Excellent expose on Islamist thought in Canada and elsewhere. Please take the moment to read this:
When confronted with a political protest, it’s useful to look carefully at who exactly the protesters are. Sometimes people are not what they seem.
Anti-Israel campaigns are most notorious for using bait-and-switch tactics. Protests that are supposed to be about the legitimate rights of Palestinians are often, in reality, vehicles to attack Jews and promote Islamic extremism. Earlier this year, for example, “anti-Israel” demonstrations in several Canadian cities featured people giving the Nazi salute and circulating the medieval anti-Semitic libel that Jews drink blood.
Of course, not all critics of Israel have sinister and radical agendas. But you really have to wonder why those who advocate on behalf of Palestinians don’t work harder to keep their cause from being hijacked by people of ill will.
So it’s important to cast a skeptical eye on the strange campaign now underway in Toronto to disrupt an exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls are mostly ancient Hebrew manuscripts and are Israel’s greatest treasure. The Israel Antiquities Authority is allowing them to be shown at the Royal Ontario Museum.
An odd assortment of groups are protesting the exhibit on the grounds that the scrolls are stolen artifacts and really belong to Arabs, not Jews. Yes, you read that correctly: Hebrew manuscripts of the Jewish Bible that were written centuries before Muhammad was born are, apparently, Muslim property.
It’s easy to see what’s going on here. Just as Holocaust denial circulates in some corners of the anti-Israel movement, there is a parallel effort to deny the Jewish people’s ancestral connection to the Holy Land. The idea is to de-legitimize Israel by denying the indigenous rights of Jews. Some Israel-haters have even taken to arguing that Palestinian Arabs are the real descendants of “ancient Hebrews.”
It was interesting, for example, to see an online magazine called the Canadian Charger go after the Royal Ontario Museum for declining an “interview” with one of its correspondents. The Canadian Charger just a few days earlier published a strong defence of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, praising his “social justice policies.”
So the point remains: When you see a campaign like the one against the Dead Sea Scrolls, take a look at who — and what — is behind it.
For more on the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit in Toronto from The National Post, click read more.
Ed Morgan, National Post Published: Thursday, July 02, 2009
The Dead Sea Scrolls, which are being exhibited this week at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), have survived time, weather, sand–and now the political storm caused by protests at their being toured by the Israel Museum, which houses the scrolls in Jerusalem.
Opponents of the exhibit include the Palestinian Minister of Tourism and Canadian solidarity groups supporting the Palestinian cause. They accuse the Israel Museum of having taken the scrolls from the Jordanian Department of Antiquities upon Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967. Israel’s actions are alleged to be contrary to international conventions protecting cultural artifacts and prohibiting their removal.
The ROM is right to stare down the protests.
In the first place, prior to 1967, the part of the West Bank in which the scrolls were discovered was illegally occupied by the Kingdom of Jordan — an occupation condemned by virtually every existing international organization, including the Arab League and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. If one doesn’t like Israel’s current possession of the scrolls because of Israel’s occupation of the territory from which they come, one cannot possibly like the Jordanian claim any better.
More to the point, the Palestinians have expressly recognized Israel as custodian of all artifacts found in the West Bank and Gaza pending a final resolution of the conflict. Annex II to the 1994 Oslo Agreement, setting out the Protocols on Civil Affairs in the territories, preserves the status quo with respect to archeological finds and artifacts. Israel’s current custodianship of the Dead Sea Scrolls was good enough for Yasser Arafat, who signed the accord on behalf of the PLO as the “sole representative of the Palestinian people.” It is certainly good enough for the ROM.
Most important of all is that the Palestinian claim to the scrolls not only lacks a basis in formal law, it lacks a basis in principle. The primary international legal source cited in this campaign — the 1954 UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property — addresses the evil of cultural misappropriations. The age of imperialism saw European powers seize artifacts from former colonies with impunity.
To take a famous example, the Rosetta Stone, one of the great monuments of the ancient world, has for two centuries been displayed in the British Museum sporting an inscription painted on its side by an aide to Lord Elgin: “Captured in Egypt by the British Army in 1801.” It is the goal of the UNESCO treaty to ensure that such plunder does not occur again.
The UNESCO principle has nothing to do with Israel’s possession of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls, after all, are part and parcel of Jewish, not Arab, history. The Hebrew language parchments graphically demonstrate a society practising Judaism and living a Jewish life in biblical times in what is today Israel and the West Bank. They predate by at least seven centuries the arrival in the region of an Arabic speaking population and the Islamic religion, and give a portrait of the existing Israelite culture well before the birth of Christianity.
In exhibiting the scrolls, the state of Israel can hardly be said to have appropriated a Palestinian artifact in the way that the British appropriated Egyptian treasures. The Jewish state is preserving nothing more than Hebrew-speaking, Jewish cultural history.
Indeed, the argument that Israel’s possession is illegal seems designed not to preserve, but to bury the very heritage that the Dead Sea Scrolls reflect. This is in line with a rhetorical tactic that has been periodically advanced by Palestinians, including the current Mufti of Jerusalem who has stated that as far as he can tell, “the Jews have no relation to [the Western Wall],” Judaism’s holiest spot.
The theme of “no Jewish connection” was reportedly expounded upon in 2000 by Yasser Arafat himself at Camp David. According to Dennis Ross, president Bill Clinton’s (and now President Barack Obama’s) senior expert on the Middle East, Arafat came to the peace conference bereft of political solutions, but “did offer one new idea, which was that the Temple didn’t exist in Jerusalem.”
It is no exaggeration to say that Palestinians are conducting not just a political campaign, but a “cultural battle” against Israel as a Jewish state. In fact, this characterization comes from Palestinian scholar Edward Said.
Attempts to obscure the Dead Sea Scrolls, with their unabashed portrait of ancient Jewish life in the land of Israel, may be dressed up as the imposition of international law, but in reality they are part of an insidious cultural campaign. Fortunately, the ROM has risen to the challenge. – Ed Morgan is a professor of law at the University of Toronto.