January 25, 2018 – The financing of international terrorism by selling cultural property plays a decisive part within the debate of the German Cultural Assets Protection Act. ISIS in particular was said to have made enormous sums by selling statues, coins and other archaeological objects to finance their means. At least that is what all media reported. Consequently – this was the implicit claim – the new Cultural Assets Protection Act was necessary to prevent the international art trade from getting their hands dirty and financing terror.
In the last years, there have repeatedly been articles which critically reviewed these claims. Archaeologist and Middle East expert Michael Press has now summed up the topic in an extensive article: ‘How Antiquities Have Been Weaponized in the Struggle to Preserve Culture’. He shows that ISIS is destroying far less cultural property than other military groups in Syria and that they apparently don’t finance themselves by trading antiquities for the most part. These ideas were great for creating attractive headlines and they played into the hands of all those who wanted to blame ISIS for everything but at the same time keep the guilt of other belligerents as small as possible because of their own political motives.
Press especially hints at the fact that cultural property is being damaged and destroyed in all war zones around the world. And not just there. The greatest dangers lie within daily life: Our population’s heritage is used as quarry and it is overbuilt or decomposed.
This article, which is truly worth reading, came out on Hyperallergic.
You can find out more about Michael Press on his blog.
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You can also find many articles on the subject of the protection of cultural property in our archive.