TEL AVIV – The Palestinian Authority is preparing to demand that UNESCO force Israel to “return” the Dead Sea Scrolls, one of the Jewish state’s most important archaeological treasures and proof of Jewish existence in the land of Israel two millennia ago.
“This is another provocative and audacious attempt by the Palestinians to rewrite history and to erase our connection to our land,” Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen said.
“The Dead Sea Scrolls are factual and weighty archaeological evidence of the presence of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.”
The ancient scrolls were discovered in 1947 by a Palestinian shepherd in Qumran near the Dead Sea, in an area largely set to become part of a future Palestinian state. In 1947, the area was under British control. The largely Hebrew texts date back to the period of the Second Temple and include some of the earliest copies of the Bible.
“In any case, just like with the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, the scrolls will stay in our hands and the Palestinians will be left with their dreams,” Shama-Hacohen said.
The PA plans to bring the matter up before the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation, a committee that operates in an advisory capacity to UNESCO and does not include Israel as a member state.
According to Shama-Hacohen, the Palestinians brought the matter up informally to the committee when it met in Paris at the end of September. He added that the PA plans on raising the issue formally when the committee convenes again next year.
The Palestinian claim to the Dead Sea Scrolls comes after a series of UNESCO resolutions were passed that erase Jewish ties to holy sites in Jerusalem.