I suppose most of my readers can tell that I get a bit up-tight about cultural heritage, and tend to take a lot of this seriously. Those who read a bit deeper might perceive that what angers me most is when people (read dealers and collectors) try to get away with passing off half-baked ideas and half-truths as reality which we should all take as given. That really angers me.
Just a few days ago a lady from UNESCO said something to two lady journalists (Jane Arraf, Dalya Alberge) who then published an article based upon what (they thought) they'd been told that an object at Bonham's (an Assyrian stele) was one of those elusive antiquities that ISIS are supposed to be flogging off to buy bullets. I've covered those "antiquities support militants" stories, trying to sift out what the facts are, trying to show on their basis why we need to take action on the no-questions-asked trade. In this case obviously something was wrong, the object was on the open market well before ISIS was even a twinkle in a fundamental Moslem's eye. Nada al-Hassan from UNESCO, on that being pointed out, quickly denied having actually said what was directly attributed to her. "A misunderstanding" she says. Then her contact details disappeared from the UNESCO page and she clammed up. No answer to my followup letter. Sam Hardy wrote to the Sunday Times, to Jane Arraf and Dalya Alberge. Nothing. No reply. Nobody is going to confirm or deny what was put out in print by a premier UK newspaper. This story has been made-up as anti-ISIS propaganda, and nobody is going to admit being its originator. They chose the wrong object (and the wrong auction house) because - unlike a lot of the stuff on the market, this one DID have a collecting history going back a decade and a half. Not much, but enough to show that the ISIS-connection is made-up. By whom and why?
I've already discussed the "National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces" and its Heritage Task Force. What political role does it in fact fulfil and for whom? What is going on here behind the scenes and who is pulling the strings? Actually, that is a rhetorical question.
Yesterday in Gaza four kids playing football on the beach were slaughtered by an Israeli attack. NBC journalist Ayman Mohyeldin reported on it in graphic detail.
Over the last two weeks, Mohyeldin’s reporting has been far more balanced and even-handed than the standard pro-Israel coverage that dominates establishment American press coverage; his reports have provided context to the conflict that is missing from most American reports and he avoids adopting Israeli government talking points as truth. As a result, neocon and “pro-Israel” websites have repeatedly attacked himToday he was removed by NBC from the assignment and tweets and a Facebook comment he made concerning the US Department of State's reactions (I saw them) were deleted. Who was behind this censorship of the media? Who is not interested in the US viewing public (who are expected by their gubn'mint to support Israel and its right to defend itself 100%, no matter the human costs to the 'other side') hearing about the other side of the story? Who is manipulating the news by sending to Gaza a reporter who cannot speak Arabic in his place?
The Financial Times reports that news stories about ISIS raising funds from the robbery of Mosul banks (as was being reported a few days ago) are simply nonsense (paywall). As Sam Hardy notes "So was funding from antiquities more signif or were reports bullshit?". I am beginning to suspect that the story about the memory sticks reportedly containing information on revenue from antiquity sales is exactly the latter.
It's annoying enough trying to tease some facts out of the obfuscations of the no-questions-asked antiquity trade without having to deal with deliberate misinformation fed to us by the media which we assume all too naively is carefully analysing their sources and telling us the truth. I think we are very far from getting a full picture is currently happening in Syria and Iraq (and Gaza).