Growing up in Bethlehem with the Dead Sea Scrolls story

Daoud Kuttab; 8/1/10

The latest news about Jordan’s demands that Canada seize the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were on display in Toronto, brings back many childhood memories for me. For perspective this is what has happened. Jordan has requested Canada to take custody of the scrolls, citing the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, to which both Jordan and Canada are signatories. On display at the exhibition were artefacts taken from the Palestine Museum (also called the Rockefeller Museum) in East Jerusalem. Last April, the Palestinian Authority tried to convince Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to refuse the exhibition. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad made the request during Harper’s visit to Ramallah. Israel has rejected Jordan’s claims using some unusual language. Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, made the preposterous claim that Jordan’s rule over fellow Arabs before 1967 was an “occupation” and stated that the “Kingdom relinquished all claims on the territories in the 1980s”,  Ironically the Jordanian-Israeli Peace Treaty clearly states the Kingdom’s role in as far as Jerusalem is concerned. What really irked me was the lame excuse that the capture of antiques from a museum in an occupied area is legitimate, because “the scrolls have no connection to Jordan or the Jordanian people”. Palmor argues for Israel’s right to these stolen artefacts on the basis that the “Dead Sea Scrolls are an intrinsic part of Jewish heritage and religion”.