The concept of demographic threat (or demographic bomb) is a term used in political conversation to refer to population increases from within a minority ethnic group in a given country that are perceived as threatening to alter the ethnic identity of that country.


The kingdom of Bhutan has a long-standing concern with the demographic threat posed by the immigration of ethnically different Nepali immigrants.[1][2][3][4]


In Estonia one of the causes of the Singing Revolution was the concern over the demographic threat to the national identity posed by the influx of individuals from foreign ethnic groups to work on such large Soviet development projects as phosphate mining.[5][6]


Mass immigration from Arab countries and the higher birthrate among immigrants are described by many conservatives as posing a demographic threat to Europe, especially France.[7]


Communist sponsored mass settling of Albanians in Kosovo after WWII, coupled with repeated expulsions of Serbs from this province, resulted in severe demographic changes. This was done intentionally to weaken the most numerous ethnic group in former Yugoslavia. Ethnic cleansing of Kosovo Serbs went so far that today Albanians, called Schiptars constitute a majority of population in Kosovo. Today Kosovo is an example of partial successful demographic warfare as more then 60 states in the world have admited and helped it's alleged independance from Serbia.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland the Protestants have feared the Catholics' higher fertility rate during the 20th century.


Many Hindu Indians see Muslims as a "demographic threat" because of their large population growth due to high fertility rates [8] and because of the high rate of illegal immigration from Bangladesh.[9][10][11] Muslim population growth rate is higher by more than 10% compared to that of Hindus in India.[12].


The phrase "demographic threat", (or "demographic bomb") is used in Israeli politics to describe the threat that the growth of its Arab citizenry and the growth of the Palestinian population in the occupied territories pose to the maintenance of its status as a Jewish state with a Jewish demographic majority.


In an analysis of the dominant demographic discourse in Israel in the 1950s, Shoham Melamad found that the high fertility rate of Arabs was viewed as a demographic threat to the Jewish nation.[13]

According to Nur Masalha, issues of demography and the demographic threat, became an obsession among Israeli leaders after Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the wake of the 1967 war. Masalha pointed to a Maariv editorial by Shmuel Schnitzer published on 29 September 1967 that suggested that Jews should be encouraged to have large families, while Palestinians in the occupied territories and in Israel should be encouraged to adopt birth control measures. Schnitzer also advocated for the adoption of an open policy encouraging Arabs to emigrate overseas.[14]

Posed by the Arab citizens of Israel

The term was famously used by Benjamin Netanyahu in 2003[15] when he put forward his opinion that if the percentage of Arab citizens rises above its current level of about 20 percent, Israel would not be able to retain a Jewish demographic majority, the basis of Israel's self-definition as a "Jewish democratic state". Netanyahu's comments were criticized as racist by Arab Knesset members and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.[16] Earlier allusions to the "demographic threat" posed by Arab citizens can be found in an internal Israeli government document authored in 1976, and known as The Koenig Memorandum.

The increasing population of Arabs within Israel, and the majority status they hold in two major geographic regions - the Galilee and the Little Triangle - has become a growing point of open political contention in recent years. Dr. Wahid Abd Al-Magid, the editor of Al-Ahram's "Arab Strategic Report" predicts that "...The Arabs of 1948 may become a majority in Israel in 2035, and they will certainly be the majority in 2048." Among Arabs, Muslims have the highest birth rate, followed by Druze, and then Christians.[17]

In May 2009, Michael Oren, soon to become Israeli Ambassador to the USA, wrote an article in Commentary Magazine in which he discussed the "Arab Demographic Threat" as one of "Seven Existential Threats" facing Israel. He argues "Even if the minimalist interpretation is largely correct, it cannot alter a situation in which Israeli Arabs currently constitute one-fifth of the country’s population—one-quarter of the population under age 19—and in which the West Bank now contains at least 2 million Arabs. Israel, the Jewish State, is predicated on a decisive and stable Jewish majority of at least 70 percent. Any lower than that and Israel will have to decide between being a Jewish state and a democratic state. If it chooses democracy, then Israel as a Jewish state will cease to exist. If it remains officially Jewish, then the state will face an unprecedented level of international isolation, including sanctions, that might prove fatal".[18]

Forms of "transfer:" Land swaps and population exchanges

On the subject of Israel's Arab citizens, Israeli historian Benny Morris has stated:

The Israeli Arabs are a time bomb. Their slide into complete Palestinization has made them an emissary of the enemy that is among us. They are a potential fifth column. In both demographic and security terms they are liable to undermine the state. So that if Israel again finds itself in a situation of existential threat, as in 1948, it may be forced to act as it did then. If we are attacked by Egypt (after an Islamist revolution in Cairo) and by Syria, and chemical and biological missiles slam into our cities, and at the same time Israeli Palestinians attack us from behind, I can see an expulsion situation. It could happen. If the threat to Israel is existential, expulsion will be justified...[19]

Some Israeli politicians advocate land-swap proposals in order to assure a continued Jewish majority within Israel. One specific proposal is that Israel transfer sovereignty of part of the Arab-populated Wadi Ara area (west of the Green Line) to a future Palestinian state, in return for formal sovereignty over the major Jewish settlement "blocks" that lie inside the West Bank east of the Green Line, an area known as the Seam Zone.[20] Right-wing critics of the Wadi Ara land swap plan have argued that this measure will not be enough since, "The number of Arab Israelis would drop by 116,000-148,000, or a total of 8.2-10.5 percent of the Arab population of Israel, and just 2.1 percent of the population in general," while most Arab citizens object to trading their Israeli citizenship for citizenship in a tenuous Palestinian state.[21]

Avigdor Liberman of the party Yisrael Beytenu, the 3rd largest faction in the 18th Knesset, is one of the foremost advocates for the transfer of large Arab towns located just inside Israel near the border with the West Bank (e.g. Tayibe, Umm al-Fahm, Baqa al-Gharbiyye), to the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority in exchange for Israeli settlements located inside the West Bank.[22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29] As the London Times notes: "Lieberman plans to strengthen Israel's status as a Jewish state by transferring 500,000 of its minority Arab population to the West Bank, by the simple expedient of redrawing the West Bank to include several Arab Israeli towns in northern Israel. Another 500,000 would be stripped of their right to vote if they failed to pledge loyalty to Zionism."[30]

Changing birth rates

See also: Demographics of Israel

A January 2006 study by the American-Israel Demographic Research Group rejects the "demographic time bomb" threat based on statistical data collected since 1995 which the group submitted provides evidence attesting to a rapid increase in Jewish Israeli births and the beginning of a decline in birth rates among Arab citizens.[31] The study noted shortcomings in earlier demographic predictions (for example, in the 1960s, predictions suggested that Arabs would be the majority in 1990). The study demonstrated that Christian Arab and Druze birth rates were actually below those of Jewish birth rates in Israel. Using data from a Gallup poll, the study submitted that the desired family size for Arab and Jewish Israelis was the same. The study's population forecast for 2025 predicted that Arabs would comprise only 25.0% of the Israeli population.

As applied to 'Arab Jews'

Melamad's study of demographic discourse in Israel in 1950s also found that due to the fertility gap between Ashkenazi Jews and Mizrahi Jews (or Arab Jews), the Mizrahim were viewed as posing an "internal demographic threat"; that is, by threatening to "Levantantize" Israel. At the same time, the "fertile womb" of the Mizrahi community was also perceived as a weapon to be used in the "demographic war" against (non-Jewish) Arabs.[13]


Russia fears the "demographic threat" posed by the potential for "large-scale Chinese immigration" to its thinly populated far east.[32] Illegal immigration of Chinese nationals is a special concern.[33]

United States

Some in the United States have expressed concern about the "demographic threat" posed by illegal immigrants from Mexico.[34]

See also


  1. Bhutan: A Movement in Exile By D. N. S. Dhakal, Christopher Strawn, Nirala Publications, 1994, p. 312
  2. Bhutan: Perspectives on Conflict and Dissent, Michael Hutt, Published by Kiscadale, 1994, p. 91
  3. European Bulletin of Himalayan Research, Universität Heidelberg Südasien-Institut, Südasien Institut, 1991, p. 25
  4. In Defence of Democracy: Dynamics and Fault Lines of Nepal's Political Economy, Ram Sharan Mahat, Adroit Publishers, 2005, p. 265
  5. Estonia and the Estonians, Toivo U. Raun, Hoover Press, 2001, p. 223
  6. Understanding Ethnic Violence: Fear, Hatred, and Resentment in Twentieth-century Eastern Europe, Roger Dale Petersen, Cambridge University Press, 2002, p. 156
  7. Europe for the Europeans: the foreign and security policy of the populist radical right, dir. Christina Schori Liang, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2008, p. 132; The Islamic challenge in Europe, Raphael Israeli, Transaction Publishers, 2008, p. 47
  8. Women, States, and Nationalism: At Home in the Nation?, By Sita Ranchod-Nilsson, Mary Ann Tétreault, Routledge, 2000, p. 111
  9. Why India is concerned about Bangladesh, Ramananda Sengupta | December 22, 2005 [1]
  10. Mohajir's Pakistan, M.K. Chitkara. Pub. A.P.H., Delhi, 1996, p. 21
  11. Illegal Migration from Bangladesh, Braja Bihārī Kumāra, Astha Bharati, Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research, Astha Bharati, 2006, p. 86
  12. "Census of India.". Census of India. Census Data 2001: India at a glance >> Religious Composition. Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 2008-11-26. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Shenhav, 2006, p. 191.
  14. Masalha, 2000, pp. 200-202.
  15. Sedan, Gil (2003-18-18). "Netanyahu: Israel's Arabs are the real demographic threat". Haaretz. 
  16. "MKs slam Netanyahu's remarks about Israeli Arabs". 2003-18-18. 
  17. Statistics Regarding Israeli Arabs
  18. "Seven Existential Threats". Retrieved 2009-05-13. 
  19. Ari Shavit (2004-01-16). "Survival of the Fittest". Haaretz. 
  20. Aluf Benn (2005-08-14). "Trading Places". The Washington Post. 
  21. Uri Dromi (2006-03-24). "Israeli Arabs and the vote". International Herald Tribune. 
  22. Amayreh, Khalid. Israeli minister wants Arabs expelled. al-Jazeera. May 9, 2005.
  23. Avnery, Uri. The Israeli Elections. CounterPunch. March 30, 2006.
  24. Israel’s new political reality. ISN. March 31, 2006.
  25. Prusher, Ilene. Israeli right nips at Kadima. Christian Science Monitor. March 27, 2006.
  26. O'Loughlin, Ed. Israel's shunned Arabs watch poll with unease. The Age. March 24, 2006.
  27. Dromi, Uri. Israeli Arabs and the vote. International Herald Tribune. March 24, 2006.
  28. Halpern, Orly. Umm el-Fahm residents angry and apathetic before elections. The Jerusalem Post. March 26, 2006.
  29. Sofer, Ronny. Kadima's new 'enemy' - Lieberman. YNet News. March 23, 2006.
  30. Farrell, Stephen and MacKinnon, Ian. Winners and Losers on Israeli political scene. The Times. March 29, 2006.
  31. Zimmerman, Roberta Seid and Michael L. Wise: Forecast for Israel and West Bank 2025. Sixth Herzliya Conference, January 23, 2006
  32. Russia's Far East: a region at risk By Judith Thornton, Charles E. Ziegler, University of Washington Press, 2002, p.22
  33. Security and Migration in Asia: The Dynamics of Securitisation, By Melissa Curley, Siu-lun Wong, Taylor & Francis, 2007, p. 87
  34. Keeping Out the Other: A Critical Introduction to Immigration Enforcement Today, David Brotherton, Philip Kretsedemas, Columbia University Press, 2008, p. 17


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