The Catalyst of Overpopulation in the Gaza Conflict

Mountains of work have analysed the roots of the conflict in Gaza, but all have missed the catalyst of increasing population.

By Jon Austen and Jane O’Sullivan

The Israel-Palestine conflict has been ongoing for 75 years. The recent eruption of violence is a tragedy but not surprising. Neither side is going to back down, both are redoubling their efforts, both know that they are right and the other side is at fault. Neither offers a viable solution.

The wall that forms the border between Palestine and Israel. Photo: Ilya Varlamov

From its very beginning, peace has eluded Israel, due to the difficulties of accommodating the nationalist aspirations of two peoples in one small land.  International peace efforts have repeatedly failed and now we have an escalation which is horrifying the whole world. Israel has taken a very painful blow and will retaliate in kind. Take a step back, however, and a fundamental catalyst is missed: rapidly increasing numbers of people on both sides.

Whenever two differing peoples with increasing numbers are forced to share limited resources, conflict arises. Deteriorating living conditions are inevitable due to population increase, but each side blames the other for its woes. Sides are taken and grudges for past aggressions fester, regardless of the retribution already meted out.

When both sides decide that their security depends on more people, it becomes a pact of mutual destruction. In both Palestine and Israel, such sentiments are often voiced: the Palestinians to produce soldiers to avenge their people, the Israelis to strengthen the Zionist project and expand its territories (some still feel they need to replace Jews lost in the Holocaust).

Both sides are increasing in numbers far more than surrounding countries. Some groups on both sides claim to be following God’s directives. For reasons of pride, religion and nationalism, any mention of managing numbers is met with immediate dismissal and contempt by both sides, considered too ridiculous to even consider. Given the impossibility of so many people flourishing harmoniously on such a small resource base, and given the continual increase in potential grievances, an endless cycle of war, oppression and bitterness is therefore the default option.

Palestine’s population has risen from 1 million to 5 million since 1970 and absolute numbers are rising faster than at any point in history, with another 100,000 added every year, despite falls in fertility over those decades, as well as considerable emigration. The median age is under 20, compared to the UK which is 42. The Gaza Strip is home to two million people with a population density of over 5,000 per square kilometre. This makes it one of the most densely populated places on the planet. This is in a tiny area of virtual desert, leaving people close to poverty with the majority of the population depending on international aid.

Israel’s population has risen from around 2 million to 9 million since 1960 with absolute numbers still rising at roughly 130,000 per year and a with a median age of 29. Having only recently tipped below 3 children per woman, it has the highest fertility of any Western, industrialised country. Despite Israel’s admirable achievements in greening the desert and leading the world in water use efficiency and water recycling, it depends on imports for all staple foods.

Both Palestine and Israel have had high population growth for many decades.

Population rise is not the sole cause of this conflict, but it is a factor. It is never the spark, but a large share of the tinder.

The world has turned a blind eye to demographics in this area for fear of upsetting people and “blaming the victims” rather than oppressors or terrorists. This is despite evidence from around the world that countries with stable populations are happier and their citizens have better lives. Had both sides not engaged in rapid population growth and remained at a manageable 3 million, instead of a combined 14 million now, it is feasible that Israelis and Palestinians could be peaceful neighbours. Moreover, even if conflicts had continued, a stabilized population of 3 million would have meant fewer victims in wars and pandemics.

This is a prime example where overpopulation is a glaring factor in a crisis but is not considered by any news outlets and plays no part in negotiations for peace. This is a complete failure on both sides and by international negotiators, and a tragedy for all those involved. There’s no easy way of pointing out harsh truths about population’s impact on this problem, but acknowledging its role would be a start. For anyone with such interest, Alon Tal’s excellent book The land is full. Addressing overpopulation in Israel (2016) is a good start. As Paul and Anne Ehrlich write in the Foreword, “If there is any glimmer of light [in the region], it is this brilliant book”.

Until both sides lower birth rates and stabilise their populations, there is no peaceful end to the conflict in sight. Peace can only mean a temporary truce, until tensions build further under the pressure of overpopulation.

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64 thoughts on “The Catalyst of Overpopulation in the Gaza Conflict

  1. Why on earth are the civilized? countries of the world standing by whilst Israel commits blatant genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass slaughter of innocent men, women and children?
    Not only watching – assisting!

    1. Yes, not to mention “admirable achievements in greening the desert” – with water stolen from the Palestinians!
      Also, we should stop with this idea that greening deserts is good. Deserts that are deserts (not desertified agricultural lands) should stay that way, for biodiversity, water conservation and human overpopulation issues.

    2. You are hilarious: So Israel is committing genocide on people who have multiplied about 10-fold in a few generations!! – What a contradiction in terms.

      1. This is backwards logic: genocide is killing members of a group irrespective of how fast they breed.
        It’s hard to deny that the announced and documented mass killing of Arab civilians in the Gaza strip we are seeing these days, coupled with the denying of water, food and healthcare, and forced evacuation, is not genocide.

  2. This essay is 100 percent correct. Peace will not occur between the Jews and Arabs until and unless the their populations are dramatically decreased. More importantly, humanity will not achieve peace until the entire human population is dramatically decreased from the current 8 billion and the UN predicts that the human population will reach over 10 billion by the year 2100.

  3. Well said. Overpopulation has to be a driving force in this conflict (and in other global conflicts for that matter), but other reasons can be found in the long history of the region, the claims and counter-claims as to who is the rightful ‘owner’ of the land, and ultimately the ultra-nationalist mindset of some zealots who unfortunately to this day have the ear of the world’s leading politicians. Countless books have been written on this topic, many well analysed.

  4. My comment in the New York Times:
    NYTimes: Your Comment on Lab Leak Fight Casts Chill Over Virology Research
    Your comment has been approved!
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with The New York Times community.
    David Polewka | Chapel Hill, NC
    I don’t hear a whole lot of people saying we should have Zero Population Growth
    or a reduction, so that means most people are fine with procrastination.
    And people still aren’t aware that wildlife populations are down 50% in the
    last 50 years. And people still aren’t aware that the suppression of communicable
    diseases has caused the proliferation of defective oddballs who would ordinarily
    have perished. And people still aren’t too well aware of the problem with migrants
    and refugees because the political class, in general, can’t get its act together.
    And people still aren’t aware of the full consequential extent of the emissions
    and pollution from our commercial, industrial, and agricultural activity!

    1. ZPG (Zero Population Growth) was on of the first organizations to come around at the beginning of the environmental awareness time (early 70’s). They were a total science based and respected organization (I was on the Seattle chapter board). We had activities for kids at the kindergarten age all the way to college level. However, in the late 90’s a new directer came on board and saw the need for more money to get the word out. He talked to certain rich people (Ted Turner was one of the early contributors). But, more and more, it was not enough. At one point it was reported, PBS-To The Contrary, certain anonymous donators gave $100M to ZPG and the Sierra Club to drop immigration from the population formula. At that time a min-revolution came about and all but a few, hard-headed members, as I, left. It is now the Population Connection and they simply advocate family planning. Industry want cheap and pliable workers and fight such things as lowering immigration quotas, or chain migration and E-Verify. It’s the usual story, money and a supposed belief in technology that is scuttling the overpopulation issue. One partner, at an accounting firm I once worked for told me when someone says sustainable he hears stagnation.

  5. So much in this report screams the very term used as a validation for WWII by the German side. Funny but the same idea is being used in the situation in Israel, by both sides, Lebensraum.

    1. Except, it was only one side that displaced the other in order to have its own Lebensraum. Ironically, the side that survived the Holocaust. What a tragedy of history.

      1. gaiabaracetti: How uninformed you are! MENA countries expelled a similar number of jews, about 650k, welcomed in Israel, to genocidally nullify ancient Jewish communities everywhere in MENA. Only, MENA countries did not take in the Palestinian flotsam and jetsam. They still should, and until they do, Israel and the world should not be bothered by “the Palestinian problem”.

      2. In the end it is usually one side/tribe that need more space. We are finally starting to understand the wrongness of the displacement of many indigenous people’s by new settlers. Yet, we are quick to condemn past atrocities yet slow to see how we may still be culpable today.

  6. It is hard to see a way out of tragedy in this conflict. In the short and medium term, Israelis can continue their apartheid and expansion of settlement policies. But in the long, maybe the savings account of hatred accumulating on both sides could turn into total disaster for either side. Some sensible people on both sides might be able to just forget the conflict and move ahead as fellow human beings with equal rights, but so far, this is a small minority on both sides. Treaties and negotiations should talk about family planning. And Israel, of course, faces its own internal splits, with demography a factor. The Hededim have close to the world’s highest birthrate and don’t pay taxes. Good luck with that.

    1. I’ve never believed that ideology is genetic, but while I suspect (don’t have data) that the birth rate is uniformly high among the Arab population, on the Jewish side it’s the most orthodox that have a lot of babies and are subsidised by the government to do so. And those that migrate in are very committed to the idea of a Jewish state, or they wouldn’t go there of all places.
      I wonder how much this played a role in the rise of that madness of a government that they have now (and of Hamas, too, which Netanyahu was openly supporting and indirectly financing as a means of breaking up the Palestinians).

    2. It seems easy for one tribe to push the idea that if one other tribe is gone things will be fine. The whole idea of expansion by their own tribe never seems to enter people’s mind. Under this scenario, there will be more condemnations for others often based on religion, and the whole idea of removing other, undesirable groups, will raise its ugly head again.

  7. From reading around the development of the Balfour Declaration that started this round off (Don’t forget the catalogue of massacres that is the Old Testament, says it all kicked off with a burning bush giving away land that it did not own!), it seems it was left deliberately vague in wording, as to how the Zionists would make a home in Palestine, but it was assumed defacto, that the riches of the diaspora would enable them to buy up the land and breed faster than the Arabs, and so be able to rule by superior numbers even if it were to become a shared democracy. So, in this case, I would not blame population growth for the troubles (Though don’t forget the Brits did a similar thing by ‘settling’ ‘cleared’ Scots in N Ireland with near identical results.): population growth in this case was the deliberate weapon employed to ensure the Jews return to Jerusalem and the ushering in of the Messianic Age of peace and plenty.

    It’s a terrible tragedy that we are not even allowed to call the fascist regime in charge what it is (they honour the Stern Gang/Lehi terrorists, though these tried to enlist the aid of Hitler and Mussolini in driving out the British who were trying to keep immigration to manageable levels). If only the actual Palestine inhabitants during WWI had been asked what they needed instead of having it dumped on them from abroad, they might well have formed a mixed democratic state right from the start, as they had lived 4 centuries under the Turks together without much conflict. Now they are at the heart of a worldwide fascist struggle for domination, and all the propaganda is on their side, the only ‘weapon’ left to the disposessed, is boosting their own number.

    1. All the people who say that the two sides “can’t peacefully coexist” forget that they had, for a very long time, and that overall Muslims treated Jews better than Christians did. The problem, besides the demographic one, was the exclusive claim over a land that the Sionists had decided to make.

  8. Excellent article. Though stabilizing population is no good, in any nation – it has to decrease a lot and even then consumption must also decrease dramatically. It is no good having ZPG but continuing to live at the basic consumption levels of all but the very poorest in any nation. I say ANY nation because formerly “poor” nations are now starting to grow a thick top layer of reasonably prosperous people as well as a thin layer of very rich people, and of course the moderately prosperous consume far more than the very rich due to their far greater numbers.
    Thanks also for the info about “The Land is Full” by Alon Tai. The description says “During the past sixty-eight years, Israel’s population has increased from one to eight million people. Such exponential growth has produced acute environmental and social crises in this tiny country. This book, written by one of Israel’s foremost environmentalists, considers the ramifications of the extraordinary demographic shift, from burgeoning pollution and dwindling natural resources to overburdened infrastructure and overcrowding.” I am not surprised the Ehrlichs wrote the foreword – because in many ways Israel and Palestine are a fairly exact microcosm of the condition of nearly every nation in the world.
    Professor Paul Ehrlich is 91 now, his wife (also a leading scholar in conservation biology) is 89. I always pair them in my mind with Dennis and Donella Meadows, the systems analysts who were the lead authors of “The LImits to Growth” (1972). Indeed I believe the Ehrlichs inspired the Meadows, who were ten years younger, though the latter were not biologists but were at MIT. Donella died of meningitis aged about 60, sadly – but Dennis is still around (aged 81) and is of the view that it is too late now to fix anything and we have reached a point where multiple disasters are the only “solution”. He is not alone in this opinion – but he is the most eminent person openly saying this. Once you accept this stark truth, a strange feeling of peace comes over you. You continue to do your best in small ways, at a local level or via a website like this one, to mitigate the multiple and accelerating environmental crises, but you stop trying to find a general “solution” by campaigning and other forms of “activism”. You do not give up hope – in fact Acceptance of Death restores Hope, Faith and Caritas – everyone now knows this basic “DABDA” psychology, it is not rocket science. You stop “raging at the dying of the light” like that moronic alcoholic Dylan Thomas, and learn to love the darkness because it is not as awful as you feared and anyway it is probably the only chance of survival for many species, including our own.

    1. I’m interested in the idea that we are past the point of solutions that involve planned decrease of excessive human numbers and economic activity, and can only work on local issues and wait for disasters to cut the human presence down to size. Is this wisdom or a counsel of despair?

      It is true that in our lives as individuals, we need to come to terms with death and not fight or fear it. But IN THEORY, societies can continue to develop and flourish intergenerationally, while still remaining within reasonable limits.

      The problem is that current societies show little ability to do this. We seem to be less able to even talk intelligently about it than environmentally-aware people were 50 years ago, at the start of the modern environmental movement.

      1. It is neither wisdom nor a counsel of despair. It is just obvious ecological overshoot fact. I find it difficult to believe that you do not know the work of all the leading lights of the Overshoot Law – which is a Law, not a Theory. There is no question of Despair (or Hope) in the DABDA trajectory. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. Obviously it is best to get to Acceptance as soon as possible, but not everyone can manage this.
        Personally, I find it helpful when a systems analyst like Dennis Meadows states that only multiple disasters can now mitigate the onslaught of the Anthropocene and the Sixth Mass Extinction humans have engendered. It enables me to accept with equanimity, the sad fact that as you say “we seem less able to even talk intelligently about it than ….. 50 years ago”. This is very true, and very puzzling – but it is better to shrug and start preparing for the worst than fuss about why most of the 8 billion people in the world are in Denial, especially in the Developing World which is eager to taste the poisonous but tempting fruits of Progress and Knowledge, just as Eve was eager to bite into the Apple.
        Human nature is what it is, for good and ill, and we do keep going into Overshoot in a regional way. Now the Overshoot is global and rather more scary – but that is the only difference from former Empires. When Empires bite the dust there is usually a Remnant which continues, though in a much less lavish way. Maybe that will happen with this Global Empire – but it has to bite the dust first. To posit regeneration BEFORE collapse is putting the cart before the horse – in other words, preposterous.

    2. I seem a bit confused by this comment. Why is stabilizing population not good? In the comment there is a hint we need to drastically reduce the population and another group NPG exists for that purpose. Problem is, about 20+ years ago commercial entities sent out messages that we need more not fewer people. Articles like “Population bust will transform the world”,and “The birth Dearth,” started to be written. A partner (with 5 kids) in a firm I was in told me when someone says sustainable he hears stagnation. Fact #1 is, we live on a planet with a limited resource. As such we need to learn t olive within that limit. Why do we need billions and billions of humans? Are we serving some gods? Are we so ignorant we can’t look and see where we are going? To me the bottom line is the western, constant growth economy demands it. If money is the bottom line people lose all sense of reason. Right now climate change and the myriad of other serious issues will spell our doom (Doom and Gloom of Smile and Denial or Know and Grow your choice). Does anyone here actually feel this planet has no upper limit for one species albeit the most invasive and destructive one?

      1. I just meant that stabilizing global population at replacement level is not enough. It needs to halve or even drop by two thirds – and it will eventually, because as you say, the raw materials that support human life in such vast numbers are finite. Humans do not need to meddle in this collapse – if you look at other species, population explosions due to a sudden bonanza of nutrients (in our case fossil fuels) plumment equally dramatically when the excessive numbers overshoot the available nutrients (or fossil fuels, minerals, etc. in our case).
        The point of websites like this, and books and youtube videos about Overshoot by all the best brains in the universe, is to prepare us for the inevitable collapse. This might or might not be worth doing – I happen to think it is worth doing, but this is an opinion, not a fact, probably influenced by biblical parables about getting ready for the Almighty to get really mad with us.
        I don’t see what is confusing about this. It seems crystal clear to me – and simple too.

  9. It’s true that demography is an all too overlooked component of not only this conflict, but many Middle Eastern ones (while it doesn’t seem to play much of a role, for example, in Russia attacking Ukraine).
    You don’t mention, however, the fundamental fact of migration, which in this case made all the difference in creating the conflict in the first place, even when the population was much lower.
    The two “sides” didn’t grow similarly overtime, keeping up with each other. Jews were only about 10% of the population a century ago when it all started, and are about half now. Israel was explicitly meant and used as a “safe” place for the Jews the world over, who were encouraged to migrate; to this day we keep seeing videos of Palestinians losing their homes in their own land to recent Jewish immigrants from the US or Eastern Europe or whatever. Seen from the point of view of the Palestinians, it was a case of both unwelcome mass migration and colonisation by armed and often wealthy white Europeans, with the stated intent of taking over.
    If this is a cautionary tale of anything, besides the dangers of settler colonialism that we should already know about, it’s of the fact that massive migration that alters the ethnic/cultural/religious balance of a land always brings not just displacement, but also conflict.
    This article misses this crucial point, which is both a fairness issue, and a warning.

  10. Sorry, to build on my previous point: it’d be interesting to do a study on whether a massive influx of “foreigners” stimulates a demographic competition. Maybe this only happens in a few cases, but in Italy it’s an implicit and often explicit motivation for policies to boost the birth rates. Same in parts of Central/Eastern Europe. Keeping migrants out, trying to get the native women to have more babies. All this while some leaders in the South of the world (even the otherwise amazing Mujica!) threaten the global North with conquest by womb of their own women. I’m serious, this happens.
    I’ve even heard, though it’s not typical, of a couple of good-looking blonde brothers (in Italy) who were told by a stranger that they should have children, or only those other people will and our race will die out (or something to that effect). Chilling, but maybe instinctual? I know of at least two Asian societies where authoritarian regimes eliminate or prevent from breeding non-Asian people, so it’s not just the whites…

  11. Morten Johan, although the authors did invite such a debate by bringing up the issue, I don’t think they want on this website an endless discussion of the history of Israel and Palestine as it tends to occur in such cases, so I will only say this one thing and then try and refrain from further specific comments that go on forever and never change anyone’s mind. The event you mentioned mostly happened after the creation of Israel and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land, so it was a consequence of it, not a cause for it. Jews had always been welcome, overall, in Muslim countries before that. Middle Eastern countries also mostly did take in huge numbers of Palestinian refugees, all of whom are still there, having not been allowed to go back.
    I don’t think however there’s much point discussing with someone who refers to people as “flotsam” and “jetsam”. This is a blog about human overpopulation, not about the worthlessness of human lives.

  12. Hello all, I’m really not sure what to do with this post. And I am really not sure what to do with all the vitriol being spewed in the comments. What I am reading here saddens me deeply because I read the absence of recognizing the humanity in this conflict. It’s certainly easy to sit outside of the conflict and pass judgement. Please don’t do that. It’s not helpful to anyone. It doesn’t change anyone’s mind (as someone mentioned above). And you are lacking so much of the nuance that exists when you are in the conflict.

    My name is Rachel. I am an American and I am an Israeli. I live in Germany now after living in Israel for more than a decade. I am a PhD student with Alon Tal. I know all of this deeply and personally and directly.

    I had thought that this endeavor was one with intellectual honesty and integrity – I had seen that in previous posts and the comments shared. Why have we lost that here in the comments? What is it about this topic that seems to allow people to lash out and speak harshly, even spewing anger? Perhaps everyone can take a moment of pause and reexamine your own personal reactions and consider how others might receive your comments.

    Jane and Jon raise a legitimate point; however, I don’t think that the growth rate is any longer a factor in the conflict. It is only a factor in so far as it affects the condition of life in Gaza, which is deplorable because of the size of the population and their limited resources (among other reasons). Israelis prefer large families primarily because that is the social norm at play in the country. There is a deep love of children and family above all else. It’s a fascinating situation, really. There is a deep love of life – the Torah commands us to “choose life” – and that is taken VERY SERIOUSLY in Israeli society.

    I know that might seem very unlikely to those who wish to vilify Israel and Jews. If you have that reaction to me, please take a moment to look at yourself and your perspective, and please don’t lash out at me. It’s intellectually dishonest. It’s not going to add any good to this world and that’s what we need more than ever right now.

    1. Rachel, Unfortunately too much of what one hears is totally emotional based. As a PhD there must be some spark of reason. No, humanity is not often spoken because another part of humanity is anger and violence. Whether it be the Jewish settlers or the Palestinian inhabitants overpopulation is the root cause of this and most problems. Unfortunately, it’s not just new births or settlers but the simple fact that modern medical science has allowed many, many of us to live beyond our natural life expectantcies. Seems every year we hear of living well past 100. People see a huge planet and tiny people and think there are few limits. Yet our activities are making an impact. We have moved so much water around (dams, straightening rivers, filling wet lands, etc.) we have actually changed the wobble of the planets spin. Where is the deep love of children when we are condemning future generations to lives of misery. Excuse me but the Torah, Bible, Koran, are books based on primitive thinking. They have absolutely no place here and in fact are a big part of our present situation. I looked up Alon Tal and see it is a study of business and sustainability. Interesting, as it is the world of economics that has led us to this time of destruction and violence.

    2. A late comment because I’ve just located this discussion.
      Rachel, my comment is directed to the overpopulation problem that the planet is facing. If you can’t see a problem with the comment “Israelis prefer large families primarily because that is the social norm at play in the country.” then what hope of survival does the planet have. And, yes, I do recognise that Israelis are not the only culture with this overpopulation ideology.

      1. Unfortunately, it is the social norm. However, in regards to Israel there is another social norm which is to get away when things get tough. Israel is suffering from a huge influx of Jewish immigrants ‘returning’ to their homeland. Israel is a small country and it is a scary that in the scenario in that country no one is able to see the obvious. Of course, the thinking is get rid of one tribe and there will be room for the ‘superior’ tribe but no thought is ever given as to what happens next when the increases from high birth rate and immigration puts a burden on society. Who will be the next group to experience discrimination?

  13. Rachel, I can’t speak for everyone here of course, but I don’t think it’s anyone’s intention to vilify Israel and the Jews – it’s certainly not mine.
    This is a topic that really, really divides people, more than any other conflict today in the world. Even people who’ve never even set foot there. I can think of a few reasons why but this is probably not the place. One of them, though, is compassion. It might sound strange, but all the suffering in this particular corner of the world, and how involved in it everyone (in the West) is, makes one sad and angry and we want to do something to stop it. Conflicts elsewhere can be even more brutal, but they are far away, they don’t make sense to us or fit into a certain worldview, they don’t seem to be fueled by our governments as much – but this one does, all of the above. So we care to the point of lashing out at strangers about it.
    As for children and the love of life, I think that one of the main reasons for this blog existing, again I’m not trying to speak on behalf of anyone but myself, is that the love of life can take many forms and include non-human life as well; that you can love deeply people that are not your family, children even if you only have one, animals and strangers and everything in this world. And that one’s love, as strong as it might be, should never make one blind to everyone else, human or not, on this shared planet.

    1. I invite you to take a thorough and careful look back at what you have written and how you have written about the two sides. And if you don’t see the bias, look again and again. And why, precisely, does this one conflict draw your attention so acutely and we are not talking about what happened between Armenia and Azerbaijan? How about going back to the Armenian genocide that the world still refuses to acknowledge? And the internecine warfare throughout Africa that has led to the death of so many innocent women and children – in a region that has been ravaged by the worst of colonialism? Please ask yourself why you care so much about the conflict that involves the Jews, who are less than 1% of the global population, and you don’t care so deeply about other conflicts. And I think that if you were to travel to Israel and get to know the people who live there you would come to discover that the vast majority of people who live there are not blind to the suffering of anyone else, contrary to what the media outlets portray. And if your caring about something leads you to lash out, that should be another warning sign to take a step back – especially if you have no skin the game. May we only know safer and calmer and more peaceful times with respect and consideration for all on this planet.

      1. Rachel, you don’t know how much I care about other conflicts – I actually care about some of them more than most. No single human can care about all; even the top figures at the UN are struggling to keep up with everything. I was talking generally in the comment above, not just about myself; there are reasons why people in the West care about this one conflict specifically, and one of them is our governments’ massive involvement in it (the same applies to the Muslim and Arab world, also very involved). As an Italian, I am geographically pretty close to it and any crisis in the region has big repercussions on us (migration, terrorism, oil prices, trade…). Italians being mostly Christian, with now a sizable Muslim population and some Jews too, our “holy sites” are all there and many people want to visit and protect them. So we do have “skin in the game”. Americans even more so, with the billions of military aid they give to Israel every year, diplomatic support and now possibly direct military involvement. You can’t get this much help and expect to not be held accountable.
        I definitely do have a bias, because I’ve studied the issue and decided my idea of justice forces me to support one “side” the most; it doesn’t mean I don’t value or respect the other. I think we all want peace and justice, but we disagree on what that looks like and how best to get there.
        I’ve met a few Israeli and liked all of them as people. Same goes for all Jews I know and for Jewish culture, which is part of our culture – we shouldn’t even have to say this. It was never about liking or disliking Jews per se and this accusation is getting tiring.
        I apologise to the authors for the rant. Given the historical stains on us, it seems that white people constantly have to defend themselves from unjust accusations of antiracism and antisemitism – as if that disqualified us from saying anything, or from knowing what justice and compassion are.

      2. Bottom line it is about how one tribe is treating another tribe. One tribe has most of the power and the other has little. We are starting to learn about all the past injustices. Russia took over parts of Ukraine and we said little. Now Russia has been embolden to take over more and we finally start to see where ignoring issues at the onset have led us. It’s time to start acting in a truly global nature. That is what the UN was created for. Unfortunately, the powers to be have changed the power structure of the United Nations for the worse.

    2. gaiabaracetti: What clearly shines through all your outpourings here is that any concern you have for demography is secondary to your affinity for the prejudiciate and allegiance to its customary Israel-bashing. The conflict has two sides, but they are not equal. Israels demograhics are soaring because the country caters and cares for people and welcomes people expelled from or persecuted elsewhere. The Palestinian side is historically dysfunctional and never cared for people at all. Its soaring demograhics is native and produces an outflux of people typically ingrained with hatred and persecuting jews wherever they go. Whatever the similarities, one side has proven constructive and productive; – historically the other has been quite the opposite at an unparallelled scale.

      1. You’re wrong about the history of this and very racist but I said I wouldn’t go into details and I won’t, I’ll just point out, as it is pertinent to the blog here, that inviting people to migrate from safe places into a conflict zone that is already one of the most populated places on Earth, after having violently removed the original population, is not my definition of “caring for people”. Unless only Jews are people, and everyone else isn’t.

      2. A huge part of any problem is to directly blame others. Using you messages becomes finger pointing and only seeks to blame others instead of seeing the causes of problems. In a large part of the world countries were inhabited by indigenous people’s. I live on an island in a large archipelago in the NW U.S. Most islands ‘were’ inhabited by indigenous people’s. Of course the native people’s were seen as backward and not caring for outsiders (dysfunctional). Of course the incoming, non-natives tried and mostly succeeded in exterminating them. Unfortunately, in the world of developed countries (the ones with the highest carbon footprint) the biggest influx of people is from immigration. So what should the rest of us do, simply accept our lot and not speak up? A major problem in the world today is a serious lack of critical thinking!

    3. Thank you for stating it is not just love of human life but non-human species as well. We tend to forget how much we rely on other species for our very existence. I have come to understand the meaning of LIFE (writ large to include all life forms) is to evolve. We individual humans evolve (or supposed to) through knowledge and constantly learning.
      I’ve said this before but my late partner (an immigrant from Iran) once asked her 2nd grade students, what is more important, people or dirt. No one of can be more important than the (natural) systems that sustain us. We need to remember this simple fact.

    4. Still, what is going on is wrong and, in some cases, criminal. We can and must vilify certain actions and using civilians as targets (on both sides) is just plain wrong. Also, just like WWI, one tactic seems to be to bring the other side to it’s knees and push them into a corner from which they will never escape. This is what the allies did to the losing countries despite warnings from Woodrow Wilson. He saw the problems inherent in demoralizing another country and he was right. The Jewish state seems intent on crippling the non-Jewish people and even taking over the land supposedly given for their settlements. I wonder, if such a two state settlement were to happen would the U.S. and other western countries be willing to donate as much to the new state as it does for the Jewish state. I would be surprised as the world seems to be constantly reminded to never forgetting the holocaust, never mind the fact it took place some 80 years ago and the world has changed a lot since then (at least some actors are trying to change. Some simply do not want the world to ever forget and view any of their actions as self-defense). I have a number of Jewish friends (mostly cultural Jews and do not believe in any god) and a lot of them condemn the treatment of the Palestinians by Israel and at least one gave up his religion because of this problem.
      Despite what the state of Israel tries to force on us there is a difference between antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

  14. One aspect that has not been touched on in these comments, is the role that “kicking the can down the road,” failing to address difficult problems and allowing them to worsen, has played in this tragic situation. We see this in political leaders failing to make peace when opportunities presented themselves, above all in 2000, under the Clinton proposals. But also in the demographic policies and choices on both sides, working to outbreed one another in an area that is already grossly overpopulated.

    This failure provides clear political lessons for those of us in other parts of the world, and for humanity as a whole regarding our growing environmental problems.

    1. I think this is one of many real-life cases of “prisoner’s dilemma”. It would be better if both “sides” agreed to, in this specific case, have less children, so that when a solution is hopefully finally found they have more land to share between themselves and less pressure on each other and the environment. But if one sides goes for this, and the other doesn’t, the one that does the right thing is at a disadvantage.
      As for doing the right thing at the first chance you have before it gets worse, yes, but I think this is one of many cases (climate negotiations being another example) in which appearing to want to make a deal so that you can blame others when it fails is more important than actually making a deal. Because, again, no one wants to give up anything of value, all the more so if you don’t trust the other side to do the same. Some international agreements hold, but they are the exception more than the rule.

  15. To talk about Gaza and the Palestinians without mentioning overpopulation is like talking about obesity without saying the word calories.

  16. There are too many words in the article and in he comments and they lead to too many distractions so let me, in a smaller number of words, summarize the core idea.

    , there are too many human’s everywhere not to have collisions. If any two groups find themselves in conflict over the same space the only solution is to reduce the number of people who share it.

    Yes they might through great skill, leadership, and compassion create a temporary peace. However, until they set course for ever smaller populations that create ever smaller collisions they will forever create conflict.

    If you want something good to come out of your sorrow find a way to communicate these simple truths.

    1. I think the only difference is the number of people involved and the death count. We were exterminating each other at much, much lower numbers, starting with homo sapiens vs neanderthal or even before that. It seems to be a key characteristic of our species, wired in our brains. As far as I know, and it isn’t much, the only other species that does that (killing its own, in raids on neighbouring groups for land and resources) is the chimpanzee. The animal that is the most like us.

  17. Det dödas ett barn i kvarten i kriget Gaza. Trots det finns det nu fler barn i Gaza än före kriget började och fler än någonsin på grund av de höga födelsetalen. Stöd till Gaza fortsättningsvis måste kombineras med åtgärder för att minska födelsetalen. En stor del av stödet måste vara till familjeplanering.

      1. Actually, it is very plausible. It is only normal that much publicized deaths in humanitarian crises dwindle in comparison to run-of-the-mill births that nobody take notice of. – E.g. try to look up Rwandan population numbers before, through, and after the genocide there. And it does not get more extreme than that, even though the Rwandan genocide shows only as a minor disturbance.

      2. There are now exact figures but from speed of the current population increase in Palestine given in the start of the article and the statement one dead child each quarter and some reasonable assumptions the birth rate seems considerable higher than children killed. But now I guess that death rate is increasing by worse conditions and not direct bomb hits, so I guess Gaza has now passed its top population and it will take a year till the population recover even if peace came in a week. Also reported death rate is influenced by Hamas influenced propaganda interest to make it look worse so the real death rate by direct hits is probably somewhat lower. There is little objective reporting quantifying from Gaza. If it were half as many people in Gaza now, which it would have been it birth rate was much lower since 1985. the death rate would be half as big and the need for imported things half and the environment much better and more healthy.

    1. Dag, It appears that you are only advocating for reduced births on one side of the conflict. As I understand the article and discussion, there is population pressure on both sides, whether from births or immigration. Please correct me if I am wrong.

      1. Stephen Crilly: You are wrong. Overpopulation is not an absolute term. It is about how many you can support relative to how many you are and become. For Israel, any imbalance is minor. Not so for “team Hamas”.

      2. You are wrong, but I really think it was better if you did not urged me to say that. This blog is about overpopulation and if people do not directly claim that overpopulation is no problem, it is really not necessary to ask it they do not think countries are generally overpopulated. I do consider the world overpopulated and suggest a bit radically all countries to reduce fertility to almost half of replacement rate till the world population has sunk considerable. For global environment reasons the Israelis are a larger burden on the Earth than Palestinians. We Swedes are also a larger burden. But for the internal domestic conditions the overpopulation of Gaza is bad and it is more important to reduce birth rate. I suggest all countries with higher per capita “consumption” than Gaza to take action to reduce it to the Gaza level. Do I make myself clear?

      3. Morten, My understanding is that “overpopulation” would be a population size above the “optimal” population size as determined by factors necessary for long-term planetary sustainability. One can consider this at the country, regional, and planetary levels.

        Dag, Thank you for the clarification of your viewpoint.

        As the comments to this article indicate, as well as the reactions of people as shown in the media, the parameters of this conflict are ones that certainly stimulate the evolutionary instincts of the amygdala. Enlightened planetary thinking is required – another subject with many parameters and variables. Hopefully, the world will not need to hit rock bottom before that point is reached.

  18. Morten and Dag, it is once again worth remembering that the reason why Gaza is so densely populated is that people were crammed into it after having been forced to leave their homes to make room for people who migrated in the hundreds of thousands from elsewhere. Had this not happened, the population would be more spread out and probably lower overall. Making it all about high Palestinian fertility is not honest.
    Moreover the fertility rate in Israel is about 2,9 so well above replacement there too.
    As for the death rate right now, there are many other international organizations all saying it’s a humanitarian catastrophe that defies belief. Like I’ve said, I don’t think this blog was ever intended for people who rejoice at the killing of others because they don’t like them or they are too numerous.

    1. gaiabaracetti: Once more you are uninformed. In 1950 the population of Gaza was about 250k. From there all the way up to 2200k by now it is a Palestinian responsibility. But then again, as said explicitly by Arafat and Gaddafi and their later and lesser followers, excess births are weaponized civilians in the fight against Israel.

      1. We need to be careful about directly criticizing others directly. We need to use objective thinking not subjective ones. Problem with discounting immigrants is one also discounts their increased activities and their offspring. In the U.S. we gain some 3 million net. @/3 are directly or indirectly through immigration (and from their off-spring (first generation). The basic formula for the Impact (I) is I=PAT (Population X Activities X Technology). Technology is a wild card and often makes things worse; fracking is an example. Population demographics is a science and is not just a numbers game. It’s about the affect from the most invasive and destructive species on this planet.

  19. Stephen, the population density of Israel is over 400 people per square km. More than half of the land is desert.
    Lebanon is even higher, but declining as they are migrating given the situation of their country. I would say that all of the Middle East and North Africa is overpopulated given factors such as not only land, but also water availability, which is a huge issue. Unfortunately this rarely features in discussions of what happens there (except on this blog of course, and very few other places).
    Just for comparison, the population density of Italy is less than half that (about 200), and my country is in ecological overshoot and I would definitely consider it wildlife-depleted and overpopulated.
    What’s frightening about both Israel and Palestine, apart the conflict of course, is that fertility rates are actually higher than

    1. Good job explaining some of the background to this conflict. I think that most of the time religion, identity and ideology are just covers for wars over resources (including power). Not that they don’t matter in real life or shape behaviour, they do, but they act very differently depending on what the material situation is.

    2. I didn’t know this:
      Although, as usual, “it’s complicated”:
      This is so bad. They encourage high births, which is reckless for environmental and conflict resolution reasons, but they discourage them from black Jews because they are black.
      It also raises interesting questions about identity, citizenship and claims to a land, but more than anything it’s a rare example of actual racism in birth control promotion that gives everyone else talking about overpopulation a bad name.

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