Navigation – Plan du site

Accueilnumeros2008/3ArticlesThe 'Demographic Rogue' and Borde...


The 'Demographic Rogue' and Borders in the Land of Israel

La perception de la « menace démographique » et les frontières de l’État d’Israël
Ammon Kartin et Izhak Schnell
p. 411-422


Le modèle de Derrida explique comment « l'autre » est caractérisé en tant que menace à l'existence du « soi ». L'article propose une extension de ce modèle à la démographie, celle-ci jouant un rôle important dans les conflits internationaux quand elle est mobilisée comme une menace. Dès les années 1930, le facteur démographique a joué un rôle majeur dans les conflits de délimitation entre les mouvements nationaux juif et arabe dans la Palestine sous mandat britannique et a alimenté les craintes, haines et hostilités entre ces deux mouvements. L'instrumentalisation de la démographie au service des objectifs politiques s'est renforcée avec la création de l'État d'Israël et le sentiment de menace s'est encore accru lorsque Israël a franchi les lignes d'armistice et a occupé les territoires palestiniens en juin 1967. La forte croissance de la population palestinienne, sa rébellion contre l'occupant israélien et l'implantation de centaines de milliers de Juifs autour des villes et des villages palestiniens dans les territoires occupés ont entraîné le renforcement des controverses à l'intérieur de la société israélienne elle-même quant à la question de la nécessité ou non de séparer les populations arabes et juives et éventuellement d'établir une frontière fermée entre elles. L'appel des leaders des citoyens arabes israéliens à abandonner la caractère sioniste de l'État d'Israël a encore accentué la tendance à développer un discours démographique appelant à cette séparation.

Haut de page

Texte intégral


1The Jewish-Palestinian conflict within Israel's territory that dates back to the second half of the 19th century is one of the longest in the history of ethno-national conflicts in modern times. At the heart of the conflict lies both communities' aspiration to realize their national identity, in the same territorial setting, which is perceived by them as the "homeland". The belief that a fulfillment of one nation's claim for sovereignty will hinder the other's ability to achieve this same goal prevails in both national communities. Therefore, many people in each side share feelings of existential fear, which means that the other in the conflict may be perceived as "voyous" - "rogue" in English [Derrida, 2005].

2 Underlining this concept is the fear from the "other", which is perceived as a threat on one's "self". Fear of the "other rogue" invokes reactionary steps which include, among other things, the self-defining identity group's attempts to amass within its borders, which serve as an insulator. The necessity to put up a "fence" that will determine a definite and clear border for realization of identity and protect from the "other" is increased in cases where communities that threaten one another are geographically intertwined on the same territory. This necessity invokes internal and inter-communal discourse regarding the manner in which the territorial space will be partitioned between "us" and "them".

3The purpose of this article is to scrutinize the discourse regarding delimitation, specifically in the Jewish national community, and to closely examine the question: how the demographic factor, which is reflected in the concept of the Palestinian rogue, affects its nature? This paper suggests the following claims: Israelis ascribe great significance to the demographic balance that shapes their relationship with the Palestinians. A change in the demographic balance within the territory increases Israelis sense of threat, stimulating them to strive to establish clear borders. From this we derive our second claim; since the beginning of the Palestinian uprising ("Intifada") in 1987, the concept of the Palestinian rogue was gradually degraded among members of Jewish national community. This process, which is an outcome of both political and demographic developments, increases the support in the Jewish side for formulation of delimitation principles, in the spirit of the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, who described in his book, 'State of Exception' (2005), a behavior pattern of democratic societies which under certain circumstances, allow themselves to "suspend the rule law and to perform acts of violence out of its liberal limitations".

4The impression that emerges from Derrida's discussion is that a feeling of threat among ethnic communities decreases inner controversies and enhances unity, in order to increase resistibility while facing external threat. We offer here a different claim, asserting that a threat posed on national collective's realization of identity can also intensify inner controversies, when the formula of territorial solution is attached to issues of national identity. In such case, inner dispute between different ideologies and viewpoints increases, as each adversary group attempts accomplish its favored solution. The case described in the following article illustrates this kind of situation, in which the issue of border delimitation is not merely geo-political, but rather a part of a profound cultural-political and ideological polemics over collective identity and the character of the state of Israel.

5In order to establish the claim that a radicalization process is taking place now in Israeli public opinion, as to the role of the demographic factor in the set of considerations regarding formation of borders, this paper describe briefly the Israeli discourse practices since the 1930's until nowadays. Identification of the process of change is based on examination of textual discourse representations, mainly press articles, public manifests, and court verdicts; and on examination of verbal discourse as well, such as academic conferences and formal political platforms (parliament). Our preliminary assumption is that discourse practices are an arena in which common mental models are framed in a society or in social groups within it, and that it is in this arena their normative limits are defined. The article does not pretend to point out the degree of change which occurs in normative discourse in Israeli Jewish society or offer decisive conclusions in relation to it. Rather, it suggests a preliminary diagnosis of the process of change which takes place in opinions in Israeli society, based on two principal components: A line of discourse practices representations from various sources, and an analysis of circumstances and events. The underlying assumption is that events and developments in various arenas- the political, economic, etc., greatly influence the rogue's characterization.

6Following a brief theoretical discussion on the concept of the rogue, we will survey the sequence of events and processes that played a critical role in shaping its image until the break of Palestinian uprising in 1987. Then we will describe the opponent positions in the Jewish national community and the changes that took place in discourse practices concerning the issue since 1987, with reference to the role and significance of the demographic component in the territory division issue.

'Rogue' discourse and autoimmunity

7The rogue discourse, in the Derridean sense, "comes to life" as a result of fear and apprehension from the ‘other’. It is intensified primarily due to inflammation of conflict situations in which the 'self' ('us') is threatened by the other. Feelings of fear, apprehension and dread from the other create a discourse that is aimed to realize and strengthen the self by presenting it as the victim and the other as the aggressor. The rogue discourse is filled with adjectives intended "to a denunciation, a complaint or an accusation, a charge, an evaluation, and a verdict" [Derrida, 2005, p. 79]. Its contents, which are based on messages presenting the other's behavior as illegal, are used to legitimize the use of violence and force in the public's opinion. As such, rogue discourse may be viewed as an arena of verbal violence, which precedes physical violence. The nature of such discourse is that it greatly reduces the possibility for development of negotiation arenas. Its underlying notion is that "You can't dialogue with rogues, you have to fight them" [Korf, 2006, p. 294]. When there is a conflict between different ethno-national communities in democratic regimes - where election procedure is a fundamental element - demographic power relations become a crucial factor in intensifying rogue discourse, since electoral power to legally introduce its will upon the other is in the hands of the majority group, in a manner that might threaten the other's identity [Derrida, 2005, p. 29]. Derrida suggests viewing the electoral procedure as the primary internal weakness of democratic regimes, since it enables the rising of a power that can legally invalidate them. Derrida asserts that an existing regime has the right, due to its sovereign status, to take self-defense measurements -'autoimmunity' [Derrida, 2005, p. 33], which include suspension, for a limited period, of the regime's laws and principles of action. The basis for this moral justification, is the regime's right to defend itself. As Korf rightfully wrote, there is a line of similarity between Derrida's claim and the distinctions made by the Italian philosopher Agamben in his essay 'the state of exceptions' (2006, p. 280). Agamben writes that in an emergency situation norms that are potentially accepted, are not necessarily implemented. On the other hand, "…acts that do not have the value of law acquire its 'force' "[Agamben, 2005, p. 38]. The right for self-defense provides vulnerable democratic regimes the legitimacy to take a variety of counter-measurements, including expulsion of members from the threatening group out of the state's borders [Derrida, 2005, p. 36]. From that we can understand that in the basis of rogue discourse also lies the logic that the state's borderline which defines its sovereignty is a legitimate device for protection of the 'self' against the 'other'.

8Numerous works show the social-psychological foundation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the self victimization versus the demonization of the other [Bar-Tal and Teichman, 2005]. In this article we assert that the demographic component in the rogue's characterization not only enhances the feelings of threat, but also serves as a persuasive source for establishing an "emergency situation" as defined by Agamben. Since the situation bears with it a potential threat component, it is used to gain support for acts of self-defense that are incongruous with the state's law, primarily activation of borders adjustments which are aimed to deal with the situation that Derrida defines as 'Voyoucracy'. A situation in which a group that lives within the sovereign territory acts in a manner that threatens the states sovereignty and its existing public order.

9The following sections points out the centrality of the demographic component in the rogue discourse and outlines its influence on the delimitation discourse, as reflected in the Jewish-Zionist discourse since the 1930's until the 1980's.

The 'demographic rogue' in Jewish-Zionist discourse and its manifestation in delimitation discourse before independence

10The demographic component in the discourse of the two rival national communities, Jewish and Arab-Palestinian, has become essential to the management of the conflict from early stages of Zionism. Jewish immigration has grown rapidly since the beginning of the 1920's, and created a gradual, but nevertheless consistent demographic imbalance in favor of the Jews (see table 1). Following an Arab uprising which started in April 1936, a British royal commission (Peel) was sent to Palestine in November 1936 to investigate the causes and to find out ways to implement the mandate. The commission reached the conclusion that the only clear cut solution for the conflict is a procedure that will end the mandate and will initiate partition of the territory into two separate political entities. In 1938 the British government withdrew from the partition proposition. Yet, the proposition stimulated a public debate in the Jewish community. We present the key arguments of two ideological groups, one who supported the division proposition and one who opposed it. By doing so, we reveal some of the most important lines of thought in Jewish society highlighting the notion of the other rogue.

11Supporters of the partition proposition acted upon an attitude grounded on a distinction between "religious-territorial believes' and 'pragmatic political considerations'. The proponents of this school preferred to have a smaller, but politically independent Jewish state, with a Jewish majority, despite the fact that their share reached only about 60% of the total population, in order to realize the possibility to define the 'self' separately from the other rogue. The alternative of controlling a larger territory with a large number of Arabs in it was perceived as a threat to the minority, if they wish to establish a democratic regime in its state [Galnoor, 1995, p. 226].

12In the group of opponents to the partition proposition one can find a representation of a wide range of social and political backgrounds. Their arguments relied on several claims, such as the Arab's absolute rejection to the existence of a Jewish entity in Palestine and the small state's inability to maintain its population and to allow economic development. However, the opponents' primary argument was based on their devotion to the idea of 'Greater Israel'. This devotion stems from the Jewish religious belief that the Torah does not allow the division of the Land of Israel because its borders were created by God and thus cannot be changed or given away. The opponents of the partition proposition found supporting voices also among the liberal left-wing side of the political map of that times. The proponents of this ideological view opposed partition because they viewed the Arabs as a legitimate ally for political independence and saw in them partners with which they can reach an understanding about establishing a bi-national state for Arabs and Jews, with shared sovereignty and government [Dothan, 1979, p. 144].

13Since the withdraw from the first partition proposition in 1938 until the UN General Assembly partition resolution 181 II in 1947, the representatives of rival national constituencies avoided performing negotiations for reaching an agreed partition solution. Following the resolution, which was strongly rejected by the Arabs, violence between the two rivals escalated. UNGA's resolution marked the beginning of a civil war which spread into a comprehensive war of Arab armies against the state of Israel, which was declared independent in May 1948. During the war, most Palestinians were eradicated from the sovereign Israeli state, and transferred out of its borders (Arab population's decrease from 45% before the war to 11% in 1951) [Portugese, 1998, p. 28]. Ever since, the demographic component remained a critical factor in shaping the image of the other rogue. Amongst Jews the rogue discourse is fueled by the Palestinian demand to return to their "homeland". Most Jews share the notion that by demanding to return, the Palestinians attempt to harness demography to their cause and to change the results of 1948 war.

Table 1. Arabs and Jews in Mandatory Palestine and in the state of Israel (selected years; round figure)

% of
the total


% of
the total











































* The data relating to the years 1951-1992 refer to Israel's sovereign territory.
** 2,137,000 in the Judea and Samaria (+) 208,000 in East –Jerusalem (+) 1,416,000 in Gaza Strip (+) 1, 200,000 within the 'green line'; According to one source the data relating to Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria and in Gaza strip is smaller by more than a one million people.
*** including Jewish settlers in Judea and Samari.

The 'demographic rogue' discourses amongst Jews until the 1980's

14Since the armistice agreements between Israel and its neighboring countries in 1949 until June 1967, the demographic component in the other rogue discourse has been almost silenced in the Jewish community, largely because of the fact that the demographic advantage provided a feeling of security - for a viable existence of a democratic Jewish state. To ensure the achievement of this goal several actions were taken towards the Arab minority which can be defined, following Agamben's words, as a continuous and systematic suspension of democratic principles. Under the pretext of the emergency situation in which the state of Israel had been, the Palestinian citizens of Israel were put under a military government and a set of laws aimed to cut them off all the life frameworks of the state. One of the outstanding manifestations of democracy suspension which was aimed to perpetuate the demographic advantage of Jews was The Law of Return, enacted in 1950, which permitted only Jewish people everywhere the legal right of immigration to Israel [Sachar, 1985].

15In June 1967, when the West Bank and Gaza strip were occupied, approximately one million Palestinians came under Israel's rule. About 600,000 of them (round numbers) lived in the West Bank, 70,000 in East-Jerusalem and 350,000 in the Gaza-strip. The end of the war initiated two contradictory processes. The first, the 1949 armistice lines ('green line') became unclear. Second, the rogue's image and the demographic component in his 'personality' became slowly but gradually intensified. The prevalent discourse practices regarding demography in the first half of the 1970's among the Jewish community, were of limited representations. Furthermore, by using the name “Occupied Territories” as if they are empty of any national group of people, Israelis adopted a denial strategy avoiding any confrontation with the demographic consequences of the occupation. However, during the second half of the 1970's, a certain extent of public action began to take place, striving to raise public's opinion to the demographic danger that lurks to the Zionist future of the Israeli state from the rapid Arab population natural increase. This public action called for a gradual and controlled transfer of Israeli-Arabs out of the state's sovereign territory. Despite of the fact that the attempts to raise public support for transfer had failed, public discourse around the issue did not expire completely. In September 1976, a confidential memorandum, written by a high rank civil servant leaked to the press. In the memorandum, the author pointed out the concrete danger underlying the Arab's rapid natural increase rate "which constantly wears out the Jewish demographic advantage in the northern district [of Israel] " and that will soon raise the Arab's demand that Israel withdraw from the Galilee district (The Koenig Report, 1976). Despite of the fact that the author of this memorandum has indicated his commitment to the rule of law, he recommended to hold on to a "policy of reward and punishment within the framework of the law for leaders and settlements that express hostility in any way toward the state and Zionism" (p. 193). His words included "warm" recommendations to take steps, such as facilitating the procedures for Arabs who wish to leave the country and introducing restricted criteria if they wish to return. This recommendation and the spirit of the memorandum cover up for the intent to lawfully take "mild" transfer steps. Although these recommendations did not become a declared policy, circles in the government and bureaucracy did not wash their hands of it. Evidently, not only that their author was not suspended from his office, he was appointed, the head of a committee for eliminating Arab's illegal construction in the northern district. In light of this, we suggest viewing this memorandum as the formal, most significant starting point of the public discourse about the centrality of the demographic dimension in shaping the image of the Palestinian rogue. Moreover, rationale for behavior patterns in "emergency situations", described by Derrida and Agamben, were set out as early as this memorandum was published. In the end of March 1976, shortly after the memorandum was written, the Arabs citizens of Israel initiated a general strike. Following that, they began rioting against land confiscations in the Galilee. These riots, known as "Land Day" confirmed the prediction made in Koenig's Report, which was written two month earlier. Ever since, the image of the other rogue in the Israeli public consciousness is in a continuous deterioration.

Deterioation of the other rogue from the 1980's and onwards

16Following the Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories, the rogue discourse has intensified. This uprising, which began in December 1987, forced many political circles in Israel to begin acknowledging what they have chosen to ignore in the past. They began to acknowledge the rights and demands of Palestinians in the occupied territories and the deepening correlation between demographic dynamics and the Jewish state's viable existence. The uprising ('Intifada'), which included (from 1992) terrorist attacks within the premises of Israel's borders, intensified the threat posed by the Palestinian rogue and provided a justification for an official declaration of an "emergency situation", in order to stop the terrorist offensive within the 'green line'. This declaration soon brought back the green line to Jewish peoples' consciousness and caused many to territorially identify the "threatening rogue". The fact that this 1949's armistice line was there, made it an available line for territory determining by Jewish-Zionist community, as it acknowledged that defining a border is a central component in Israel's ability to defend itself and in the state's national preservation. The declaration served as an appropriate basis for strengthening the collective consciousness linkages between the rogue's demographic dimension and the need for political separation between the two national communities.

17Similarly to Arab rebellion in 1936, the outburst of the Intifada motivated a move for searching a political solution which is based on territory partition between the conflicted national communities. This move reached a partial fulfillment in the Oslo agreement which was signed in September 1993. However, not only that this agreement did not lead to moderation of the rogue's image in both sides, it intensified it. The agreement failed to provide a formula for a viable solution, and created an expectations crisis that eventually led to escalation of violence. Underlying the agreement was the principle that rejects solutions of future major disputes. This underlying principle motivated parties of both sides to act for forming a political solution in the spirit of their respective ideological views. On the Jewish side, two contrary stances became widely spread. The first, called to prevent a formulation of a solution which is based on territory partition. The second view, called for formulation of a political separation formula.

18Disputes over the implementation of Oslo agreements and the failure of the peace talks under US's president patronage in July 2000, brought about Palestinian violent actions in September 2000 ('El-Akza Intifada') which expanded, for a certain period of time, to Israel territory within the green line. The sights from the confrontations, reflected in the media, and some Jews' personal experiences from it, established Jews' unconscious link between the demographic dimension and the set of considerations in determining the permanent borders of the state of Israel. This linkage between security anxiety, demographic anxiety and the issue of border determination grew deeper as a result of two additional developments. One, the growing trend among Jews to believe that Palestinians from both sides of the green line, share similar identity [Amara, 2004, p. 47]. Second, increasing criticism, since the late of the 1990's, of Israeli Arabs towards prevalent hegemonic Jewish stances.

19The various developments outlined above, form the background for a description of different approaches in the Jewish community discourse, concerning the relationship between the demographic factor and the issue of space delimitation, and to their analysis, from the late 1980's onwards.

20The influence of the demographic rogue on borderline discourse in the Jewish communityDespite the wide range of opinions which exists in the Jewish community in Israel, one fundamental belief common to most of them can be pointed out. It boils down to strong resistance in allowing free return of the Palestinians to the State of Israel, which can bring about within it radical changes in the minority-majority relations. However, this consensus cannot cover up the controversy within the national Jewish community, between three schools which attempt to reach hegemonic status in the construction of political reality. One sees the ticking of the Palestinian demographic clock within the territories under Israeli rule a strategic threat to the very existence of the Jewish State of Israel and the Zionist paradigm. The second school regards the source of the strategic threat in the founding of a Palestinian state adjunct to Israel. The third school is against territorial partition and supports the establishment of one state for two nations. The appraisal that within a short period of time a "demographic upheaval" will take place and the Arabs will be the majority between the Jordan river and the sea, prevalent mainly within the first two ideological schools, is a source of justification for its proponents to the suspension of the rule of law. A different mixture of underlying premises and ideological motives leads each group to side law suspension moves of different characteristics. We claim that the growing feeling of "demographic emergency" serves in the Zionistic left-wing (the first ideological group), as a main source of justification for border adjustments that will lead to the reduction in the number of Arab-Israeli citizens, despite of the fact that this may violate the basic principles of the democratic rule. It needs to be said that despite the increasing support to this move, it does not indicate that a radical change in attitudes has taken place within the Jewish majority community. As far as it concerns to suspension of rule of law towards the Arab minority in Israel, the majority community in Israel has been hard-heartened or at the very least, indifferent. It is evident in the subordination of Arab Israeli citizens to a military government between the years 1948-1996 and the limitation of a number of basic-formal rights which raised no voices of protest from the Jewish society, and if they did have any expression, it came mainly from the political fringe [Azoulay and Ophir, 2008, p. 53]. And yet, the growing sense of a "demographic emergency" is not enough to explain the expansion of support of borders delimitations accompanied with suspension moves in the rule of law towards Arab-Israelis. Two additional and combined components contribute to the explanation of this trend: one is the national Jewish democratic ethos of the state which is territorially delimited within the borders of June 1967, and beyond them is perceived as illegal. The second is the clarifying acknowledgment in the sharp contradiction, a dichotomy between the majority's outlook of what is best and the minority's outlook, which prevents many from continuing to repress the existence of the "threatening stranger" which for a long time had remained in the sidelines of the majority's consciousness [Shamir, 1996].

The Zionistic left-wing's stances

21The Zionistic left defines the State of Israel within the borders of 1967 as an entity which belongs mainly to the ethnic Jewish nationality and therefore its basic and deep character is Jewish with all it entails: the language, symbols of state and culture. This premise is morally reinforced by the narrative which views the Zionistic endeavor as a just move which stems from the natural right for a state for the Jewish people, as well as a historic right on the land of Israel. This narrative is used as a source of self conviction to the stance which asserts that the State of Israel was never intended to be a state for all citizens but rather a collective majority state. According to this narrative the definition of the states character as "Jewish" cannot be argued, even when the basic premise of a liberal society is that equality is the first value to be implemented. Those who hold this view support the notion that exceptions can be made if there is a sufficient reason and the option of negative discrimination of national Jewish identity is a sufficient reason to reject the Arab claim for equality in the public realm. This stance implies the level of sensitivity mainstream Israeli society has towards the degree of democracy within the democracy in Israel, as far as the status of Arab-Israelis is concerned. In general, there is widespread unanimity within the left-wing Zionists that it is satisfactory to accept the legal-formal definition of democracy and accept its flaws and faults [Sprinzak, 2003]. An additional source for the growing support in the delimitation process which is based on coerced population exchange can be found in the process of changing the Israeli-Arab positions as is seen since the late 90's. We will not deeply analyze the basis for this change but will only point out that the Oslo resolutions strengthened the idea amongst Israeli-Arabs that the founding of a Palestinian state side by side with Israel creates enough symmetry to legitimize the existence of a national Jewish state, removes their ability to translate demographic priorities of the Palestinian people within Israel to their political advantage and weakens their political negotiation abilities in light of their demographic inferiority [Khoury-Sabbagh, 2006, p. 80]. These reasons, among others, have encouraged Israeli-Arab intellectuals and elite secular groups to try set in the Arab-Israeli public-opinion a narrative which undermines the fundamentals of the Zionist paradigm. While opposing the hegemonic stances in the Jewish society, the elitist group's discourse, has introduced alternative ideas some of which called to detach components of Israeli space from one predominant identity, the Jewish one; and to change the nation's state to one neutral container in which the nationality and Jewish identity are assimilated into the concept of citizenship. The feeling of a "demographic emergency situation" and the disclosure of the Arab-Israeli stances toward the State of Israel provided many with the moral justification necessary to support defensive steps that central elements in them are "border adjustments" and population exchanges, though the meaning is depravation of citizenship from part of the Arabs in Israel, impingement of their human, political and economical rights. This stand is expressed in a number of public opinion polls showing that as of 2004 nearly 50% of the Jews support the idea of population exchange (the meaning of this is that in exchange for moving part of the Arab-Israeli citizens to the State of Palestine, Jewish settlements adjunct to the green line east of Israel will be annexed to her sovereignty) (Arian et al.2007); as well as in the publications of different epistemic communities' representatives such as senior Israeli demographer, Prof. Dela Pergula, who presents professional analysis which shows that there is real usefulness in the exchange of territories (read- population) which will guarantee a "solid Jewish majority till the mid 21st century" [Dela Pergula, 2002].

22The "demographic emergency situation" as a source helping to support suspense of the rule of law within the law are also displayed by the Supreme Court. As for example, in the Supreme Court ruling in petitions regarding amendments of the civil and entrance law, 2003. This "temporary provision", a temporary law authorized by the Parliament as a government bill, intended to prevent naturalization of Palestinians within the framework of "family reunion" and to almost totally minimize the chance of Israelis marrying Palestinians from the occupied territories and to build their homes in Israel. The bill's wording is a sweeping denial to a far reaching commitment by the state to have equal rights for all citizens. In defense of the constitutional law against the petitions filed against it, the State argued its necessity for reasons of state security. Yet, a later response by the state to prosecutions fails to hide a more sensitive reason, the demographic issue. As to the answer the State writes: " […] Even if the demographic intention was central to the legislation, which it isn't, it would be suitable and compatible with the values of The State of Israel as a Jewish democratic state" [Davidov et al., 2005, p. 648]. Despite the new law grossly harming the state's basic civil laws and discriminating between citizens due to their ethnic-national affiliation, the Supreme Court rejected the petitions in May 2006. Doing that, it implicitly acknowledged the moral justification that the state has to use exceptional means for keeping a solid demographic advantage for the Jews, vis-à-vis the possibility of a gradual actualization of the Palestinians right to return, because of families' reunion. The majority's decision in The Supreme Court strengthens the supposition that within this supreme judicial body there are supporters for the approach which sees the change of demography as a source of threat which exonerates the state with the Supreme Court's protection even at the risk of harming democratic values. In one of his articles Agamben wrote that "[…] a state of emergency won't stop with the enemy but will glide into all layers of society and its institutions and will turn it into a non-democratic society" [Agamben, 1999]. The Supreme Court's decision in the described case show how close this description is to reality as far as the Arab citizens of the State of Israel are concerned.

23Opposed to those who support partition out of a fundamental commitment to the Zionist project, stand a number of ideological groups. This article bases the distinction between them on their willingness to acknowledge the existence of the demographic-territorial equation according to which annexation areas to Israel results in the growth of the Palestinians that will be under Israeli rule and to the enhancement of the political economical threats on the identity and character of the State of Israel. On that basis, and with limiting our discussion only to the ideological groups which see themselves committed to the continuation of the Zionist paradigm, we identify two basic approaches. One cancels the implications of the demographic component in the equation while the other recognizes the necessity to confront them.

The partition opponents' discourse

24Among those who reject the logic of the division derivative of the demographic reality, two "ideological" groups can be identified; the nationalist-religious group and the military-security group. The discourse prevalent among the nationalist-religious group attributes Judaism a central role in the definition of the state and attempts to connect its management to values and contents from Jewish theology. This ideological group sees the occupation and settlement of the country as the realization of the redemption vision and negates any political formula which places borderlines within its area [Schnell and Mishal, 2007]. This group holds on to the principle of negating any solution which can lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the territory stretched between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Adherents of this approach do not recognize the necessity of the majority decision and do not feel obligation to use democratically accepted norms regarding individual rights. From this point it is only a short distance to the cancellation of the dangers inherent in the change of the demographic balance and to the characterization of the demographic factor solely as a dangerous factor, which does not pose a threat on the identity of the state.

25The basic principle in the discourse led by the military-security group is that the establishment of a Palestinian state within the borders of Israel creates danger and poses a threat which is by far larger than the threat of controlling a Palestinian demographic mass, even when it will be predominant. The approach proponents' main argument lies in the claim that the national Palestinian movement obtains its identity from the same territory and therefore strives to rule all of it. According to this view, the State of Palestine to come will turn into a territorial basis for offensive military activity ('rogue state'), striving to push the border to the west in order to extracting its population from the suffocating territory. The internal logic of this approach claims that in the choice between a "demographic (and security) problem" of control and one that is not under control, the former is preferable. This leaves Israel the control of the crossing points (the regulation of immigrant and refugee entry) and of the territory which this approach believes is of crucial importance in national security issues [Amidror, 2006].

Right wing approaches confronting the demographic-territorial equation

26Among the schools which recognize the threatening implications imbedded in the demographic-territorial equation, one can identify few sub-approaches which mainly differ in the way they combine the territorial and democratic factors in the solutions they offer. One sub-approach acknowledges the right of the Palestinian people to a state and regards a final agreement with them as an opportunity to establish a demographic Jewish majority in the State of Israel. According to this logic, the threat which lies in the establishment of a Palestinian state and in the necessity to forgo the vision of a Greater Israel is smaller than the threat inherent in the gradual narrowing of the demographic gap between Jews and Arabs in the State of Israel. Narrowing of the demographic gap is as a time bomb threatening the Jewish identity of the State of Israel as well as its security and economical strength. The adherents of this sub-approach assert that the establishment of a Palestinian state opens an opportunity to transfer the Arab population which resides in Israeli sovereignty (adjunct to the green line, in Bedouin settlements in the Negev and in East Jerusalem) to the Palestinian state by changing the alignment of the border in exchange for the annexation of Jewish settlement blocks adjunct to the green line in the West Bank [Arad, 2006]. Indeed, the proponents of this approach view themselves committed to the laws of the State of Israel and to the protection of civil rights, yet they see no wrong in the coercion of this move on the Arab minority in Israel as long as it is carried out in an appropriate democratic procedure and with relative majority support. The similarity between this solution and the solution suggested by the centralist Jewish view mainly indicates the process of the demonizing of the Palestinian rogue in the Jewish public.

27 An additional "solution" formula for the equation is the proposed compromise offered by the Nationalist-Religious discourse. This solution is based on the partition of the occupied territories into three separately controlled areas. One, which includes of over 60% percent of the Judea and Samaria with 300,000 Palestinians in it, will be annexed to Israel and its Palestinian occupants will receive full civil rights. The second, which contains the main Palestinian demographic mass, will be transferred to an independent Palestinian authority which will be connected by a political arrangement to Jordan. The third area, the Gaza strip will be connected by a political arrangement to Egypt (this proposal was suggested before the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza strip).This proposal grants top priority to Israel's historic right of rule, also commits itself to the states' democratic character. The necessity that this commitment creates, to grant the Palestinians under Israeli rule full rights, obligate its advocates to solve the internal contradiction of this proposal, claiming that "[…] Demographic fear must be taken into account against other issues with the calculation of cost/benefit…Israel can afford to annex a few hundred thousand Palestinians for the sake of leaving parts of the homeland in its control" [Mintz, 2006].

28Different formulas, which also recognize the existence of the territorial-demographic equation deal with the problem of controlling a Palestinian demographic mass in ways which critically violate the rules of the democratic game. One formula of this category states that Israeli control in the 'Land of Israel' territory will become possible, without the need to evacuate the Palestinians from their homes, by means of depriving them of right to participate in democratic political game, specifically depriving them of the right to vote. This right will be preserved for them in the Jordanian parliament [Breiman, 2007].

Israeli liberal-democrats' discourse

29A third school competing for the hegemony in the construction of a political reality within the context of the arising demographic discourse is represented by Israeli liberal-democrats. The ideologists of this sector attribute great importance to the liberal-democratic ethos. From this point of view Israel's control over Palestinians in general and more specifically, over Israeli Arabs is a source of danger to the stability of the state and its security due to the possibility of violent outbursts [Sand, 2008, p. 293]. This ideology's discourse calls for the State of Israel to renounce its Zionistic elements and its Jewish character, to give up its Jewish nationalism, or at the very least, to waive its collective expression via the State of Israel. The solution this group suggests wishes to create a national identity which represents all its citizens at large and acknowledges the right of all Palestinian Israeli citizens to full equal rights within a framework which will give them established quality autonomy [Yonah, 2005, p. 174]. As a part of the realization of this solution, its adherents believe in the cancellation of the law of return in its present version and in its restatement in a way that will enable even a small part of the Palestinian refugees to return to the state of Israel. This approach attempts to neutralize, to a large extent, the connection between the demographic power relations and the amount of influence they have on the variety of governmental, social and cultural processes in the state. The supporters of this school give very little importance to the demographic fear inherent in the majority community and regard it as feeble justification for non-democratic actions. Of the discourse prevailing in this approach it is evident that its supporters do not share the fear of a demographic changeover which many Jews have.

Summary and Conclusions

30The Peel Commission's Partition Plan was brought up in 1937, yet ever since the incessant violent conflict between the two national communities has been a constant source for the enhancement of fear, hatred and hostility between the two opposing rivals and the demonizing of each other. Integrating the demographic component in the rogue's image and giving it a central place in the discourse occurred when an attempt was made to find a solution based on territorial partition. The demographic component was used to advance political aims, mainly because it can serve as a means to stimulate an anxiety and a sense of urgency within the Jewish community. Stimulation of the sense of urgency occurs when a connection is established between the majority-minority power relations and the identity of the Jewish state and its government. The demographic component in the rogue's image serves as a concrete illustration how the democratic rule in Israel fails to defend itself from an ethnic minority which wants to change the political reality by means of "peaceful" democracy. The tangibility of the danger served for many among the Jews as a source of conviction in the need of a territorial partition and as a justification for removing moral obstacles in order to attain it. Whereas until the 1980's only a small part of the Jewish population shared the sense of urgency for partitioning the territory according to the armistice lines of 1949, in the end of that decade the dogma of the necessity in partition with border adjustments and population exchanges, had already begun to seep in. It seems that the hegemonic consensus which prevailed between the years 1948-1967 in the Jewish community had been replaced, since the 1980's, by a heated argument between left and right wings, regarding the desirable balance between territorial control and demography. As a result, each side of the political map wishes to establish a Jewish demographic majority in the territory which they believed to be Israeli territory. The first Palestinian uprisings, together with the arousal of a new discourse among the Arab citizens of Israel, which undermined the traditional Zionist hegemony, are both the main factors responsible for this development. The significance of border as a basis for constructing a stable and sound identity, and the importance of closing the border as a reaction to threat, are both known phenomena in the psychological-social national discourse, and particularly in its Israeli context [Gurevitz, 2007]. Since 2000 there has been a growing support for the stance which calls for a solution of territorial concession and giving up control over Palestinian population, in order to reduce the feelings of threat. In the course of time the sense of "demographic emergency" caused wide circles in the majority community, including those which are identified as the knights of human rights, to rethink their choice to avoid a violent crisis of their relationship with the minority communities. The trend within the majority community is that the number of supporters for defense actions is increasing, as noted by Agamben and Derrida, who indicate both suspension of the law and the use of the borderline as a means of defence. Yet, the logic of the prevalent dogma is not shared by all the members of the majority community. The ideological dispute regarding the nature of the rogue still remains and as a result, it still exists regarding the formulation of the appropriate solution or management of the conflict.

Haut de page


GAMBEN G. (1999), “Potentialities”, in Daniel Heller Roazen (edited, translated and introduction by), Collected Essays in Philosophy, Stanford, Stanford University Press.

AMARA M.H. (2004), “The Political Perspective of the Jews-Arabs relations in Israel”, in S. Hasson, K. Abu-asbah (eds.), Jews and Arabs in Israel Facing a Changing Reality, The Floersheimer Institute for Policy Studies, pp. 47-53 (Hebrew).

ARAD U. ( 2006), Territorial Exchange and the Two-State Solution for the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict,Working Paper, Submitted for the Herzliya Conference, January 21-24.

ARIAN A., ATMOR N. and HADAR Y. ( 2007), Israeli Democracy Index, the Israeli Democracy Institute (Hebrew).

AZOULAY A. and OPHIR A. (2008), This Regime which is not One: Occupation and Democracy Between the sea and the river, Tel Aviv, Resling Publication (Hebrew).

BREIMAN R. (2007), Ha'aretz, 3 December.

BAR-TAL, D. and TEICHMAN Y. (2005), Stereotypes and prejudice in conflict: society representation of Arabs in Jewish society, Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press.

DAVIDOV G., YOVEL J., SABAN I. and REICHMAN A. (2005), "State or Family? The Citizenship and Entry to Israel Act (Temporary Order) 2003", Mishpat U'mimshal, (Law and Government in Israel, vol.8, no. 2, pp. 643-700 (Hebrew).

DELA PERGULA S. (2002), Ha'aretz, 11 April.

DERRIDA J. (2005), Two essays on Reason, Stanford University Press, California.

DOTHAN S. (1979), Partition of Eretz-Israel in the Mandatory Period, the Jewish controversy, Jerusalem, Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi publications (Hebrew).

GALNOOR Y. (1995), The Partition of Palestine: Decision Crossroads in the Zionist Movement , Albany, State University of New York Press.

GRINBERG l.( 2007), Imagined Peace, Discourse of War the Failure of Leadership, Politics and Democracy in Israel, 1992-2006, Tel Aviv, Resling Publication (Hebrew).

GUREVITZ Z. (2007), On Israeli Jewish Place, Tel Aviv, Am Oved Publishers (Hebrew).

KHOURY-SABBAGH A. (2006), Between the "law of return" and the right of return : reflections on Palestinian discourse in Israel, M.A. Thesis, Tel Aviv University, Israel (Hebrew).

Koenig Report (1976), Journal of Palestine Studies, vol. 6, n° 1, pp. 190-200.

KORF B. (2006), Who is the rogue? Discourse, power and spatial politics in post-war Sri Lanka, Political Geography, vol. 25, pp. 279-297.

MINTZ A. (2006), The Zionist Plan of Stages, Nekuda (The settler's Monthly), vol. 16, n° 5 (Hebrew).

PORTUGUESE J. (1998), Fertility Policy in Israel, the Politics of Religion, Gender, and Nation, Connecticut: Praeger Westport.

SACHAR H.M. (1985), A history of Israel: From the rise of Zionism to our time, New York, Alfred A. Knopf.

SAND S. ( 2008), When and How the Jewish People was Invented? Resling Publishing (Hebrew).

SCHNELL I. and MISHAL S.( 2007), Uprooting and Settler's Discourse: The Case of Gush Katif, The Floersheimer Institute for Policy Studies (Hebrew).

SHAMIR R. (1996), Suspended in Space: Bedouins under the Law of Israel, Law & Society Review, vol. 30, pp. 231-258.

SPRINZAK E. ( 2003), The Israeli Arabs, From Conflict Resolution to Conflict Management, The Inter disciplinary Center Herzliya (Hebrew).

YONAH Y. ( 2005), In Virtue of Difference: the Multicultural Project in Israel, Jerusalem, Van Leer Publishing House (Hebrew).

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Ammon Kartin et Izhak Schnell, « The 'Demographic Rogue' and Borders in the Land of Israel »Espace populations sociétés, 2008/3 | 2008, 411-422.

Référence électronique

Ammon Kartin et Izhak Schnell, « The 'Demographic Rogue' and Borders in the Land of Israel »Espace populations sociétés [En ligne], 2008/3 | 2008, mis en ligne le 01 octobre 2010, consulté le 07 mai 2021. URL : ; DOI :

Haut de page


Ammon Kartin

Izhak Schnell

Geography and Human Environment Department
Tel Aviv University
P.O. Box 39040
Tel Aviv

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Licence Creative Commons
Espace Populations Sociétés est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

Haut de page
  • Logo Université de Lille
  • Logo Laboratoire TVES
  • Logo Laboratoire Clersé
  • Logo CNRS - Institut des sciences humaines et sociales
  • Logo DOAJ - Directory of Open Access Journals
  • OpenEdition Journals
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search