If English-language readers are seriously interested in the diplomatic history prior to and following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Bovis “Bible” is the most complete and accurate history. I call it the “Bible” because the author, in 175 pages, documents in detail every meeting of the United Nations and its various councils on the history and problems of the Palestine debate.
The author, H. Eugene Bovis, published “The Jerusalem Question” in 1969 as a vital volume in the Hoover Institution Series under the auspices of the Hoover Institution Press.
I have a personal interest in the book and its author whom I knew well. Gene Bovis was a Consul in the American Embassy in Tel-Aviv for several years having served in the American Foreign Service as a diplomat since 1952, serving in Lebanon, Egypt and Israel and was, until his death in 2009, considered one of the most noted scholars of Middle East affairs.
It is probably well-known to many Americans, in particular, that the U.S. Department of State, since 1918, had not been particularly friendly to Jews. In fact, many of the American diplomats were openly anti-Semitic.
In 1948, immediately prior to our May 14 proclamation of independence, George Marshall, Secretary of State informed President Harry Truman that if he recognized the new State of Israel, Marshall would submit his resignation. President Truman did. And Secretary of State George Marshall resigned.
In 1957 I was invited to a garden party on the Fourth of July by the American Consul-General Albert (Bert) Franklin at the Consulate on Mamilla (now Agron) Road. We had been discussing a way to travel with a U.N. convoy on one of its routine visits to Mount Scopus, continuing into the Old City of Jerusalem. A special permit was required and could be obtained for a fee from the Greek Orthodox patriarchate which would state the holder’s religion as Greek Orthodox.
The conversations among consular personnel and guests at the garden party centered largely on divided Jerusalem and one fellow could be overheard asking “how can there be a solution; the damned Jews stole the land from the Palestinians, massacred thousands in villages and towns like the one in Deir Yassin….”
Many members of the consulate staff were more favorable to the Arabs whom they regarded as gentle people compared to the aggressive and abrasive Jews. The magnificent Jerusalem YMCA in the center of west Jerusalem on what was then called Julian’s Way (now King David street) was the central meeting place of Jews, Arabs and foreign diplomats.
The superintendent of the famous “Y”, the largest in the world, was a Lutheran Christian Arab, Rafoul Ghawi. He and I had been good friends and I was often invited upstairs to his apartment where his wife Widad served tea and sweet Arab pastries.
Jerusalem in those days was under military occupation and one of the Ghawi’s guests frequently was the Military Governor of Jerusalem. Their conversations were always private in a different section of the living quarters.
A few years later, in 1959, I made contact with H. Eugene Bovis, then a consul in the Tel-Aviv Embassy of the USA. He was a young man, delightfully pleasant and at once, as I could see, a good friend of the Jews and of Israel.
In January 1960, he served as a witness in my marriage in Tel-Aviv and at the reception he reminded me to stop in at the embassy the next morning before I left for an Eilat honeymoon in order to sign papers for visa, expected to be issued within one month.
The Consul General in that year was Charles Stoppani, not a friend of the Jews. When, after almost three months without a visa, Gene Bovis could not believe it. He ran into his office and immediately stamped the visa into the passport.
In his extremely factual book, detail by detail, the entire history of the Palestine problem and the Jerusalem question dating from the 1917 Balfour Declaration is laid out clearly with maps and charts.
But one of the most interesting parts of “The Jerusalem Question” is found in Appendix A which lists the population of the city of Jerusalem from 1800-1967.
In 1800 the Jewish population of Jerusalem was 10%. By 1884 it had swelled up to 50 % and in 1898 the Jews composed 67.4% of the entire Jerusalem population. 11.5% were Muslims and 21.1 were Christians.
It is, therefore, vital for every Jew and non-Jew to understand and to know that from 1884 to the present date, Jews have been the majority population in Jerusalem for 134 recorded years in the annual census of the Ottoman Turkish regime and the British Mandate..
I think that makes the case for Jewish insistence of declaring Holy Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the State of Israel, undivided, unseparated, one unified city for all its inhabitants, Jews and non-Jews alike.
There is no other book quite as detailed on the Arab-Jewish claims to Palestine as my friend’s Bovis “Bible”.
His “The Jerusalem Question” should be on the book-shelves of every intelligent reader of English.