By Gunnar Heinsohn, head of the Raphael Lemkin Institute at the University of
Bremen, Europe’s first institute devoted to comparative genocide research.
January 13, 2009.
As the world decries Israel’s attempt to defend itself from the rocket attacks
coming from Gaza, consider this: When Hamas routed Fatah in Gaza in 2007, it
cost nearly 350 lives and 1,000 wounded. Fatah’s surrender brought only a
temporary stop to the type of violence and bloodshed that are commonly seen
in lands where at least 30% of the male population is in the 15-to-29 age
In such ‘youth bulge’ countries, young men tend to eliminate each other or get
killed in aggressive wars until a balance is reached between their ambitions and
the number of acceptable positions available in their society. In Arab nations
such as Lebanon (150,000 dead in the civil war between 1975 and 1990) or
Algeria (200,000 dead in the Islamists’ war against their own people between
1999 and 2006), the slaughter abated only when the fertility rates in these
countries fell from seven children per woman to fewer than two. The warring
stopped because no more warriors were being born.
In Gaza, however, there has been no demographic disarmament. The average
woman still bears six babies. For every 1,000 men aged 40-44, there are 4,300
boys aged 0-4 years. In the U.S. the latter figure is 1,000, and in the U.K. it’s
And so the killing continues. In 2005, when Israel was still an occupying force,
Gaza lost more young men to gang fights and crime than in its war against the
“Zionist enemy”. Despite the media’s obsession with the Mideast conflict, it has
cost many fewer lives than the youth bulges in West Africa, Lebanon or
Algeria. In the six decades since Israel’s founding, ‘only’ some 62,000 people
(40,000 Arabs, 22,000 Jews) have been killed in all the Israeli-Arab wars and
Palestinian terror attacks.
During that same time, some 11 million Muslims have been killed in wars
and terror attacks – mostly at the hands of other Muslims.
What accounts for the Mideast conflict’s relatively low body count? Hamas and
their ilk certainly aim to kill as many Israelis as possible. To their indignation,
the Israelis are quite good at protecting themselves.
On the other hand, Israel, despite all the talk about its “disproportionate”
use of force, is doing its utmost to spare civilian deaths. Even Hamas
acknowledges that most of the Palestinians killed by Israeli air raids are from
their own ranks. But about 10%-15% of Gaza’s casualties are women and
minors – a tragedy impossible to prevent in a densely settled area in which
nearly half the people are under 15 and the terrorists hide among them.
The reason for Gaza’s endless youth bulge is that a large majority of its
population does not have to provide for its offspring. Most babies are fed,
clothed, vaccinated and educated by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and
Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Unlike the U.N. High
Commission for Refugees, which deals with the rest of the world’s refugees
and aims to settle them in their respective host countries, UNRWA perpetuates
the Palestinian problem by classifying as refugees not only those who originally
fled their homes, but all of their descendents as well.
UNRWA is benevolently funded by the U.S. (31%) and the European Union
(nearly 50%) – only 7% of the funds come from Muslim sources. Thanks to the
West’s largesse, nearly the entire population of Gaza lives in a kind of lowly but
regularly paid dependence. One result of this unlimited welfare is an endless
Between 1950 and 2008, Gaza’s population has grown from 240,000 to 1.5
million. The West basically created a new Near Eastern people in Gaza that at
current trends will reach three million in 2040. Within that period, Gazans may
alter the justifications and directions of their aggression but are unlikely to stop
the aggression itself.
The Hamas-Fatah truce of June 2007 allowed the Islamists again to direct all
their energy on attacking Israel. The West pays for food, schools, medicine and
housing, while Muslim nations help out with the military hardware. Unrestrained
by such necessities as having to earn a living, the young have plenty of time on
their hands for digging tunnels, smuggling, assembling missiles and firing 4,500
of them at Israel since 2006. While this gruesome activity has slowed the
Palestinian internecine slaughter, it forced some 250,000 Israelis into bomb
The current situation can only get worse. Israel is being pushed into a corner.
Gazan teenagers have no future other than war. One rocket master killed is
immediately replaced by three young men for whom a martyr’s death is no less
honorable than victory. Some 230,000 Gazan males, aged 15 to 29, who are
available for the battlefield now, will be succeeded by 360,000 boys under 15
(45% of all Gazan males) who could be taking up arms within the coming 15
As long as we continue to subsidize Gaza’s extreme demographic armament,
young Palestinians will likely continue killing their brothers or neighbors. And
yet, despite claiming that it wants to bring peace to the region, the West
continues to make the population explosion in Gaza worse every year.
By generously supporting UNRWA’s budget, the West assists a rate of
population increase that is 10 times higher than in their own countries. Much is
being said about Iran waging a proxy war against Israel by supporting Hezbollah
and Hamas. One may argue that by fueling Gaza’s untenable population
explosion, the West unintentionally finances a war by proxy against the Jews
If we seriously want to avoid another generation of war in Gaza, we must have
the courage to tell the Gazans that they will have to start looking after their
children themselves, without UNRWA’s help. This would force Palestinians to
focus on building an economy instead of freeing them up to wage war. Of
course, every baby lured into the world by our money up to now would still
have our assistance.
If we make this urgently needed reform, then by at least 2025 many boys in
Gaza – like in Algeria – would enter puberty as only sons. They would be able to
look forward to a more secure future in a less violent society.
If the West prefers calm around Gaza even before 2025, it may consider
offering immigration to those young Palestinians only born because of the
West’s well-meant but cruelly misguided aid.
In the decades to come, North America and Europe will have to take in tens of
millions of immigrants anyway to slow the aging of their populations. If, say,
200,000 of them are taken from the 360,000 boys coming of age in Gaza in
the next 15 years, that would be a negligible move for the big democracies but
a quantum leap for peace in the Near East.
Many of Gaza’s young – like in much of the Muslim world – dream of leaving
anyway. Who would not want to get out of that strip of land but the
international NGOs and social workers whose careers depend on perpetuating