The Jordan Times (Editorial)
January 8, 2010 - 1:00am

The 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls have become a serious bone of contention between Jordan, the Palestinians and Israel after the latter seized them in the wake of its occupation of the West Bank in 1967.

The legal squabble over which country has jurisdiction over the artefacts, which were recently on display at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, threatens to mushroom into a political controversy where the Canadian government could end up taking centre stage.

All sides have made claims over the two-millennia old scrolls and asked Ottawa to honour their respective positions. This growing dispute, however, is not a free-for-all controversy as there are international guidelines to govern its settlement.

For starters, there is no dispute over the fact that the religious manuscripts were in a Jordanian museum when Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967. There is also no doubt that the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, was an integral part of the Jordanian territory. There is also no question about the applicability of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict to this confrontation.

The primary concern remains the protection and the preservation of these important discoveries that provided the earliest written sources of the Old Testament.

Second, the application of the relevant international law must be the basis for the resolution of this dispute.

It would seem that the only sensible way out of this deadlock is to refer the case to the International Court of Justice for a proper and lawful resolution. Or else, UNESCO can be called upon to examine this crisis in its entirety and shed more light on how it should be pursued and resolved.

In any case, this issue must not be blown out of proportion as a resolution can be found on the basis of the foregoing undisputed facts and principles.

These historical and religious treasures belong to all humanity, including the three monotheistic faiths. What is more important is how to safeguard them and protect them from any form of exploitation.


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