Wednesday 16 April 2014

Monica Hanna Grilled at Woodrow Wilson Centre

American burger grill
Peter Tompa's report of Monica Hanna's appearance at the Woodrow Wilson Centre ('Monica Hanna: The Arab Spring and the State of Egyptian Antiquities' CPO Tuesday, April 15, 2014) largely skips over the details of what the speaker said but concentrates on what the US questioners were drilling away at. His account of Washington hospitality is as uncharitable as his previous comments on her.  It is quite clear that Mr Tompa's aim is to exploit every opportunity provided to question the US introducing any additional controls on the import of paperless Egyptian antiquities.
1) "The first questioner [who appeared to be associated with the Wilson Center] asked about government involvement in looting, but Hanna did not answer that question".
2) "The first questioner again asked Hanna if the authorities were involved [and] pressed Hanna about any involvement by the current government".
3) "Another questioner asked about whether there was a “concerted international response” to looting". 4) "Another questioner asked Hanna about the MOU with the United States".
5) "Another individual indicated he had a State Department contract with a company that planned to assist Egypt create a database of artifacts in State Museum stores. He wanted it to be known that two consecutive US Ambassadors had tried to get the Egyptian government to cooperate with the project, but the Mubarak Government stymied it".
6) "In response to another question, Hanna indicated that she does not approve of private collecting".
And that, according to Mr Tompa, is it. Three questions intended to entrap Ms Hanna over the MOU and one bloke whose contract was not approved by the Egyptian government came along to complain. Two of the reported public questions intended to entrap came from somebody from the inviting institution which is a crass breach of professional courtesy. In Tompa's account, there were no questions from the floor about Ms Hanna's work, there were no questions about what concerned Americans can do to help. The main thrust of the report seems to be that the presence of Ms Hanna in Washington was being exploited to gather facts with which to oppose the signing of any bilateral cultural property agreement. If this is what happened (and I look forward to seeing a report that indicates that Mr Tompa presented an untrue version) it's disgusting.

As for the guy who "had a State Department contract with a company that planned to assist Egypt create a database of artifacts in State Museum stores" supported by "two consecutive US Ambassadors", perhaps the problem is that in cultural property protection measures, the United States rather than offering help, seems awfully sure of its right to impose additional conditions on others. We see this all the time in the discussion of the MOUs. Funnily enough, not all of us 'welcome' excessive US interference in internal affairs. I would suggest that the reason why this firm could not fulfil its contract most likely is that the US was trying to impose something on the Egyptians to which they were not inclined to agree (for example if this was a firm from the US, would the proposed record have been in English or Arabic?). Certainly The Egyptian Museum Registrar Training Project, made possible through a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), was running from January 2007, so it is not as if there was no willingness in Egypt to work with Americans in cataloguing objects.


Cultural Property Observer said...

Are you suggesting that foreign archaeologists demanding the US take action detrimental to its own citizens should be given a complete pass and not questioned about their views? That's what it sounds like.

Paul Barford said...

Your report suggests not so much that the Americans gathered were interested in the lady herself and what she thinks and does, but merely gathering information to use against the MOU. This became clear in the two previous posts you made on your blog about (spinning in fact) her so-called "admissions" as though instead of a presentation of an issue, the lady was being interrogated. Totally disgusting behaviour if that is what happened.

Cultural Property Observer said...

The questions were firm, but quite polite-- what one might expect in such a venue.

Paul Barford said...

Oh, I am sure they were "polite" in phrasing, where they were going and what use is made of her answers ("admissions" in the terminology used by one commentator) which disturbs me.

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