Getty Has Taken A Stand Against Threats To Cultural Sites

A day after the ordered killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, the President of the United States took to his Twitter account to push back at the idea of retaliation by Iran with the threat of committing war crimes. On Saturday, January 4th President Trump tweeted “Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have… Targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture…”

According to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which the United States has signed, all countries “shall refrain from any act directed by way of reprisals against cultural property.” The President following through on his threat would be in violation of that agreement, which is precisely why Mike Pompeo pushed back on the threat in a Sunday morning interview with ABC’s This Week, only for Trump to double down when asked by reporters later in the day outside of Air Force 1.

The President’s disregard for the Hague Convention agreement has caused the J. Paul Getty Trust to weigh in on the matter and condemn the idea of targeting cultural sites, which is a rather big move for a multinational charitable arm and about as overtly political as a museum can get.

The statement was issued by J. Paul Getty Trust President Jim Cuno and states:

“Cultural heritage has the power to unite us and is critical for achieving peace. Protecting and preserving our cultural heritage is a core value of civilized societies, including our own.

It is tragic that today there would be any contemplation or rhetorical threat of further destruction of cultural heritage, particularly when what precious little remains in the world is already suffering from wanton destruction, looting, neglect, reckless overdevelopment, and climate change. Instead, we should be celebrating its existence, working to enhance protections and strengthen our international laws, and moving toward a more textured understanding of the world’s ancient cultures and their contributions to our shared experience.”

To further drive the point home, the statement points to a new exhibition of antiquities from Assyria at the J. Paul Getty Museum and announced that they are now planning upcoming exhibitions of ancient art from Mesopotamia and Persia. It’s not every day that massive museums wade into political waters and Getty’s call for peace through education feels significant. Check the full statement here.