The Palestinian Authority is objecting to a planned exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Canada on the grounds that the ancient manuscripts were illegally obtained "from the Palestinian territories" by Israel. A Canadian museum official said Wednesday that he's "quite certain" the PA claims are false.
A Canadian museum official said Wednesday that he's "quite certain" the PA claims are false.
The scrolls - including Biblical texts and documentation of Jewish sects from the Second Temple period - were found in caves near the Dead Sea beginning in 1947. The Rockefeller Museum in eastern Jerusalem, whose experts helped excavate the scrolls, held on to the artifacts until 1967, when Israel took full control of the city from Jordan in the Six Day War. The artifacts are now in the possession of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The exhibition is to be at the Royal Ontario Museum from June 27, 2009 to January 3, 2010. Scrolls to be displayed will include passages from Genesis, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Isaiah, the War Scroll, the Community Rule and the Messianic Apocalypse. In addition to the scrolls themselves, the ROM will host a lecture series on their significance with Israeli and Canadian specialists.
Kelvin Browne, the ROM's Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Communications called the planned exhibition "the biggest show the ROM has put on since its exhibition of Egyptian art from the British Museum in 2004."
PA officials, however, are pushing to cancel the project. In a letter to the museum and to the Canadian Prime Minister, the PA claimed that displaying the scrolls would violate at least four international conventions or protocols on the treatment of cultural relics.
"The exhibition would entail exhibiting or displaying artifacts removed from the Palestinian territories," wrote PA officials, including the PA's legislative leader Salam Fayyad. "I think it is important that Canadian institutions would be responsible and act in accordance with Canada's obligations."
The PA claimed that Israel is illegally in possession of millions of artifacts that originate in "Palestinian territories".
In reaction to the PA letter, the Israel Antiquities Authority's Penina Shor said, "We are the custodians of the Dead Sea Scrolls. As such, we have a right to exhibit them and to conserve them." The scrolls have already been displayed under IAA auspices in many other countries.
For his part, ROM CEO William Thorsell said, "I do understand the Palestinians are making an issue of the ownership. But I'm quite certain the scrolls fall within the parameters of the law." He noted that this is the first time such an objection has been raised.