Jordan asks Canada to seize stolen artifacts on loan from Israel
January 2, 2010
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Canada was asked to take custody of a series of scrolls and parchment fragments uncovered in the West Bank and currently on loan to Toronto from the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The ancient artifacts were seized from an East Jerusalem museum in 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and illegally annexed Jerusalem. Since the artifacts were uncovered while the area was under Jordanian control between 1948 and 1967, it is the Jordanian government that requested Canada step in and protect the artifacts.
Jordanian officials summoned the Canadian chargé d’affaires in Amman in late December, the Toronto daily newspaper the Globe and Mail reported.
According to the Canadian paper, 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. On that basis, Jordan asked that Canada keep the scrolls until the international court can determine their rightful owner.
In April, two months before the exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls opened at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities called on Canada to cancel the showing. “The exhibition would entail exhibiting or displaying artifacts removed from the Palestinian territories,” Hamdan Taha, director of the Palestinian Antiquities Department wrote in a letter to the Canadian Prime Minister signed by dozens of Palestinian officials, researchers and intellectuals.
In an article run by the Toronto Star last year, ROM director Tilliam Thorsell said “I do understand the Palestinians are making an issue of the ownership. But I’m quite certain the scrolls fall within the parameters of the law.”
Canada, as a signatory of the cited Hague convention, is legally required “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.”
There is little indication that the country will take action, however, with officials failing to respond to the Palestinian requests in April. A Canadian Foreign Affairs rep told the Globe and Mail, “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.”
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