Some notes on the early relationship of the Baha’is with the Zionists.Posted: July 1, 2018
On May 14, 1948, the Arab village of al-Nuqayb, where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had owned land and grown grain, was depopulated in the fighting which broke out after the U.N. General Assembly’s adoption on November 29, 1947 of the Partition Plan for Palestine.
The Master bought from time to time some land in various villages. Asfiya and Daliya, near Haifa–these two properties He bestowed upon Diya’u’llah and Badi’u’llah, the two younger half-brothers, at the request of Bahá’u’lláh.
In his book All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948, the historian Walid Khalidi details the history of many of these Palestinian villages and how they were depopulated. For example, he notes that in the 1880s most of the village land of al-Nuqayb was purchased by Bahá’u’lláh, with the villagers continuing to farm as tenant farmers. In the 1920s, this land was sold by Shoghi Effendi to the Jewish National Fund.
Bahá’í Villages in The Chosen Highway chronicles in some detail how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá used the grain he had grown in these villages to supply the British Army during World War I.
We learned that when the British marched into Haifa there was some difficulty about the commissariat. The officer in command went to consult the Master.
“I have corn,” was the reply.
“But for the army?” said the astonished soldier.
“I have corn for the British Army,” said ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
He truly walked the Mystic way with practical feet. [footnote: Lady Blomfield often recounted how the corn pits proved a safe hiding-place for the corn, during the occupation of the Turkish army. -Ed.]
Sir ‘Abbas Effendi ‘Abdu’l Baha had travelled extensively in Europe and America to expound his doctrines, and on the 4th December, 1919, was created by King George V a K.B.E. for valuable services rendered to the British Government in the early days of the Occupation.
THE following beautiful description of this event was written by Dr. Zia M. Bagdadi who was at that time in Haifa: “Among the kings and governments of the world who have become convinced that Abdul Bahá was the well-wisher and the lover of mankind are King George and his government. The King sent a medal to Abdul Bahá with the title, “Sir”, thus making him a member of his household. On the 27th of April, 1920, the Governor and high officials of Haifa, Palestine presented in a beautiful garden a most wonderful celebration for the knighting of Abdul Baha. Bahai pilgrims from Persia, America and all parts of the world were present. Mohammedan, Christian, Jewish leaders, clergymen, notables and local officials from Haifa, Acca and other towns attended. A tent was pitched in the center of the garden. English troops stood on both sides, from the gate of the garden to the center where Abdul Bahá was seated. The military music added wonderful melody to the rustling leaves of the beautiful trees. The breezes of the spring on that sunny afternoon imparted a remarkable vigor to the physical body just as the presence of Abdul Baha strengthened the souls. The Governor stood behind Abdul Bahá and, after a short speech, interpreted by Mr. Wadie Bistani, presented the medal. Then Abdul Baha, rising from his seat, gave a brief talk and a prayer for the British government.
On February 23, 1914, at the eve of World War I, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had hosted Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, a member of the Rothschild banking family who was a leading advocate and financier of the Zionist movement, during one of his early trips to Palestine.
On September 8, 1919, subsequent to the British occupation of Palestine, at a time when tens of thousands of Jewish settlers were arriving under the auspices of the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association, an article in the “Star of the West” quoted ‘Abdu’l-Bahá praising the Zionist movement, proclaiming that “There is too much talk today of what the Zionists are going to do here. There is no need of it. Let them come and do more and say less” and that “A Jewish government might come later.”
At the time of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘s death, Shoghi Effendi was matriculated at Balliol College. In a letter to Marzieh Gail, Shoghi Effendi outlined his educational ambitions at Balliol College, specifically to study with eminent professors and Orientalists, noting alumni who were all Imperialists.
After ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘s death, Shoghi Effendi would continue to have close relations with the leading political administrators and prominent Zionist leaders. For example, on January 24, 1922, Shoghi Effendi received a letter from Herbert Samuel, the British High Commissioner for Palestine. The receipt of the letter is mentioned in Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum‘s The Priceless Pearl. As High Commissioner, Herbert Samuel was the first Jew to govern the historic land of Israel in 2,000 years, and his appointment was regarded by the Muslim-Christian Associations as the “first step in formation of Zionist national home in the midst of Arab people.” Herbert Samuel welcomed the arrival of Jewish settlers under the auspices of the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association and recognised Hebrew as one of the three official languages of the Mandate territory.
While Shoghi Effendi was thus occupied and was gathering his powers and beginning to write letters such as these to the Bahá’ís in different countries, he received the following letter from the High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir Herbert Samuel, dated 24 January 1922:
Dear Mr. Rabbani,
I have to acknowledge receipt of your letter of Jan. 16., and to thank you for the kind expression it contains. It would be unfortunate if the ever to be lamented death of Sir ‘Abdu’l-Bahá were to interfere with the completion of your Oxford career, and I hope that may not be the case. I am much interested to learn of the measures that have been taken to provide for the stable organization of the Bahá’í Movement. Should you be at any time in Jerusalem in would be a pleasure to me to see you here.