Saturday 1 February 2020

Peter Tompa and American Exceptionalism

Ronald Reagan
and friend
Peter Tompa, paid lobbyist for the US and global antiquities dealers' associations uses social media like his blog, Facebook and Twitter to produce a whole load of stuff for his audience (dealers and collectors who pay him to protect the interests of the no-questions -asked market in antiquities) but refuses properly to discuss them with other stakeholders. In fact he blocks some  of them from even seeing what he writes there for public consumption - which rather suggests that he doubts in the unassailability of his arguments.

A few days ago, I was alerted by a colleague to something he was writing about artefacts surfacing on the US and European market that seem to have left the Gaza strip by means that are unclear. I answered him and (since I'd not see any response if he put it on Twitter because I'm one of those he blocks), I invited him to respond if he wished as a comment under my post. I do not think anyone familiar with the guy expected him not to be a coward and to take the bull by the horns and try to justify what he'd splurted out. But sure enough he feels safe enough among his own to dig deeper in a tweet.

Let's unpick this. The jargon 'CPAC' and 'MOU' relate to the The Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act H.R. 4566, a local US Act of Congress that became law in 1983  in the times of Ronald Reagan's presidency. This pretends to be (but in fact is not) an 'implementation' of the principles outlined in the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

So what's that Convention about? Tompa and his mates see it as something that is directed at some of them, those that would profit from taking desirable stuff from one country and making profits by flogging it off in another. And in a way it of course is, if you are a dodgy dealer.

But if you read it, the whole document [not just article 9], including the preamble, you see that what it in fact constitutes is a call for nations to respect the rights of other nations, party to the convention, to declare as heritage what it is their sovereign right to do so, and go about protecting and safeguarding it in line with their own ideas about how that should look. The Convention obliges states party to aid each other in that regard (in the interests of building peace between them). There is, however, NOTHING in it that encourages one state party to attack another sovereign state party about the way they look after their heritage (which would only incite conflict). In other words, there is nothing in the Convention that provides a remit for any one nation to pretend to assume the status of a global policeman in the cultural sphere, dictating to other nations what they should and should not be doing.

Yet that is exactly the role that US dealers and collectors ascribe themselves, citing the CCPIA as their mandate (as we see above). Which totally distorts the meaning of the Convention. Utterly.

So the world, according to Peter Tompa:

1) A polity right at the other end of the Mediterranean is governed by a group of guys called Hamas, a name Tompa does not like. So there is no problem for him with European and US dealers flogging off what looks like illicitly obtained artefacts from the region, because... Hamas".
That is like saying that there is no reason to be concerned about any American tourists in (say) Mali getting robbed and beaten up, they deserve it, because ... "Trump".
That is as insupportable an argument as Tompa's. Which is probably why Tompa does not even try. He knows its a false argument.
2) It is a fact, he says, that Recip Erdogan personally ordered the bombing of a Hittite temple in the militarised zone of NW Syria (actually, twice). Since he personally ordered it, then the citizens of the territory he rules (Turkey) should be deprived of the right to get back any smuggled illicit artefacts that make it to the US border. 
That is like saying that there is no reason to be concerned by American tourists in (say) Egypt getting kidnapped and held hostage for ransom by militants in Sinai, they deserve it, because ... "Trump". That is as insupportable an argument as Tompa's. Which is probably why Tompa does not even try. He knows its a false argument.
3) It is a fact, he says that Recip Erdogan personally ordered the flooding of ancient sites...

Yes, I think we get the picture. The US drives steel border fences through and conducts fracking under protected landscapes, has flattened Native American earthworks, several major dam projects in the East have flooded enormous areas, regardless of the fact that there are many (Native American) archaeological sites in those flooded valleys now under water. Historical buildings in Detroit are being left to crumble, many sites in the South too, Savannah was in a dreadful state until recently.

Yet the US somehow sees itself as excused for flooding sites in hydroelectric schemes in the US but Turkey... well, Turks, they are a brown-skinned folk fit only for being bossed about by Uncle Sam. An imperialist Uncle Sam who will steal their stuff and call it his own and appoints himself to be the arbiter of right and wrong, overriding the provisions of the very Convention that he claims as bestowing upon him the mandate to do so.

It does not. The arguments of grabby US dealers and collectors are false ones.

Mr Tompa is once again cordially invited to debate this point with me here (down below). Prove to me and my readers that I am wrong, that you know what you are talking about, and that Uncle Sam should be tolerated by the rest of the world while disregarding the definition of "illicit artefacts" contained in art 3 of said convention. Because... "Trump"?

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