Thursday, July 16, 2009

THE PALESTINIAN PROTESTS over the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum continue to get coverage.

From The Forward:
Furor Over Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibition
By Michael Kaminer

Published July 15, 2009, issue of July 24, 2009.

Toronto — Crowds at the Royal Ontario Museum’s heavily hyped Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition — Dead Sea Scrolls: Words That Changed the World, which runs until January 3, 2010 — have far exceeded the museum’s own expectations. In the show’s first nine days, more than 18,000 people flocked to the museum’s spectacular new Daniel Libeskind-designed Michael Lee-Chin Crystal pavilion — about 52% above the exhibitors’ own projections.

But hosannas for the showing, featuring four scroll fragments on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority and displayed in public for the first time, have not been universal. Last April, the Palestinian Authority appealed to Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, to cancel the show, citing international conventions that make it illegal for a government agency to take archaeological artifacts from a territory that its country occupies.

This article has some welcome detail about the specifics of the protests and the responses of the exhibition organizers.

From the Jerusalem Post:
Toronto Jews rally around museum taking flak over Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit

A coalition of pro-Palestinian organizations is demanding that the Royal Ontario Museum close a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit that opened last month, saying Israel looted the "Palestinian artifacts" during the Six Day War.

Toronto's Palestine House and the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid say the "Words that Changed the World" presentation is illegal.

When the museum refused to cancel the exhibit, which runs through January 3, the NGOs instead asked it "to release to the public and publish on its Web site the legal opinion that it obtained and on the basis of which it decided to go ahead with this exhibit," Palestine House said in a statement

The organizations are asking the museum to seek an opinion from UNESCO on the legal and ethical issues involved in the exhibit.

There was also a protest by about 30 people outside the museum.

Both articles point out that, in terms of the exhibition itself, the protests may backfire. They amount to a lot of free publicity, ticket sales have exceeded expectations, and there is a counter-movement encouraging people to buy tickets.

Background here.