CSS Research and Policy Seminar with Monica Toft

Professor Monica Toft, director of CSS, presented two draft chapters for her new book, Death by Demography, at the Research and Policy Seminar on March 25. The book project continues her research on the centrality of demography to national security.

A chapter on Israel’s demographics addresses Israel’s security concerns vis-à-vis Israeli Arabs and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, given the relatively high fertility and population growth among Palestinians. Additionally, the chapter analyzes Israel’s economic, social, and political challenges associated with the Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, population, which is also experiencing a rapid population increase relative to the non-Haredi Jewish populations.

Another chapter examines the demographic trends in Syria, focusing on the youth bulge, unemployment and its mismanagement, urbanization and the failures of rural agriculture, and the political repercussions of inequitable power distributions among Syrian elites.

Nils Hagerdal, a CSS postdoctoral fellow, served as the discussant for the seminar. Hagerdal noted the difficulty of achieving the necessary level of detail in the two cases of Israel and Syria. In particular, Syria has remained a challenge for researchers given the lack of official statistics on ethnic or sectarian identity. Hagerdal commended Toft’s discussion of the history of how identity issues have evolved in Syria since the emergence of the Baath party. During the discussion, participants debated how to refine the theoretical concepts in the book, as well as how the case studies connect with them and affect national security decisions in Israel and Syria.

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