The Robust International Antiquities Trade: the Law, Smugglers, thieves, Prestigious Auctions, ISIS, Animals. And some Renowned Museums too.

Elgin Marbles | Detail

USA |

[At the Kansas City, Missouri, ANTIQUES ROADSHOW in August 2013, a woman brought in what was probably a seed pot that was made by the Anasazi, a Native American pueblo people who lived near present-day Four Corners — the region where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona come together. The pot was most likely made between 1000 and 1300 A.D. — clearly making it an important piece historically — and according to expert Anthony Slayter-Ralph was worth between $3,000 and $4,000 in the retail market.

But this pot, like many other Native American objects, raised an important question often asked by owners and collectors of Native American objects: What should be done with prehistoric and other Indian objects that you may possess, and when is it okay to buy or sell them?] Indian Artifacts: Understanding the Law | PBS

Also, An Exclusive Look at the Greatest Haul of Native American Artifacts, Ever | The Smithsonian Magazine

Also, ICE Cultural Heritage Repatriations 

Europe |

[A few years ago, Christos Tsirogiannis was looking through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s online collection when he had a flash of recognition. While studying an ancient Greek krater—a clay vase used for mixing wine—something “suddenly clicked,” he says. The vase was decorated with a painting of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. “I knew that I had seen the subject on that krater before,” he says.

A forensic archaeologist affiliated with the University of Glasgow’s Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, Tsirogiannis has access to restricted databases containing tens of thousands of photographs and documents seized during raids. Searching through the online archives, he found five photos of the Met’s Greek krater among items confiscated from Giacomo Medici, an Italian antiquities dealer convicted in 2005 of receiving stolen goods and conspiracy to traffic looted antiquities.

So why was an object that may have been dug up and sold by looters on display at a famous American museum, and how did it get there?] Museum Goers Beware: That Ancient Artifact May Be Stolen | National Geographic

Middle East and ISIS |

[What isis hates, it destroys, and ancient artifacts are no exception. To erase pre-Islamic history, it has employed sledgehammers and drills at a museum in Mosul, explosives at Palmyra, and all of these weapons, plus jackhammers, power saws, and bulldozers, at Nimrud. In one video, a fighter explains that isismust smash “these statues and idols, these artifacts,” because the Prophet Muhammad destroyed such things after conquering Mecca, nearly fourteen hundred years ago. “They became worthless to us even if they are worth billions of dollars,” he adds. So, at the Met, many were puzzled when Andrew Keller, a soft-spoken senior official at the State Department, unveiled newly declassified documents proving that isis maintains a marginally profitable “antiquities division.”] The Real Value of the ISIS Antiquities Trade | The New Yorker

Efforts |

[A Memorandum of Understanding was inked by the United States and the People’s Republic of China on January 14, 2009. The five-year agreement outlines a number of steps designed to stem the flow of illicitly excavated or exported artifacts from China to the U.S. (click here for legal background).] Archaeological Institute of America

U.S., Egypt Sign Agreement to Thwart Trade in Illegal Antiquities | National Geographic

Also…

Latin America |

[Mexico has had poor results in recuperating stolen cultural antiquities. There are deficiencies in both the registration of these thefts and a lack of coordination among the authorities to preserve the items.

The trafficking of items of cultural heritage is an activity that cuts across countries, and connects antique dealers and politicians in Buenos Aires to narcos in Guatemala, to collectors in Mexico, to diplomats in Peru and Costa Rica. This special, involving five journalistic teams, reveals the illicit international market for objects stolen from temples, public museums, and private collections. An initiative of OjoPúblico, this was produced by an alliance of news teams including La Nación (Costa Rica), Plaza Pública (Guatemala), Animal Político (México) and Chequeado (Argentina).] Only a Fraction of Mexico’s Stolen Cultural Antiquities Are Recovered | Insight Crime

Also… Illicit Cultural Property from Latin America: Looting, Trafficking, and Sale | SocArXivs

India |

[Indian Tourism and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma’s recent admission in parliament that eight cases of antiquities theft were reported from State-protected monuments and museums across three states over the last year, has yet again brought to the fore the fraught issue of pilferage and smuggling of art treasures from Indian shores.

According to Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based advocacy group, illegal trade in paintings, sculptures, and other artifacts is one of the world’s most lucrative criminal enterprises, estimated at $6 billion a year. And India, with its redoubtable cultural heritage, bureaucratic apathy, and tardy implementation of antiquities protection laws, offers pilferers fertile ground to plunder the past and spirit away booty worth billions for sale in the international bazaar.] Smuggling India’s Antiquities | The Diplomat

 

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Israel: “Anti-terrorism” fantasy camps for tourists appear in Occupied West Bank

While most of those signing up are American visitors, there have also been tourists from China, Japan, India and South America, keen to experience Israeli-style security training in an attraction condemned by the Palestinian mayor of the nearby town and an anti-settlement group.

The facility opened in 2003, running courses for security guards during a Palestinian uprising that included suicide bombings and shooting attacks and which was met by Israeli military operations across the West Bank. After the intifada subsided, tourist visits began in 2009. read more: Israeli ‘counter-terrorism boot camp’ a tourist attraction in occupied West Bank | REUTERS

Today, about half a dozen facilities around the country offer tourists the opportunity to learn from Israeli combat officers, in most cases graduates of elite units….

At Caliber 3, the two-hour “shooting adventure” – for which the group from Hong Kong has signed up – includes a simulation of a suicide bombing in a Jerusalem marketplace, immediately followed by a stabbing attack, a live demonstration with attack dogs and a sniper tournament. The cost of this basic package is $115 per adult and $85 per child, with discounts available for large groups.
read moreAnti-terror Fantasy Camps Are Popping Up Throughout Israel and the West Bank | HAREETZ

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his family visited the Caliber 3 Israeli Counter Terror and Security Academy during their visit in Israel, revealed Caliber 3 in a Facebook post on Monday.

“Finally we are allowed to tell you!! The legendary Jerry Seinfeld and his family were at (sic) Caliber 3 during their visit to Israel last week, they came to us for shooting training with displays of combat, Krav Maga, assault dogs and lots of Zionism. It was great,” said the post. (This Facebook post is no longer available. It may have been removed or the privacy settings of the post may have changed.) read more: Jerry Seinfeld and Family Visit Anti-terror Fantasy Camp in West Bank | HAREETZ

The Problematics of Selective Progressivism, and Selective Media.

[What do you call a white Republican who is against same-sex marriage? If you call them a bigot, then you’re calling 90% of Muslims bigots. While you accuse others of racism, you are actually being racist here because you’re applying different standards to different people based on their race because Islam is viewed as a “brown man’s religion”. You are not being liberal by supporting illiberal ideas coming from people from different countries, religions, and cultures.

I would ask somebody who reads Salon, if you claim to be against homophobia, like I am and many people are, you should stand against it whether it comes from the Evangelicals, the black church, or the Muslim in Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Iran. Otherwise you are the racist. If you think it’s acceptable for “other” people do it just because they’re a different race other than a “white male” then you’re not really a liberal — you don’t subscribe to the concept of equal rights and anti-racism. You’re propagating racism and you’re part of the problem….]

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Faisal Saeed Al Mutar is a secular and human rights activist who was awarded The President’s Volunteer Service Award, Gold, from the Obama Administration in 2016. He’s experienced life under Saddam Hussein and lived in Iraq during the American invasion and civil war which followed after. He escaped Iraq in 2009 after the loss of his brother, cousin, and friends to Al Qaeda. Faisal focuses on helping liberal, secular ideas and dissidents flourish in the Middle East and is currently writing his first book. He started the Global Secular Humanist Movement, and recently launched a podcast called the Grey Zone and joined the Secular Jihadists podcast.

I think many people who study liberal arts and subjects like sociology are exposed to only one type of history — which is white history and white colonialism. They’re inculcated with the idea that the Holocaust, genocide against Native Americans, and Japanese internment camps represent white people. When people are only exposed to these ideas, of one oppressor — meaning white people — what they’ll do when they hear a person criticize a foreign culture is to get immediately defensive on behalf of that culture. And they’ll do it to protect a former victim of imperialism, racism, etc. _____________________________________________________________________________________________

[But the people who are most hurt by this — by preventing this discussion — are the minorities within the minorities….

I think another problem is that people see Muslims as a minority, but they’re not a minority globally. They’re the second biggest religion in the world. The true minorities are those living within them who do not subscribe to conservative Muslim values….

I’m all for acknowledging the problem of Islamic extremism and how we should fight it. But that means you have to look for the people with good values within these communities, the individuals who subscribe to ideas of universal human rights, liberal values, and you have to stand with them. Because when you generalize, you are literally equating the fighters of the terrorists with the terrorists themselves. You’re equating the Maajid Nawazs’ of the world with Al Qaeda. That is so far from the truth. If you say that Maajid, Ali Rizvi, Sarah Haider and all of these people are as bad as ISIS, you’re literally advocating for killing us as well. If you’re saying the solution to ISIS is bombings and drone attacks and all of us are ISIS, you’re asking for us to be killed as well just because we share the same skin color and same language….

One of the things many people don’t know about Al Jazeera is that is mostly owned by the royal family of Qatar which is financed by oil and gas. It’s a company that doesn’t rely much on advertising because they have other sources of revenue.

The version I grew up with of Al Jazeera is a channel that is literally the spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood and a light version of Al Qaeda. You can see them entertaining the idea of supporting groups like Jabhat Al Nusra in Syria — which is literally Al Qaeda’s affiliate. Let’s not talk about what they think about homosexuality and Jews and their anti-semitism, because it’s bad….

But then you have Al Jazeera English speaking about Black Lives Matter, pandas, climate change, because what they’re trying to do is make Islam look as good as possible. They want to make Muslims appear victimized. And they want to make the West look as bad as possible. They show the worst that exists in the West. Flint, Michigan — they were reporting on that constantly. Standing Rock as well, you get the idea.

But you never see them criticizing Islam, Islamists, or the Muslim Brotherhood. They only show you the side of Aleppo that is controlled by Islamist and Jihadist groups. They never criticize Qatar but they criticize Saudi Arabia because they’re rivals….

This is one of the reasons why many ex-Muslims and Muslims who support ideas about liberalism and separation of Mosque and State are afraid to speak out. They know they’ll receive a huge backlash from many out there.

The biggest backlash people like me face is actually from Islamists. They think my ideas are antithetical to Islam and an enemy according to their ideology.

The far-Left, or the regressive-Left as Maajid Nawaz refers to them, believe in the narrative that to criticize Islam and even Islamism is a form of imposing your own values on them. Regressives consider values like liberalism to be Western values so they think that you are imposing the white Western values on the brown Muslim — and to them that’s terrible. They think that Islam is a brown man’s religion. Even though there are many adherents to Islam who are white, black, Bosnian, Sudanese, Chinese. So any criticism of it from a white person is a form of racism. Any criticism coming from a brown person who was adhering to that religion is the equivalent of a black person supporting white slave-owners. That’s where terms like “Uncle-Tom” and “House Muslim” come from. They think  you are trying to assist the white imperialist “agenda” against the brown victims.

On the far-Right there are strong elements of xenophobia. There are many people who adhere to the concept of white superiority — which is a bad idea — and they subscribe to this idea that there is a clash of civilizations. That there is a war between the East and the West. That’s wrong. There are many people from the East who are liberals and who adhere to universal liberal values. Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia, Ali Rizvi from Pakistan, I’m from Iraq. So there’s many people in the East who support universal human rights — sometimes more than the people in the West!]

Faisal Al Mutar on Media Bubbles, the Two Faces of Al Jazeera, and Nuance

The Norway that Never Was: Slavoj Zizek on the Refugee Crisis

[In escaping their war-torn homelands, the refugees are possessed by a dream. Refugees arriving in southern Italy do not want to stay there: many of them are trying to get to Scandinavia. The thousands of migrants in Calais are not satisfied with France: they are ready to risk their lives to enter the UK. Tens of thousands of refugees in Balkan countries are desperate to get to Germany. They assert their dreams as their unconditional right, and demand from the European authorities not only proper food and medical care but also transportation to the destination of their choice. There is something enigmatically utopian in this demand: as if it were the duty of Europe to realise their dreams – dreams which, incidentally, are out of reach of most Europeans (surely a good number of Southern and Eastern Europeans would prefer to live in Norway too?). It is precisely when people find themselves in poverty, distress and danger – when we’d expect them to settle for a minimum of safety and wellbeing – that their utopianism becomes most intransigent. But the hard truth to be faced by the refugees is that ‘there is no Norway,’ even in Norway.

We must abandon the notion that it is inherently racist or proto-fascist for host populations to talk of protecting their ‘way of life’. If we don’t, the way will be clear for the forward march of anti-immigration sentiment in Europe whose latest manifestation is in Sweden, where according to the latest polling the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats have overtaken the Social Democrats as the country’s most popular party. The standard left-liberal line on this is an arrogant moralism: the moment we give any credence to the idea of ‘protecting our way of life’, we compromise our position, since we’re merely proposing a more modest version of what anti-immigrant populists openly advocate. And this is indeed the cautious approach that centrist parties have adopted in recent years. They reject the open racism of anti-immigrant populists, but at the same time profess that they ‘understand the concerns’ of ordinary people, and so enact a more ‘rational’ anti-immigration policy.

We should nevertheless reject the left-liberal attitude. The complaints that moralise the situation – ‘Europe is indifferent to the suffering of others’ etc – are merely the obverse of anti-immigrant brutality. They share the presupposition, which is in no way self-evident, that the defence of one’s own way of life is incompatible with ethical universalism. We should avoid getting trapped in the liberal self-interrogation, ‘How much tolerance can we afford?’ Should we tolerate migrants who prevent their children going to state schools; who force their women to dress and behave in a certain way; who arrange their children’s marriages; who discriminate against homosexuals? We can never be tolerant enough, or we are always already too tolerant. The only way to break this deadlock is to move beyond mere tolerance: we should offer others not just our respect, but the prospect of joining them in a common struggle, since our problems today are problems we share.

Refugees are the price we pay for a globalised economy in which commodities – but not people – are permitted to circulate freely. The idea of porous borders, of being inundated by foreigners, is immanent to global capitalism. The migrations in Europe are not unique. In South Africa, more than a million refugees from neighbouring states came under attack in April from the local poor for stealing their jobs. There will be more of these stories, caused not only by armed conflict but also by economic crises, natural disasters, climate change and so on. There was a moment, in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, when the Japanese authorities were preparing to evacuate the entire Tokyo area – more than twenty million people. If that had happened, where would they have gone? Should they have been given a piece of land to develop in Japan, or been dispersed around the world? What if climate change makes northern Siberia more habitable and appropriate for agriculture, while large parts of sub-Saharan Africa become too dry to support a large population? How will the redistribution of people be organised? When events of this kind happened in the past, the social transformations were wild and spontaneous, accompanied by violence and destruction.

Humankind should get ready to live in a more ‘plastic’ and nomadic way. One thing is clear: national sovereignty will have to be radically redefined and new methods of global co-operation and decision-making devised….]

Read the full article | LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS

Also… Norway Copies Danish Anti-Refugee Adverts | THE LOCAL

1 NORWAY CROSSING

After just a handful of migrant crossings here in the first half of this year, the number “exploded” in September, with 420 asylum seekers pedaling into northern Norway at Storskog, said Stein Kristian Hansen, the police superintendent in charge of the Norwegian border post| searchmap.eu

Cowboys and Injuns, Wild West, and the Middle East as the New, Good Old Frontier

America has never stopped repeating stories about cowboys and Indians, even when the frontier is somewhere else

[… In a sense, the expansion of the frontier into the deserts of the Middle East were foreshadowed even during Geronimo’s own time, when “Wild Arabs” or “Bedouins” were incorporated into displays of trained horsemen at entertainment venues like the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Some have argued that these “Wild Arabs” were viewed as Eastern “Rough Riders” which is apparently an old cowboy term for those who ride the most resistant horses. In this case, the adjective “wild” in “Wild Arabs” would simply invoke the idea of the Wild West and therefore serve to relate the skilled Arab horseman to the iconic cowboy figure.

The relationship between cowboys and Middle Eastern horsemen would not have been so jarring at the turn of the 20th century, since the Middle East was mainly imagined through the lens of the Holy Land. While Geronimo was put on display at the 1904 St. Louis world’s fair, one of its other main attractions was a replica of the Holy Land. Geronimo was reportedly courted by a “Wild West” entrepreneur to participate in the same shows as  the “Wild Arabs.” These intersections are not accidental. They demonstrate a long-embedded link between popular understandings of both the frontier and the desert as land to be conquered and people to be turned into dioramas….]

Read the full article hjere: Wild, Wild East | THE NEW INQUIRY

COWBOYS

The Confusion of Simulacra with Dreams | Slavoj Zizek on the Refugee Crisis

[… In escaping their war-torn homelands, the refugees are possessed by a dream. Refugees arriving in southern Italy do not want to stay there: many of them are trying to get to Scandinavia. The thousands of migrants in Calais are not satisfied with France: they are ready to risk their lives to enter the UK. Tens of thousands of refugees in Balkan countries are desperate to get to Germany. They assert their dreams as their unconditional right, and demand from the European authorities not only proper food and medical care but also transportation to the destination of their choice. There is something enigmatically utopian in this demand: as if it were the duty of Europe to realise their dreams – dreams which, incidentally, are out of reach of most Europeans (surely a good number of Southern and Eastern Europeans would prefer to live in Norway too?). It is precisely when people find themselves in poverty, distress and danger – when we’d expect them to settle for a minimum of safety and wellbeing – that their utopianism becomes most intransigent. But the hard truth to be faced by the refugees is that ‘there is no Norway,’ even in Norway.]

The Non-Existence of Norway | London Review of Books

REFUGEE CAMP

An aerial view shows the Zaatari refugee camp near the Jordanian city of Mafraq, some 8 kilometers from the Jordanian-Syrian border. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP

It’s Been One Year since James Foley’s Execution by ISIL | May We Always Remember the Things that Matter

FOLEY

Foley’s execution at the hands of the Islamic State was made public on Aug. 19, 2014. His death followed nearly two years of captivity in Syria, during which time the Foley family and GlobalPost worked tirelessly for his release. He was kidnapped on Thanksgiving Day, 2012.

Foley’s conflict reporting — from Afghanistan to Libya to Syria — exemplifies the intrepid and selfless work of someone willing to risk his life so the world could understand the horrors of modern war.

This short video is a sample of his finest work for GlobalPost.