Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayad has made a formal complaint to the Canadian government regarding the intention of Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum to collaborate with the Israel Antiquities Authority to host "Dead Sea Scrolls: Words that Changed the World" from June 27 to January 3, 2010.
Palestinian Archaeological Department Director-General Hamdan Taha explains,"The exhibition would entail exhibiting or displaying artifacts removed from thePalestinian territories... I think it is important that Canadian institutionswould be responsible and act in accordance with Canada's obligations."
The Israeli exhibition violates international conventions or protocols that Canada has ratified and that protect cultural property during armed conflict.
The State of Israel seized the Jordanian-owned Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem in 1967 to take possession of the scrolls and has continued to loot similar Palestinian cultural property from the Occupied Territories ever since. Under the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and the 1954 Hague Convention along with its two associated protocols, Canada is legally obliged "to take appropriate steps to recover and return any such cultural property" at the request of the wronged party.
The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition is part of Israel's effort to re-brand itself.
According to The Economist, American Jewish groups and Israeli diplomats are trying to create the perception of Israel as "hip, cool, cultured, fun and creative." The campaign has included placing sexually suggestive advertisements in Maxim and other men's magazines.
Harvard Professor Stephen Walt suggests in his Foreign Policy blog that the re-branding effort is foredoomed to failure: "Restoring Israel's image in the West isn't a matter of spin or PR or `re-branding;' it's a matter of abandoning the policies that have cost it the sympathy it once enjoyed. It's really just about that simple."
The archaeological component of the propaganda campaign, however, uses subliminal suggestion to bypass such political arguments. A top Israeli re-branding advocate argues, "[Let's] get to that first stage when people associate Israel with science and music and archaeology...Then we'll take it from there."
In Facts on the Ground Columbia Professor Nadia Abu Al Haj writes, "In the context of Israel and Palestine, archaeology emerged as a central scientific discipline because of the manner in which colonial settlement was configured in a language of, and a belief in, Jewish national return." Even though asserting ownership to a country after absence of 2000 years is preposterous, Israel's theft of Palestine from the native population is popularly legitimised through the claim that today's Jews descend from inhabitants of Greco-Roman Judea.
According to New York Times Reporters Ethan Bonner and Isabel Kershner in "Parks Fortify Israel's Claim to Jerusalem," "[There] is a battle for historical legitimacy. As part of the effort, archaeologists are finding indisputable evidence of ancient Jewish life here."
This claim is nonsense.
Intellectuals of Jewish origin in 19th century Germany, influenced by the folk character of German nationalism, invented their folk narratives 'retrospectively,' out of a thirst to create a modern Jewish people, argues Tel Aviv University Professor Shlomo Sand, author of How and When the Jewish People Was Invented.
There is no single founder population for modern Jewry any more than there is a single founder population for modern Christians or modern Muslims. Late ancient and early medieval texts describe an ethnically diverse collection of communities associated with proselytizing pre-Rabbinic Judaism.
In English to use the word Jew is anachronistic before the 10th century when medieval Rabbinic Judaism crystallised thanks to the efforts of Saadyah Gaon (Sa`îd bin Yûsuf al-Fayyûmi) and his colleagues.
With the revolutionary codification of Rabbinic law these communities became part of a vast trade network that spanned the Christian and Muslim world and that extended into China and began to exchange members on a large scale. The main population-exporting region seems to have been located in territories near the Black Sea.
Current genetic anthropological findings based on DNA analysis indicate that the male ancestors of Yiddish Jewry were of Eastern European and non-Levantine Southwest Asian origin while the female ancestors were Eastern Europeans.
Sand admits, "[The] chances that the Palestinians are descendants of the ancient Judaic people are much greater than the chances that you or I [meaning Israeli Jews] are its descendents."
The Palestinians' ancestors created the Hasmonean Kingdom, composed the Hebrew Bible, followed Jesus, wrote the New Testament, compiled the Mishnah, and redacted the Jerusalem Talmud. The Palestinian people constitute the living link to the earliest beginnings of the heritage from the Torah and Gospel.
Zionists are almost pitiable, for they are so ashamed of their own history that they have usurped one belonging to another people. When the Israeli government sends the Dead Sea Scrolls to Canada, by its own law Canada must turn them over to their rightful owners — the Palestinian people.
Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women. Joachim Martillo contributed to this article