Baha'i faith, Zionism and the State of Israel


By A35821361

On July 14, 1947, Shoghi Effendi addressed a letter to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, wherein he stated "The Jews alone offer somewhat of a parallel to the attachment which the Baha’is have for this country" and that "The Baha’i Faith is entirely non-political and we neither take sides in the present tragic dispute going on over the future of the Holy Land and its peoples nor have we any statement to make or advice to give as to what the nature of the political future of this country should be."
July 14, 1947
Mr. Justice Emil Sandstrom, Chairman United Nations Special Committee on Palestine
Sir:
Your kind letter of July 9th reached me and I wish to thank you for affording me the opportunity of presenting to you and your esteemed colleagues a statement of the relationship which the Baha’i Faith has to Palestine and our attitude towards any future changes in the status of this sacred and much disputed land.
I am enclosing with this letter, for your information, a brief sketch of the history, aims and significance of the Baha’i Faith, as well as a small pamphlet setting forth its views towards the present state of the world and the lines on which we hope and believe it must and will develop.
The position of the Baha’is in this country is in a certain measure unique; whereas Jerusalem is the spiritual center of Christendom it is not the administrative center of either the Church of Rome or any other Christian denomination. Likewise although it is regarded by Moslems as the spot where one of its most sacred shrines is situated, the Holy Sites of the Mohamedam Faith, and the center of its pilgrimages, are to be found in Arabia, not in Palestine. The Jews alone offer somewhat of a parallel to the attachment which the Baha’is have for this country inasmuch as Jerusalem holds the remains of their Holy Temple and was the seat of both the religious and political institutions associated with their past history. But even their case differs in one respect from that of the Baha’is, for it is in the soil of Palestine that the three central figures of our religion are buried, and it is not only the center of Baha’i pilgrimages from all over the world but also the permanent seat of our Administrative Order, of which I have the honor to be the Head.
The Baha’i Faith is entirely non-political and we neither take sides in the present tragic dispute going on over the future of the Holy Land and its peoples nor have we any statement to make or advice to give as to what the nature of the political future of this country should be. Our aim is the establishment of universal peace in this world and our desire to see justice prevail in every domain of human society, including the domain of politics. As many of the adherents of our Faith are of Jewish and Moslem extraction we have no prejudice towards either of these groups and are most anxious to reconcile them for their mutual benefit and for the good of the country.
What does concern us, however, in any decisions made affecting the future of Palestine, is that the fact be recognized by whoever exercises sovereignty over Haifa and Acre, that within this area exists the spiritual and administrative center of a world Faith, and that the independence of that Faith, its right to manage its international affairs from their source, the right of Baha’is from any and every country of the globe to visit it as pilgrims (enjoying the same privilege in this respect as Jews, Moslems and Christians do in regard to visiting Jerusalem) be acknowledged and permanently safeguarded.
The Sepulchre of the Bab on Mt. Carmel, the Tomb of ‘Abdu’l-Baha in that same spot, the Pilgrim Hostel for oriental Baha’is in its vicinity, the large gardens and terraces which surround these places (all of which are open to visits by the public of all denominations), the Pilgrim Hostel for western Baha’is at the foot of Mt. Carmel, the residence of the Head of the Community, various houses and gardens in Acre and its vicinity associated with Baha’u’llah’s incarceration in that city. His Holy Tomb at Bahji, near Acre, with His Mansion which is now preserved as a historic site and a museum (both likewise accessible to the public of all denominations), as well as holdings in the plain of Acre - all these comprise the bulk of Baha’i properties in the Holy Land. It should also be noted that practically all of these properties have been exempted from both Government and Municipal taxes owing to their religious nature. Some of these extensive holdings are the property of the Palestine Branch of the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, incorporated as a religious society according to the laws of the country. In future various other Baha’i National Assemblies will hold, through their Palestine Branches, parts of the International Endowments of the Faith in the Holy Land.
In view of the above information I would request you and the members of your Committee to take into consideration the safeguarding of Baha’i rights in any recommendation which you may make to the United Nations concerning the future of Palestine.
May I take this opportunity of assuring you of my deep appreciation of the spirit in which you and your colleagues have conducted your investigations into the troubled conditions of this Sacred Land. I trust and pray that the outcome of your deliberations will produce an equitable and speedy solution of the very thorny problems which have arisen in Palestine.
Yours faithfully,
(Signed) Shoghi Rabbani
Haifa, Palestine
In fact, on February 23, 1914, at the eve of World War I, 'Abdu'l-Bahá 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.

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, 'Abdu'l-Bahá praised 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."
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.
Yours sincerely,
Herbert Samuel

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