Jordan Claims Ownership of Dead Sea Scrolls

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JERUSALEM, Israel - The Jordanian government has asked Canada not to release the Dead Sea Scrolls that have been on exhibit in Toronto for six months, claiming their ownership is "disputed."

The exhibition, on loan from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, ended on Sunday.

Jordan alleges that Israel took illegal possession of the 2,000-year-old Isaiah scrolls from the Rockefeller Museum in east Jerusalem during the Six Day War.

The Jordanian government claims that the scrolls fall under the auspices of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which allows "cultural property" from "any occupied territory" to be seized by countries that signed the ruling.

Israel rejected Jordan's claim outright.

"The Dead Sea Scrolls are an intrinsic part of Jewish heritage and religion," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said. "The scrolls have no connection to Jordan or the Jordanian people," he said.

"Moreover, Jordan's occupation of the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] was never recognized by the international community, and the [Hashemite] kingdom relinquished all claims on the territories in the '80s," Palmor said.

"On what grounds are they trying to lay claims to the scrolls, which are a cornerstone of Jewish cultural history?" he asked.

"Since it's a ridiculous claim, we are sure that it will be rejected. We haven't contacted the Canadians, either. At this stage, it is a legal issue, not a diplomatic one," Palmor said.

Last April, the Palestinian Authority tried to convince Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to refuse the exhibition.

Working together with Canadian Muslims in Toronto, Palestinian Authority officials told the prime minister that Israel had stolen the scrolls from "Palestinian territory," referring to when Jerusalem was reunited under Israeli sovereignty in 1967.

Despite demonstrations by pro-Palestinian groups outside the Toronto Museum, more than 200,000 Canadians viewed the exhibition, which also included some 200 pieces on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Dead Sea Scroll exhibition will reopen at the Milwaukee Public Museum on January 22.

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Source: The Jerusalem Post

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