Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Complexities of International Squabbles

.... over pieces of papyrus.

However, these are important pieces of papyrus. The Dead Sea scrolls are an important source of information regarding Scripture, and are essentially a Levant Rosetta Stone. Written not only in Hebrew, but Aramaic and Greek as well, these scrolls detail some of the Old Testament writings, as well as other non-canonized books, including some we've never even heard of. They're important in detailing the continued history and evolution of the most revered text in history.

They aren't without their issues, though. The texts themselves were found in what is claimed to be disputed territory, detailed in this map here.

Though it isn't modern, it isn't hard to pinpoint what goes where: "Judah" is essentially Israel, and everything on the west side of the Dead Sea, but east of Jerusalem, including Hebron, Bethlehem, Jericho, and etc., is the West Bank. "Moab" is the modern state of Jordan, and takes up everything east of the Dead Sea.

The red area is centered around "Qumran," where the scrolls were found among a series of caves. As you can see, it is sort of within disputed territory, though to be sure, it lies essentially within the West Bank.

Now, today, the scrolls are in Canada, to be present at the ROM for display. Apparently, Jordan has asked that the Canadian government seize the scrolls, in order to bring in Canada as a "third party," and someone without a stake in the squabbling between Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan. Canada has, of course, refused, which is probably a good decision on our parts, with the situation as it is currently.

However, would it really be all bad if we kept them?

Now, I'm not saying that we should seize them on behalf of Jordan. But it is possible that we should look into seeing if we could play a constructive role in this, with the blessing of all three parties. Think about it.

Right now, Israel has possession, and lends it out to various museums in the world. This is an obvious source of friction for the situation, friction that isn't really needed. Given the tenseness of the general situation with Israel and Palestine, as well as the nature of what is being disputed, it is best if there is a mediator involved to calm it. Even the Israelis would understand the need to keep the scrolls safe, so maybe they'll understand the need for a mediator.

In my mind, despite my bias, Canada is the best choice. We have no real stake, because we're not as involved with the Israelis as, say, the US is. We're seen worldwide as mediators and trustworthy, and we have excellent resources in order to protect, preserve, and even help translate, the scrolls. We're a safe bet.

Not only that, but Israel agreeing to conditions whereby Canada is the money-holder will be seen as a plus. They'll seem co-operative, and willing to solve the issue with the other parties on a level playing field. Jordan and Palestine are satisfied, and Canada gets a bump of reputation for it. Heck, if the results turn out favourable and agreeable, then we're seen as Middle Eastern saviors. We'd actually be doing something! Isn't that exciting? And all over some scrolls, too.

But, the chances of this happening are slim. Netanyahu is in power in Israel right now, and even worse, the Israeli Foreign Minister, aka. the person who would be dealing with all of this, Avigdor Lieberman, is essentially a Zionist. I don't see such compromise on the table, pressure or no.

But, a man can dream.

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