Europeans and the Jews should have learned to live in peace and share the land with their neighbors. In retrospect you cannot avoid hate by moving, it will simply follow you, even to a holy land, you must make peace where you are, starting with yourself and your neighbors. But that’s not what happened, and we got the State of Israel. I love the my people, but the State is sadly just like any other state. Its birth is dubious, full of innocent blood, its inherently inhuman and amoral, it represents its majority, it crushes families, destroys lives and attempts to solve problems through force. But to it’s credit, and that is clearly nothing short of a miracle, it functions, its brought wealth, agriculture, technology, education, health care and and culture to its people. It was built on the backs of Muslims and Jews from Arab lands and they have gotten the short end of the rewards. But it is not a colonial power, the israelis are not citizens of any other country to be sent back to, the Israelis are not stealing resources from the indigenous people of their empire to feed their power- lust. They are the indigenous people! both in a historic sense and for the simple fact that they came to stay. They made the Land their home. Never to go back. This is reality, it is ugly, but it could get even uglier, we all know what kind of Palestinian State this will undoubtedly be – a racist, misogynist, non-pluralistic state with a penchant for violence. Do we really need another one? This is why even Gahndi one of the few successful practitioners of the non-violence, pluralism, and peace opposed the partition of India into separate Muslim and Hindu states. Which has resulted in Pakistan (Muslim-India) and India (Hindu-india) being armed to the teeth with nukes, side by side in a constant state of war. We don’t need to put up borders we need to tear them down. My brothers and sisters – Arab babies are not born hating Jews, Jewish babies are not born hating Arabs – its a result of a life lived and learned in a constant war with the other. Don’t abandon Arab babies to a life of hate in Palestine – FIX ISRAEL. Why are progressives, people interested in social justice and peace encouraging Israel to set up a hate machine?


    Saki · June 12th, 2009 at 3:57 am
  23. Well said KFJ! I dont have much to add other than my support.


    Chorus of Apes · June 12th, 2009 at 9:48 am
  24. Saki, if those settlers were to become Palestinian citizens, they’d still have to ask permission of the Palestinians to grow their settlements first. The Palestinians have made it clear that they wish all settlement activity to stop.

    Give it up. Settlement growth without Palestinian consent is wrong.


    Kung Fu Jew · June 12th, 2009 at 12:22 pm
  25. Kung Fu,
    Please explain statements like “give it up” “settlement growth without palestinian consent is wrong.” why is it wrong? You have said that it was policy induced, but that does not inherently make it wrong?
    Here are a couple of points which I’ve made and tried to explain above:
    1) America’s policies are more damaging to the middle east than settlers.
    2) Opposing partitions along hostile lines (race,creed,etc) is inline with peace keeping, creating them is the opposite.
    3) We should not encourage the manufacturing of a state which through its racism, misogyny and violence will deprive the existing inhabitants both Jewish and Arab of basic human rights and life.

    Im ready to change my view, but please defend yours.


    Saki · June 15th, 2009 at 12:58 am
  26. That “natural growth” is a misnomer for what is essentially a longstanding policy of engineering “facts on the ground” is not news to me, but I admit I tend to worry that the settlements *aren’t* reversible. (Look at the balagan that’s been made of Gaza since the withdrawal.) I believe that withdrawal needs to happen, but I fear that it becomes less possible all the time.

    The balagan you describe is a direct result of the blockade that did not end after the 2005 evacuation. I’m sorry, it’s completely disingenuous to argue that Israel cannot evacuate settlements for fear that the situation in Gaza would repeat itself in the West Bank. For starters, Israeli policy itself produced the end result of rocket fire from Gaza into S. Israel. Beginning with the continued, brutal blockade and military incursions after the unilateral disengagement; to the US/Israeli/Fatah (read Mohammed Dahlan) push for an elections and the subsequent 2007 US/Israeli/Fatah push to overthrow Hamas; and ending with the breaking of the ceasefire, Israeli and American policy played an integral role in the ensuing situation in Gaza. The rocket attacks from Gaza were not created in a vacuum, they took place in the context of continued Israeli occupation and aggression. The occupation of Gaza never ended, only the presence of settlers.

    If we’re just frank about the situation, the main obstacle to the dismantling of the settlements is the Israeli government’s (and to an extent a large section of Israeli society’s) refusal to do so; and as long as the status-quo persists (American/EU policy and our community’s implicit acceptance of this position through silence), they have no reason to change that position.


    Alon · June 15th, 2009 at 11:14 am
  27. Alon,
    The basis of your argument, mainly “Israeli policy itself produced the end result of rocket fire from Gaza into S. Israel.” is false in two ways. First, in fact, since the beginning of the Second Intifada in October 2000, Sederot has been under constant rocket fire from Qassam rockets. That’s seven long years, I don’t think that is disputed (but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone would cynical deny their brother’s suffering to win a political debate.) Second, in principle, there was an increase in 2007, but it is not fair to say Israeli Policy produced “rocket fire from Gaza into S. Israel.” Hamas’s 1988 charter calls for armed struggle in the replacement of Israel and the Palestinian Territories with an Islamic Palestinian state. Good idea? that’s another argument, but Hamas and the Islamic Jihad where responsible for the rocket fire, their charter calls for it as a means of replacing the State of Israel, regardless of Israeli actions.


    Saki · June 16th, 2009 at 9:06 am
  28. [...] the media frenzy over Netanyahu’s refusal of a settlement freeze against “natural growth” (barf), there lies an amazing number of productive changes between Israel and her neighbors. IDF [...]


    Negotations work: checkpoints, security and GILAD SHALIT? | Jewschool · June 26th, 2009 at 1:40 pm

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik