Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

International Ownership Dispute Over Dead Sea Scrolls

Speaking of ownership, late last year Jordan asked Canada to seize and hold Dead Sea Scrolls currently on temporary display in Toronto, according to the Globe and Mail:

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

Canada, however, refused to do so, as reported by CBC News:

... the Canadian government issued a statement at the end of the year in reaction to Jordan's request saying 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."

Very clear from all the news coverage are the identity issues at stake for the governments (Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority) involved. Every side tries to employ the scrolls as relic texts to legitimize their own group:

On Sunday, Israeli officials released a statement saying the Jordanian claims are "completely ridiculous" and that the scrolls have little or no connection to Jordan's history.

... Jordan contends 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.

Palestinians have argued the scrolls, dating as far back as 250 BC, are an integral part of their heritage also

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