Friday 12 June 2015

Another "Facebook Pulls...." Article, Different pictures

Now the Daily Mail is reporting: "ISIS sells priceless ancient artifacts on FACEBOOK: Gold statues, scrolls written in Aramaic and coins up to 10,000 years old being peddled online by terror group" (Chris Spargo, 12 June 2015). This in turn draws heavily on a Fox news article on the same subject (' Terrorism: Facebook purges pages offering priceless ISIS plunder for sale' By Lisa Daftari June 11, 2015). This time the pictures are different from those used as "evidence" yesterday. You can play spot the balderdash with this text from 'Faux News':
"Facebook struck back at ISIS this week, taking down pages the terrorist army's middlemen were using to try to sell plundered treasure and artifacts from Syria and Iraq. The black-clad jihadist army has earned as much as $100 million selling smuggled artifacts from more than 4,500 archaeological sites throughout Syria and Iraq, many of them named UNESCO World Heritage sites, according to Iraqi intelligence sources".
Well, many ISIL fighters wear black, but the rest of that passage is more problematical when confronted with verifiable facts - or rather the lack of verification for any of it. It goes on:
Zaid Benjamin, a Washington-based journalist, first flagged five pages on Facebook that showed ancient artifacts, some including phone numbers and emails to contact the seller. Among the items offered were golden statues, coins, scrolls written in Hebrew and Aramaic, and clay tablets. [...]  ISIS has ravaged and pillaged the history-rich region, using bulldozers and jackhammers and even appointing official looters who get a commission for selling items. The process has become so systematic that ISIS has created a “ministry of antiquities” to maximize profits.
Much of this draws on Michael Danti at Boston and Amr Al Azm at Shawnee State. It can be traced no further. As for who Zaid Benjamin is and what he's up to, that is less than clear to me.The Daily Mail waxes poetical when it reports:
Facebook has taken down pages that may have been selling priceless archaeological finds plundered by ISIS. The terrorist organization has reportedly been using the social media network as they try to sell off the rare and unique artifacts they have seized and stolen as they carve a path of destruction through the Middle East. Among the goods being offered on the pages recently taken down were golden statues, scrolls written in both Hebrew and Aramaic, clay tablets, and ancient coins, all believed to be taken from Syria. [...] Fox News reported that these pages belonged to ISIS, and that Facebook was tipped off by Zaid Benjamin, a Washington-based journalist who flagged the pages and reached out to the company.  [...] The pages flagged by Benjamin were almost immediately taken down.
Note the more circumspect treatment. What is not clear is where these pictures come from. Are they supplied by Zaid Benjamin, Michael Danti, Amr Al Azm or was Lisa Daftari daft enough to think she could have a go too? Whatever these two items are, they are NOT ancient artefacts looted from ancient Syrian sites. The one on the right is particularly hideous. The medallion is very nice, but not ancient - the inscription reads 'INSTRUCTION PRIMAIRE EDUCATION NATIONALE' and there are a lot of them on eBay sold from France, they date from the first decade of the 20th century. What on earth is going on?

 The Fox News article also illustrates what I take to be a Torah scroll [correction: David Knell tells me it is a Megillah], damaged by damp and displayed for some reason on a car seat, but behind it is some weird bibelot with a Canadian flag on it. Are these "ISIL middlemen" based in Canada?  Two other photographs show manuscripts (one in Hebrew, one [Syraic??]  pictorial), but I am unable to say much about them, except they are also not from looting archaeological sites.
 This really is getting a bit ridiculous. It is becoming clear that the effort to "prove" at ll costs ISIL looted finds are being sold in USA and Europe is an American effort. Fox News carries the conventional story, the Mail follows suit, but once again what we are shown is not what this is all about. 


David Knell said...

But those images of "priceless archaeological finds" are so convincing! The "golden statues" are represented by a tacky brass-plated tourist tat of Botticelli's Venus inexplicably converting to a mermaid, the "scrolls written in both Hebrew and Aramaic" are represented by a rat-eaten megillah, and the "coins up to 10,000 years old" (over 7,000 years before coins were even invented) are represented by a 20th-century French medallion. How can you doubt that they are proof?

Paul Barford said...


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