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Friday, April 18, 2014

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Palestinians decry Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit

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TORONTO — Palestinian officials have called on Canada to cancel a planned exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The officials say the exhibit would violate international law.

In a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and directors of the Royal Ontario Museum, Hamdan Taha, director general of the archeological department in the Palestinian ministry of tourism and antiquities, alleges the scrolls were acquired illegally by Israel when the Jewish state annexed east Jerusalem in 1967.

The Palestinians claim the six-month exhibit slated to begin in June violates at least four international conventions or protocols on the treatment of cultural goods that were “illegally” obtained, the Toronto Star reported last week.

“The exhibition would entail exhibiting or displaying artifacts removed from the Palestinian territories” by Israel, Taha wrote.

Pnina Shor, head of the artifacts treatment and conservation department at the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is organizing the exhibit jointly with the museum, told the Star that the complaint was unfounded.

“We are the custodians of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Shor said. “As such, we have a right to exhibit them and to conserve them.”

William Thorsell, the museum’s CEO, said he is “quite certain the scrolls fall within the parameters of the law.”

A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon declined to comment.

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