Palestinian Authority Will Use Upcoming UNESCO Meeting to Claim Ownership of Dead Sea Scrolls Site, Jewish Group Reveals
A leading Jewish human rights organization disclosed on Wednesday that it had received advance warning of a Palestinian attempt to claim ownership of the historic Jewish site of Qumran, in the West Bank, at a forthcoming meeting of the UN’s educational and cultural agency UNESCO.
Shimon Samuels — director for International Relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) — said in a letter to UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay that he had “learned from UNESCO Arab Group sources of an apparent plan by the Palestinian delegation to claim the Qumran Caves and the Dead Sea Scrolls at the May 30-31 May session of the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to Its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP), at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.”
Contemporary knowledge of Jewish society and life in Israel during the Hellenic and Roman periods was given an extraordinary boost by the discovery of eleven scrolls in the caves of Khirbet Qumran, near the Dead Sea, between 1947 and 1956. UNESCO’s own description of the site notes that the series of scrolls, written mainly in Hebrew and Aramaic, “provides us with valuable information about the history of Judaism and the early phase of Christianity.”
Samuels said that the Palestinian bid to claim Qumran “continues the antics of annual historical revisionism at UNESCO to validate a Palestinian mythology.” In that regard, he cited the Palestinian campaign over the last several years to claim as “Muslim” historic Jewish sites like Jerusalem’s Western Wall and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
Pointing to the recent discovery in the scrolls of references to Jewish rites in the Temple in Jerusalem, Samuels asked, “if the Palestinians reject the existence of a Jewish Temple Mount in Jerusalem, why would they seek to own the proofs positive of that Temple’s Jewish validity?”