How does Palestine look like in 2030?

This is a big question in which speculation can run wild. A simple proof of this is the history of Palestine in the last 100 years. Who could have imagined that Palestinians, in a typical Arab country Palestine, with its population of Muslim and Christian Arabs and sprinkling of tiny communities, indistinguishable from its neighbours in Syria, Egypt and Iraq, would in a short period of time become a minority in their own country, with their majority scattered in the wind, its geography seized and its history erased, in a manner and a scale not seen in Palestine’s 5000-year history?

Perhaps it is this unbelievable scale of catastrophe that marks this event as an aberration. Aberration does not make a lasting history.

Nevertheless, the volatility in the last 100 years is rich ground for imaginative speculation. I shall do that in the safe premise that I will not be around in 2030 to be questioned about my wild speculation. Or is it wild? Let us consider the arguments.

I shall ignore predictions for the year 2020, a mere 5 years away and leave that to political scientists, who will in 5 years time will write again to explain why their predictions did not come true.

Engineers in my profession learn to interpolate, meaning to predict issues between two known dates. They also learn to extrapolate, meaning to learn from the past to predict the future. That is risky business of course as the curve of past events may fly away, dive or remain steady.

Strange as it may seem, there are no surprises in history. If it appears there are, we did not see all the signs. A volcano erupts ‘suddenly’ because we did not see the boiling masses underneath, turning to leap into the surface. The future of today is written yesterday, if only we could see the signs.

Of the signs of Palestine’s future, we can discern three fundamental elements:

  • The land
  • The people
  • The forces at play

About the land we are on safe ground, so to speak. We know the area of each spot in the land and we know who owns it before Nakba (he remains the legal owner). We also know the location of the villages and towns and the boundaries of their lands. We also know, using modern geographical methods, what happened to each acre today after the Israeli conquest, who occupies it and for what use.

The size of population and their eventual location are less certain but by no means totally unknown. The data about land and population can be found, among others, in the research of Palestine Land Society, particularly in the Atlas of Palestine and the Return Journey atlas. Data about population can be found in the records of Israel Bureau of Statistics, Palestine Bureau of Statistics, UNRWA register of Palestinian refugees and various UN documentation.

The Israeli colonial project in Palestine is about seizing the land and getting rid of its people. The land will not go away. We will find it in the year 2030. It is the fate of the people who owns it and the future of the people who now utilize it are the uncertain variables.

Let us start with the Jews in Palestine, the present occupiers of the land. Assuming a net increase of 1.1% per annum or 1.2% with immigration, we get a total Jewish population of 7.4 to 7.5 million Jews in 2030. (All our figures are based on the data of the year 2008 as given in the “Atlas of Palestine 1917- 1966”, projected to 2030, after 22 years.) That is an increase of about 3 million from 2008 figures (5.8 million). The figure of 2008 includes about 300,000 foreign workers and about 600,000 settlers in the 1967 occupied territories. We shall ignore for the moment 750,000 Israeli Jews who are said to be permanently living abroad, about a quarter million Israeli Jews who carry primarily US passports and 70 to 80 thousand German Jews who are applying to recover their citizenship, and assume they will all still live in Israel in 2030.

That means 7.5 million Jews is the highest figure to be expected to live in Palestine in 2030. This is in line with an Israeli study, entitled “Israel 2020”, which did not want more than 8 million Jews to immigrate to Palestine. The assumption was that the remainder of the world Jewry would serve Israel better if they stayed in their positions in North America and Western Europe. How many Jews actually remain in Israel is the subject of our speculation here.

The Palestinians’ numbers in 2030 are easier to predict. Taking a net natural increase of 2.5 to 2.7% per annum, the global Palestinian population will increase from 10 million in 2008 to a range of 17.25 to 18 million in 2030. That is more than twice the number of max possible Jews remaining in Palestine in 2030. But where do these Palestinians live? Are they allowed to return to their homes in Palestine?

As it is today, 88% of 10 million Palestinians live in Palestine and a ring around it in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Only 12% (1.25 million) live in other Arab and Western countries, equally divided. Within Palestine today lives 4.6 million Palestinians, of which 1.23 million are citizens of Israel (excluding occupied Jerusalem of course).

It is clear then that, even today, a sizable number of Palestinians, close to the number of Israeli Jews are still on Palestine’s soil and a similar number of Palestinians are just outside its borders. The gap will grow wider in the future.

Now we are open to grand speculation. There are two possible scenarios.

Scenario 1: Zionism, as a colonial project, will grow in strength, expand its occupied territory with corresponding expulsion of more population.

Scenario 2: Zionism, due to its racism, Apartheid, appetite for war, will lose support and will become weaker, shrink and possibly become extinct, similar to all other colonial projects.

Of course. there is a third possibility, that is the status quo. Since this will not solve the problem, this scenario will aggravate the situation and will bring scenario 2 into realization.

Taking scenario 1, let us now assume that Israel continues its occupation and expansion to create greater Israel, free of Palestinian Arabs. Its racist policies, including transfer, have been discussed quietly in the past. At present, they are being debated and announced publicly without being challenged by the international community.

Under the pretext of a new intifada or a threat thereof, or an actual commando operation against the occupation forces, or an Israeli announcement that it had ‘captured’ a Palestinian network whose “intention” was to do so, this would be a perfect opportunity to expel more Palestinians from their present homes.

This could be done by actual expulsion or by putting many villages under such conditions as to make life unbearable (for example following the plan by Mordechai Kedar, a professor in Bar-Ilan University, of mass rape of women). This could be accompanied by loosening of border control at River Jordan bridges allowing unhindered exit to Jordan.

Let us assume that 250,000 Palestinians are expelled from West Bank in this way. The active response to this expulsion from resistance forces in Gaza and Lebanon would be the perfect opportunity for Israel to start a new military operation and expel another 250,000 from Gaza to Sinai. This operation could also cause the displacement of another 250,000 Palestinians from refugee camps in Lebanon to diverse locations.

The resulting response, Palestinian demonstrations in Israel and actual resistance of Palestinians in Israel, would again be the long-sought opportunity, declared publicly by Avigdor Lieberman and others less frank, to expel another 250,000 Palestinians who are Israeli citizens. They are mostly the so-called “Present-Absentees” according to Israeli law. This is not to mention those Palestinians who live in the Little Triangle, the area ceded by king Abdullah I of Jordan under Israeli threat in 1949. Moldovia-born Lieberman’s favourite plan is to expel them. The turmoil in the region and the Israeli desire to irreversibly annex outer regions of Golan Heights would encourage Israel to attack Damascus and expel 250,000 refugees from southern Syria

That would be a third Nakba, in which new 1,250,000 Palestinians become homeless, many for the third or fourth time. This would clear southern Lebanon and southern Syria from most refugees. Within Palestine itself, Palestinians would be reduced from a projected 8 million in 2030 to7.25 million after expulsion.

The expanded territory under Israel’s rule would be the closest thing to the 1919 Zionist plan submitted to Versailles Peace Conference for the dreamed-of Greater Israel. The Zionist borders then included southern Lebanon till Litani River, larger Golan Heights and a slice of Transjordan till the Hejaz railway line which passes though Amman. Jordan has another consideration.

Where would the displaced Palestinians go? Probably 500,000 will flood into Jordan. It is the closest, friendliest and where their kith and kin reside. Another 250,000, well educated and trained, will go to the US. Another 500,000 will find their way to the Gulf, Europe and Australia.

Jordan political regime will be spared the heat of the conflict because it serves its purpose as a depository of expelled Palestinians and a buffer zone for the much-claimed ‘existential’ threat of attack on Israel. That had been the staple of propaganda in the eighties and nineties about threats emanating from Assad’s Syria and Saddam’s Iraq. Now the threat is presumed to come from ISIS and new variations likely to appear. Iran and its affinity with Iraq will remain a convenient claim of threat.

What would be the reaction to all this?

There will be an international “outrage” which will subside in a week. The Security Council will not pass a resolution with sanctions against Israel according to chapter 7 of the UN Charter as the US threaten to cast a veto vote. Instead, it will issue a “presidential statement” condemning the expulsion. No Arab country will give marching orders to its army to stop the expulsion. International aid agencies will set up yet another relief campaign. What is most likely to happen? Palestinian reaction to this new Nakba will be multi-faceted. It will probably start with the toppling of the Hashemite regime, followed by setting up of bases for resistance forces in Jordan and the West Bank. Gaza, strengthened by volunteers from Arab countries and elsewhere, will break through the barbed wire fences set up by Israel on the Armistice Line of 1949 and cross the largely empty southern district and link up with refugee camps in Hebron and Jerusalem districts. Simultaneously, the resistance forces among Palestinians and Lebanese will cross Palestine’s north border, link up with their cousins in Galilee and reach Jenin camps with little opposition. This would be a successful attempt at return. There will be hundreds, probably thousands, killed, but hundreds of thousands will return home.

The conclusion which may be derived from this scenario is that Palestinians will remain a strong majority in the area, no matter how much expulsion takes place. Further, Israeli occupation and expulsion, even if it remains the same as today, will ignite a counter movement which Israel cannot subdue. The Palestinians will be excessively hurt by Israel’s brutal power but the consequences for Israel will be far worse than that for Palestinians. The extent of these consequences will certainly be unpredictable.

Scenario 2 assumes that Israel’s racism, Apartheid, occupation and all the destruction that it sowed in the region will irreversibly change its picture in the world. The continued support it enjoys from the Western colonial powers, which by then would have lasted over 100 years, will not remain unchallenged by their people. Popular anger and discontent may permeate to their parliaments and may cost these powers a heavy price to pay. For one thing BDS will grow to the extent it will be converted into laws in some states. Variations of BDS will grow based on humanitarian, political, legal and even on religious basis. On the legal front, chasing Israeli war criminals will be far and wide.

After the death of Mahmoud Abbas, there will be a state of confusion (in the West Bank only), followed by a new movement of young people who will fight for, and, after considerable turmoil, get, fresh elections of a new Palestine National Council from which a young efficient leadership of PLO will emerge. This leadership will open a wide front of struggle to recover Palestinian national rights.

These possible developments will curtail considerably the flow of funds and aid to Israel as it would be too costly for the donors and investors. Since Israel was established as a capitalist project by wealthy European Jews, severance of the economic link, or limiting it, will have tremendous effect of the status of Israel.

This is not a mere conjecture. It is the conclusion of a study in 18 volumes prepared in 1994 by 250 Israel experts to imagine “Israel 2020”. The study indicated that Israel’s interest in “peace” and normal relations with Arab countries in the region is intended primarily to convince the West of its acceptance as a legitimate state and allow a flood of funds to pour into Israel.

The facts paint a different picture. Israel today is the clearing house of all shady financial deals and the biggest centre for money laundering. It is also the haven for Jewish fugitives running away from their native countries. If, in addition, Israel becomes a Pariah more than it is now, and if its citizen- recruited army down to the lowest soldier is chased by courts world wide for war crimes and if BDS and its new variations thereof cuts down the possibility of new investments, and if young American and European Jews disassociate themselves from Israel as they started to do now, then there will be a serious wave of emigration from Israel. These are many ifs but any one or more ifs, if they occur, will have considerable effect on emigration.

The first to go is likely to be the economic immigrants from the former Soviet Union. We assume 70% of those will leave. Next to leave would be those young well educated Western Jews who will find better and safer life in the West. I would estimate 50% of them would emigrate in the first round. They would carry with them most technological skills and build new companies in the West. It is not farfetched to imagine they will set up a silicon island in Malta, Sardinia or even Dubai. After all, technology is extra territorial. It does not need a state or an army, especially if both are abhorred by the rest of the world.

The old Ashkenazi, who came to Palestine before 1948 and committed the crime of ethnic cleansing, would all be dead by 2030 and probably 30% of their descendants, who are frequently aghast at their grandparents deeds, would leave.

It is possible that some of those segments of the Israeli community who refuse to emigrate would regroup for a last stand. But if the rear-guard action of Israeli Industrial-Financial-Military Complex finds its actions are censored and its policies are condemned, it will dissolve itself or regroup in another location as Knights Templar did. If not, it will put up a bloody Samson-like campaign for destruction in the region. In both cases, it will not win in the long run.

Less militaristic, there are two groups who are likely to remain. The first group: Arab Jews. Although they lost a great deal of wealth and position in Iraq, Egypt and Morocco, their descendants do not have much of the material or cultural link the parents had and they would prefer to stay in Palestine. Perhaps they would have better treatment as Arab Jews or Sephardim than that they got at the hands of Ashkenazi who considered them as “human dust”.

The second group: Orthodox Jews. They are two kinds. One is the same religious Jews who lived for centuries in Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberias and Safad. They would blend well in the new society. The other is Religious Zionists, who still cling to the myth that God granted them Palestine as the “Chosen People”. These would cause much friction, which may lead to bloody communal violence. This is a problem to be dealt with. Israeli Jews of today come from 110 countries and speak 80 different languages and dialects. No matter how much emigration takes place, Palestine will have enclaves of these diverse communities. This is neither novel nor surprising. Palestine has been a home before Nakba for many European missionaries like Templars, Muslim immigrants like Bosnians and Circassians or refugees such as Armenians after WWI. (Old Armenians are Palestinians from the 4th century).

If these assumptions materialize, there will remain in Palestine about 4 million Jews, together with 17 to 18 million Palestinians, of which 8 million will be in Palestine. The rest will be waiting to return at the border. This, or any variation thereof, will eventually allow, at last, the return of the refugees. Their return does not need ships or planes. They could walk home or take a bus ride. They do not need to learn a new language. Their Arabic with its different dialects is still intact. They do not need to acclimatize or learn about fruits and trees. This knowledge has never left them. They do not need to learn about the terrain. They already carved 50,000 place names of their patrimony.

They will find that 90% of their village sites are still vacant. They will find that about 250 village lands have no Jews, at least today. They will find that another 250 village lands have few Jews, those of Qibbutz and Moshav, with the majority abandoning agriculture.

Their return is facilitated by full documentation of land and people. Each village has 4 or 5 hamulas whose link to each other is still intact, by virtue of their strong family ties, their presence in exile largely as a unit and by the comprehensive UN records.

The restoration of their property is straightforward, much simpler than that in Bosnia case for example. All their property is held now by Israel Land Administration (ILA) in custody for present use of Jews in the Apartheid system. The legal ownership rests with the original Palestinian owner. Although the custody system has been eroded by “selling” some properties to the Israeli user, this can be reversed.

The Palestinians can form Palestine Land Commission (PLC), as I suggested 15 years ago, to represent some 500village units. In a single transfer document, PLC can receive their property from ILA and distribute it to each village. There would be minimum individual dispute about property.

The destroyed villages can be rebuilt by Palestinian labour and expertise. They already have done much larger projects in Amman, Beirut and the Gulf. The cost of reconstruction is much smaller than one Israeli war. There will no need for perennial aid either to Israel or Palestine.

Remaining Jews could live, as they do now, in cities and blocks. Their locations can be identified in three cantons: Tel Aviv, Haifa and West Jerusalem. That leaves in place the small community of Jews who lived for centuries in Safad, Tiberias and Hebron

It is impossible to imagine that, in 2030, about 4 million Jews would continue to seize the property and homes of 12 million Palestinians waiting at their doorstep.

Under any scenario, the territory that I brought into this discussion is the Mandate Palestine, plus southern Lebanon, Golan Heights and beyond, Transjordan up to 50 km east of River Jordan including Amman, a swath of north Sinai up to Al Arish in the western direction. There will be living in this area in 2030 18 million Palestinians (less 2 million living abroad) and with them about 3 million east Jordanians and 2 million southern Lebanese, making a total of 21 million Arabs. In the same area, there will be 4 to 8 million Jews depending on the rise or fall of Zionism.

I bring this area, just larger than Palestine, to attention in order to delineate the area whose population, Palestinians or not, have been most affected by the massive ethnic cleansing of Palestine. That is the area which acted, and will act, as the home of the resistance movement to ethnic cleansing. Not surprisingly, this is the area, as stated before, coveted by the Zionists in their submission to the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference.

The final scenario will probably be a mix to some degree of these two or three scenarios.

The expected changes resulting from any scenario may take different durations in one of three modes:

The first, a fast one. Big Bang case in which there is a sudden change which occurs in the balance of power. Israel depends primarily on one pillar, the US. The second, a moderate time span. A combination of regional and world factors render Israel’s military supremacy superfluous. This supremacy is the mainstay of continued occupation. The last, a long term one. A constant, slow but determined state of attrition, which would bring an end to the Zionist colonial project.

No matter what the final outcome will be and the time it takes to occur, the conclusions we can draw from this speculation are many fold. Some of these are:

First, Palestinians will be a majority in the area regardless of the vagaries of Israeli wars and attacks.

Second, Israel’s standing in the world will diminish greatly and with it the support for its racist and Apartheid policies. Accordingly, the future of individual Jews wishing to live in Palestine and the region will only be safeguarded by the abolishment of Zionism.

Third, the burden of struggle to recover rights remains with the people, not governments. In the forefront, Palestinian people shall carry the brunt of this struggle, either directly or indirectly. This fact will bring to the fore new young Palestinian leadership, upholding and defending Palestinian rights. But this will happen after a painful and necessary cleaning of the Palestinian House.

It will be a valuable lesson of history to see how long, after 100 years of strife, it takes to wipe out the evil legacy of Balfour and all those who followed him in the bloody trail they charted. For sure, they will all be held accountable, if not in person, by keeping their memory in the dark pages of history.