Non-Jewish majority: The beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?

Mark LeVine writes: “The Jewish majority is history.”

So declared Haaretz columnist Akiva Eldar in the space of Palestine/Israel in his most recent column, published on October 16. Eldar learned the news not from a public pronouncement to that effect by the Israeli government, which naturally has little interest to disseminate information of such “unparalleled importance”.

Rather, the new data, revealing that Jews now account for approximately 5.9 million out of the 12 million residents of Israel and the Occupied Territories was published in Haaretz’s economic magazine, The Marker, in an article dealing with government attempts to raise the bar for obtaining tax benefits.

A Ministry of Finance memorandum on the proposed changes to the law revealed the population figures without comment. But the implications are crucial. Not merely because of the demographic ceiling that has now been broken, but also because of what the structure of the tax law in question tells us about how Israelis have long considered the territory of Israel/Palestine – as one unit.

The Ministry of Finance wants to increase the threshold for companies to obtain tax breaks based on the number of consumers they sell to. The existing minimum market is 12 million people, and now that the population of Israel/Palestine as a whole has reached that level, any company that serves the Israeli/Palestinian market would be eligible for the tax break, when the law was intended to encourage exports outside the home market.

Fair enough. But what’s not fair is the fact that Israel and the Occupied Territories are considered as a single market from the perspective of Israeli enterprises, which have long had the West Bank and Gaza as a captive market, while Palestinian industries and agriculture have been severely restricted by Israel for decades in order to prevent them from competing with Israel.

The process of de-development and de-industrialisation has been a marked feature of Israeli rule over the Occupied Territories. Thanks to the weakness of Palestinian negotiators, the incompetence and corruption of the political leadership, and the connivance of the American and EU as “honest brokers”, it was institutionalised into the Oslo-era economic relationship through various agreements, most notably the Paris Protocol of 1994, which severely restricted the ability of Palestinians to develop any new industries which might challenge existing Israeli industries. [Continue reading…]

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