A fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls, said to have been the library of the Essene Jewish sect
With thanks: Victor; Lily
Update, 3 Jan: The Canadian government says it will not act upon a request by the Jordanian government that it seize the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls, now on their last day of display at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. (See Also Jerusalem Post.)
Countries will think twice about hosting an exhibition of Dead Sea Scrolls following a call by Jordan on Canada to seize the ancient manuscript fragments until their disputed ownership is resolved.
The exhibition of Dead Sea Scrolls, in conjunction with the Israel Antiquities Authority, runs until tomorrow at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Two weeks ago, however, Jordan invoked the Hague Convention, which is concerned with the safeguarding of property in wartime, to urge Canada to take custody of the Dead Sea Scrolls, arguing that Israel had seized the scrolls illegally from Jordan when it re-conquered east Jerusalem in 1967.
Under the Hague Convention the country to which the artefacts are 'exported' becomes the custodian, responsible for their safe keeping.
When the exhibition first opened in the summer, the Palestinian Authority voiced similar objections. Then, a National Post article by Ed Morgan, a university of Ontario law professor, stated:
"In the first place, prior to 1967, the part of the West Bank in which the scrolls were discovered was illegally occupied by the Kingdom of Jordan -- an occupation condemned by virtually every existing international organization, including the Arab League and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. If one doesn't like Israel's current possession of the scrolls because of Israel's occupation of the territory from which they come, one cannot possibly like the Jordanian claim any better.
"More to the point, the Palestinians have expressly recognized Israel as custodian of all artefacts found in the West Bank and Gaza pending a final resolution of the conflict."
Furthermore Professor Morgan explains that the principle designed to prevent imperialist powers from 'exporting' the artefacts of another country, as Britain did in the 19th century with the Elgin Marbles from Greece and the Rosetta Stone from Egypt, hardly applies in this case. The Israeli authorities don't claim ownership of the artefacts - just custodianship.
As Ed Morgan writes:
"The UNESCO principle has nothing to do with Israel's possession of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls, after all, are part and parcel of Jewish, not Arab, history. The Hebrew language parchments graphically demonstrate a society practising Judaism and living a Jewish life in biblical times in what is today Israel and the West Bank. They predate by at least seven centuries the arrival in the region of an Arabic speaking population and the Islamic religion, and give a portrait of the existing Israelite culture well before the birth of Christianity.
"In exhibiting the scrolls, the state of Israel can hardly be said to have appropriated a Palestinian artifact in the way that the British appropriated Egyptian treasures. The Jewish state is preserving nothing more than Hebrew-speaking, Jewish cultural history."
The Jordanian move is another attempt to wage what Edward Said called a cultural war on Israel:
"Attempts to obscure the Dead Sea Scrolls, with their unabashed portrait of ancient Jewish life in the land of Israel, may be dressed up as the imposition of international law, but in reality they are part of an insidious cultural campaign," Ed Morgan writes.
This war politicises the Jewish religion and culture. The Arab strategy is to bury the Jewish people's heritage by:
Appropriating a Jewish holy site as a Muslim site: for example, on the Temple Mount ( the Al-Aqsa mosque was built atop the Jewish temple to proclaim Islam's supremacy).
Erasing the site's Jewish character (Priceless historical artefacts testifying to the 2,000 year old history of the Temple Mount were dug out and discarded by the Wakf authorities in 2000; the Iraqi authorities are now under pressure to erase all Jewish connections with Ezekiel's tomb). In the 1990s Rachel's tomb was renamed the Bilal Bin Rabah mosque by the Palestinian Authority.
Identity theft: the Palestinians are the new Jews; there is no specific Jewish link with Palestine (Jesus is a Palestinian).
Destroying Jewish holy sites altogether (Joseph's tomb).