Report: Jordan asks Canada to seize the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Globe and Mails Patrick Martin (the papers former Middle East Correspondent), is reporting that Jordan is asking the Canadian government to seize the Dead Sea Scrolls on display in Toronto Canada.

The Royal Ontario Museumis currently displaying seven of them as part of an exhibit on the scrolls.Thelast day of the exhibit isJanuary 3.

Summoning the Canadian charg 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, said Martin.

It appears highly unlikely that this request will get anywhere. In the same story a spokesperson for the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said 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.

Since the scrolls arrival in Toronto last summer, they have been no stranger to controversy.

Heritage Key reported on a street protest that took place outside the museum a few months back. Videos of it have since appeared on Youtube. Also the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority demanded last spring that the museums exhibition be cancelled.

The question of who should handle the Dead Sea Scrolls is a tough one. The site of Qumran is actually in the West Bank. When the scrolls were discovered in the 1940s and 1950s Jordan controlled the territory. Many of the fragile parchments were stored in the Rockefellar Museum in East Jerusalem.

In the 1967 war the Israelis gained control of the whole of Jerusalem. They then assumed custody of the scrolls.

To make things even more complicated the Palestinian Authority formed a government in the West Bank during the 1990s. Its an entity that is independent of Jordan. They too have a claim on the scrolls.

So the question of who should control these ancient writings is a messy one. However, Israel has given no signal so far that it is willing to cede control of the scrolls to Jordan or the Palestinians.