The Israeli Antiquities Authority, the agency that manages the archaeological heritage of Israel, had worked with a West German Protestant organization, the Frankfurt Bible Museum to sponsor an exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Scrolls, found at Qumran on the Dead Sea, in what is now called the West Bank, have a checkered ownership history. Jordan claims them. The Palestinian Authority claims them (no surprise there, grifters gonna grift), and Israel claims ownership and possession.
The scrolls, or rather some of the scrolls, have been exhibited a lot of places. I visited them when they came to Washington, DC, some years ago. But wherever they go, Jordan and the Palestinians always demand their return. And they are ignored. Until last week:
Israel has pulled out of a planned exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Frankfurt because the German government would not guarantee their return if claimed by Palestinians or Jordanians.
The Frankfurt Bible Museum announced that it has canceled the exhibit which was scheduled for a September 2019 opening. Its director, Jürgen Schefzyk, said he regretted the German government’s decision, adding that neither Holland nor Austria would have hesitated to issue general immunity guarantees.
According to German news reports, the government guarantee would have blocked Palestinian or Jordanian authorities from contesting the provenance of the scrolls, which are among the oldest known texts related to the Hebrew Bible.
“Because of the unwillingness of both ministries to give the necessary declaration, as Qumran lies in today’s West Bank, the Israel Antiques Authority is not letting the material out of the country and the Bible Museum had to cancel its plans,” Uwe Becker, the deputy mayor of Frankfurt, told The Jerusalem Post.
Becker expressed outrage at Germany’s foreign and culture ministers on Thursday, sending letters to Culture and Media Minister Monika Grütters and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel asking them to change their position to support the exhibition.
“If Germany is unwilling to clearly express the legal status of the fragments of Qumran as Israeli world-cultural-heritage goods, it would dramatically change the coordinates in our German-Israeli relations. And it would mean the construction of a wall toward the places of the birth of Christianity in the holy country, because it would be the same for Bethlehem, Jericho, east Jerusalem and many other places of Jesus’s work,” Becker said.
This is just another sign of the cravenness and institutionalized anti-Semitism masquerading as mere anti-Israel bias that is so prevalent in Merkel’s Germany. And it is a sign of why Israel can never feel safe so long as this attitude is allowed to exist as socially acceptable behavior.