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Failing To Count The Arabs: The Myth Of The ‘Democratic’ Jewish State

Above Photo: Israeli policemen block an elder Palestinian woman from the streets during Jerusalem Day celebrations. Matan Golan / Sipa via AP Images.

Israel wants the world to believe that it is a majority Jewish state with a 20% Arab minority and that the Arab population enjoys a good standard of living and full equal rights. And while this is easy to disprove, it is still part of the mainstream discourse on Israel.

It is true that at around two million people, the Palestinian citizens of Israel represent about twenty-one percent of Israeli citizens. However, Israel counts its Jewish citizens regardless of where they reside throughout the country – including the West Bank and East Jerusalem – and all Jewish Israelis are citizens. In contrast, Palestinians are only counted as citizens in certain parts of the country so that the government can present the numbers in a way that looks good.

There are approximately seven and a half million Palestinians living in Palestine and under Israeli control. The total population of historic Palestine is approximately twelve million. One does not have to be a math genius to see that seven and a half is more than twenty percent of twelve. A lot more.

Israel only counts the Palestinians who reside in the pre-1967 borders as citizens, but it counts Israeli Jews even if they live in the West Bank (or, as Israel calls it, Judea and Samaria.) This allows the Zionist State to pretend that five million Palestinians do not exist, even though it controls every aspect of their lives.

Minority Rule

A Jewish majority has been an obsession for Zionists from the earliest days of their project in Palestine, and it continues to dominate the discourse today. While Israel tries to paint a picture of a Jewish majority state with an Arab minority, it is, in fact, the other way around.

While the exact numbers of the population are somewhat disputed, there is no question that at best the Israeli and Palestinian populations in historic Palestine are at least equal, though more than likely Palestinians are a slight majority, perhaps by as much as one million. So at best it is an apartheid state where one half of the population controls the resources, the government, the armed forces, the police and the laws.

What is more likely is that a minority of settlers who came to Palestine to colonize it over the last century are ruling a majority of Palestinians who are the natives of the land.

Who Cares?

If indeed the vision of a free Palestine is one of an egalitarian, non-racial democracy where every person’s vote is counted and carries equal weight, then what does it matter which side is the majority? Well, it matters a great deal. To begin with, a free, democratic Palestine will need to have a constitution. And in this constitution, the rights of minorities must be protected. Furthermore, it is important to show that Israel is not a majority Jewish state but is very close to becoming, if it has not already, a state ruled by a minority of Jewish settlers.

Israel wants to imagine that like France, where the majority of the population are French and European, so in Israel the majority of the people are Israel and mostly European. Also, as in France where the Arabs are immigrants, so in Israel the Arabs are immigrants. But this must be refuted and shown to be wrong. Israel is a settler-colonial project that has its roots in European settler-colonialism, and the Palestinians are the majority and the native population.


For Israel, a state that was established through theft, lies, and terrorism, legitimacy is the holy grail. They must create the myth of legitimacy and then protect it with everything they have got. And indeed, so they do. Any person, any organization, any idea that challenges its legitimacy is immediately labeled anti-Semitic and thus racist, and lacking in legitimacy itself.

We who fight to liberate Palestine must stand on this issue and not allow Israel to get away with lies, violence, and the legitimizing of the theft in which it is engaged for close to one hundred years. So, back to the numbers. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, the population of Israel is around nine million. Two million of those – or around 21% – according to the Bureau, are Palestinians. Even though they are not usually counted separately, they are part of a separate and distinct nation, the Palestinian nation.

The population of what is commonly (albeit wrongly) referred to as Palestine – meaning the West Bank without the Jewish settlers and the Gaza Strip – stands at 5.38 million, according to several sources, including Worldometer. Together with the two million Palestinian citizens of Israel, that makes it close to seven and a half million Palestinians living within historic Palestine. The rest, about seven million, are Israeli Jews.

Jewish And Undemocratic

Whether or not Israel is in fact a Jewish state is a subject for another time. Because Zionism is a racist, nationalistic ideology, and Judaism is a religion, the two are in fact incompatible. However, even if we assume for a moment that this claim is true and that Israel is actually a Jewish state, a state that was established in an Arab country and which refers to itself as “Jewish” cannot claim to be democratic. At least half of the population that Israel governs is not Jewish, and so in order to be a so-called Jewish state, it must maintain a regime of apartheid. “A Jewish and democratic state,” as many Zionists like to call Israel, is in fact an oxymoron because this state is in Palestine which is a Muslim majority, Arab country. It means that the state denies citizen rights to at least half of the population it governs.

The problem is larger than just numbers and citizenship rights. Israel is engaged in a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide. And it is getting away with it. One way to combat this is to find these absurd contradictions between what Zionists claim is true and what Israel actually does and expose them. Israel is not a democracy, it never was, it is a criminal rogue regime with a shameless yet powerful terrorist organization for an army and all of this must be pointed out at every opportunity.

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