The problem for Palestinian Authority officials, who contacted ROM executives in April, is that the exhibition contains artefacts illegally acquired by Israel when it annexed East Jerusalem in the 1967 war.
The PA’s archaeological department said it was important for Canadian institutions to be responsible and act in accordance with their country’s obligations.
“I’m not saying those scrolls are not Jewish and Christian in nature,” said Issam al Ahmed, the executive director of Palestine House, an educational and cultural organisation in the Toronto area. “But they were discovered prior to the Israeli occupation and they were exhibited in the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem in Palestine.”
After the 1967 war, the Israelis moved the scrolls to the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, a Montreal-based advocacy group, argues that ROM’s partnership with the Israeli body violates Canada’s obligations under the conventions of Unesco, the UN body that helps to conserve mankind’s heritage, regarding the protection of cultural property.