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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Arabs trying to steal Israel's heritage

Stealing other nations' and religions' heritages is a long-standing Muslim practice. From the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to churches in Nazareth and Hindu shrines in India, Islam has long expropriated artifacts and structures that belong to other religions and cultures and made them into their own.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in an area northwest of the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1956. Some of the scrolls wound up in Israel immediately, while others were taken by Jordan during its illegal occupation (recognized only by Britain and Pakistan) of the area west of the Jordan River between 1948 and 1967. Those scrolls fell into Israeli hands in the 1967 Six Day War.

There is no doubt that the scrolls are Jewish.

The scrolls are now on display in Toronto, and the Jordanians - whose country didn't exist until its 'royal family' was given it as a consolation prize for losing the Arabian peninsula to the al-Sauds in the 1920's - are claiming that the scrolls are part of their 'cultural heritage.' They're seeking to get the Canadian government to keep the scrolls in Canada and not let them return to Israel.
Jordan has asked Canada to seize the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea scrolls, on display until Sunday at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, invoking international law in a bid to keep the artifacts out of the hands of Israel until their disputed ownership is settled.

Even if Canada ignores the request, it will make other countries think twice before accepting the controversial exhibit.

Summoning the Canadian chargé d'affaires in Amman two weeks ago, Jordan cited the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, to which both Jordan and Canada are signatories, in asking Canada to take custody of the scrolls.

Jordan claims Israel acted illegally in 1967 when it took the scrolls from a museum in east Jerusalem, which Israel seized from Jordan during the Six-Day War and subsequently occupied. The Hague Convention, which is concerned with safeguarding cultural property during wartime, requires each signatory “to take into its custody cultural property imported into its territory either directly or indirectly from any occupied territory. This shall either be effected automatically upon the importation of the property or, failing this, at the request of the authorities of that territory.”

This means Canada must act, says Jordan. “The Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan would be grateful if the Government of Canada would confirm … whether it is prepared to assume its international legal responsibility, and the means by which it intends to do so,” it wrote.

While confirming that Canada has received a message from Jordan, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said yesterday that “differences regarding ownership of the Dead Sea scrolls should be addressed by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. It would not be appropriate for Canada to intervene as a third party.”
But the Globe and Mail got this one wrong. They claim that Canada is obligated to act. As I read the Canadian law, that's not the case.
The Cultural Property Export and Import Act, Canada's own legislation to enact the Hague Convention, states: “If the government of a State Party submits a request in writing to the Minister for the recovery and return of any cultural property that has been exported from an occupied territory of that State Party and that is in Canada in the possession of or under the control of any person, institution or public authority, the Attorney-General of Canada may institute an action in the Federal Court or in a superior court of a province for the recovery of the property by the State Party.”

It adds that in the event that the Attorney-General institutes legal action to recover such property, “The court may … order that the property in respect of which the action has been taken be turned over to the Minister for safe-keeping and conservation pending final disposition of the action.”
Note that the law refers to the item as being 'exported from an occupied territory of that State Party.' Israel argues that the scrolls were not exported - they are only there temporarily. But this clause can be attacked much more directly. Judea and Samaria are not occupied. Moreover, even if they were occupied, they are not Jordanian territory under any circumstances.

Moreover, note that the provisions relating to both the Attorney General and the court are permissive and not mandatory. "May institute" and not "shall institute." "May order" and not shall order." There is no reason for the court to act.

On the other hand, I would get the scrolls back to Israel and not send them out again. Let the rest of the world come here to see them.


At 2:32 AM, Blogger mrzee said...

The article mentions the Hague convention "is concerned with safeguarding cultural property during wartime". Perhaps someone should remind the Jordanians they've signed a peace treaty with Israel.

At 2:55 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

It should be pointed out the Qumran Caves were never in the West Bank when it was occupied by Jordan. What's interesting is the Arabs have to appropriate Jewish history because they have none to claim for their own. There was never a Palestinian nation in all of recorded history. If there was one, you would sure the Palestinians wouldn't try to claim the Dead Sea Scrolls portray something that never happened.

At 5:52 AM, Blogger Moriah said...

How stupid are we? No more can we afford to exhibit these precious artifacts. No can be relied on or trusted -- understand that Israel! No-one!


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