When I debunked antiquities trade representative Ursula Kampmann’s supposed debunking of still-unverified intelligence on Islamic State antiquities trafficking, Cultural Property Observer (CPO) (
dealer [collector] and lobbyist) Peter Tompa tried to debunk me in turn. Hyperallergic have published a piece in which I debunk that debunking too.
I review the wider campaign against trade regulation and explain that, whereas Tompa claimed that I had claimed that German media had verified the Islamic State’s alleged $36m income from antiquities trafficking, I had in fact explicitly stated that such verification was ‘still absolutely necessary’.
[Correction (12th December 2014): Tompa has kindly pointed out that he is an antiquities collector, not an antiquities dealer. Update (20th December 2014): aside from currently private details, I have published an otherwise complete explanation of the conclusion – correction and clarification but no retraction.]
I have now expressed severe doubts about the Guardian’s report repeatedly over the course of six months. I continue to have such doubts and plead for the publication of the evidence. However, in reference to both that and other claims and counter-claims, it is worth noting that much information has not been falsified either. Many reports have contradicted one another, but have been (unavoidably but) equally weakly evidenced (due to investigators’ inability to research freely and conclusively, and their consequent reliance on anonymous personal sources or otherwise unpublishable evidence), so it has been impossible to say that either falsifies the other.
For example, while (German newspaper) die Zeit excluded antiquities trafficking and sale from its investigation into Islamic State financing because, as reporter Fritz Zimmermann warned, ‘it [could] not be proven [Es lässt sich nicht belegen]’ (with their evidence), (German public broadcasting consortium) ARD and (Franco-German TV network) ARTE reporter Esther Saoub cited eyewitnesses who had testified to Islamic State antiquities looting and Islamic State antiquities sale. Important though the details of this case are, it might be more effective to focus on cracking the illicit market that funds the looting worldwide.
Zimmermann, F. 2014: “Der ‘Islamischer Staat’ und die Antiken”. Die Zeit, 4 dezember, 62.