There’s more news on the story of the Gaza Apollo/tray-bearer(1), but now we might know less…
The fisherman, called Mounir by Fabio Scuto in la Repubblica, is identified as Jouda Ghurab by Vernon Silver in Businessweek. And it’s not just the fisherman’s name that’s changed.
The god that emerged from the depths of the sea – but what depths?
In Scuto’s telling, Mounir claimed to have found the statue on a night (with a full moon) in mid-September. In Silver’s version, Jouda claimed to have found it during the day in mid-August. Mounir was in a boat a few metres from the shore. Jouda was swimming a hundred metres out to sea. Mounir caught his net on the statue. Jouda saw the statue ‘about 4 to 5 meters down‘ in the water. But 100 metres from shore, the sea’s only 2 metres deep; it’s 4 to 5 metres deep 200 to 300 metres out.
Mounir’s two children helped him dislodge the statue from the sand. Jouda’s younger brother and five friends tried to help him drag the statue out of the sand with their rowing boat but (perhaps unsurprisingly) failed; then Jouda and another diver span the statue along the sea bed for those (two) hundred metres. Incredibly, he didn’t even claim to have rolled it on its side, but ‘head over foot, and foot over head‘.
Confiscated from an arrestee or stewarded by a family?
Mounir showed the statue to a relative, then cut a finger off to show it to art connoisseurs. Hamas’s spies heard by word-of-mouth, arrested him and confiscated the statue. Jouda showed the statue to a relative too (a cousin), then a crowd of family members and curious locals gathered. Some cousins were Hamas militants (fighters in its Al Qassam Brigades). They came to his house and took the statue in a truck, and he expected to share the profits of any sale with them.
The loose ends of Mounir/Jouda’s story – stories – almost tie up. Jouda’s cousins’ prospective buyer, antiquities collector Jawdat Khoudary, decided that the statue could not be privately owned or sold, that it had to be saved for the nation. So, Khoudary informed the Gaza Strip’s civilian police; and, after a stand-off, the police confiscated the statue from Jouda’s cousins. But he wasn’t arrested, and it was confiscated from Jouda ‘more than a month after the original discovery’, whereas it was confiscated from Mounir ‘[w]ithin a few hours‘.
As difficult to believe as it is believable
Through Silver’s investigations, it has (or may have) emerged that Jouda had previously ‘made money digging some of the smuggling tunnels under the Egyptian border’ and smuggling goods through the tunnels, until Egypt attacked the tunnel economy. It’s perfectly plausible but, at the same time, the stories are so different, and a couple of Jouda’s story’s details are so questionable, that it’s difficult to trust even his story’s uncontested details.
From the details of the characters to the development of the plot, there are so many oppositions between Mounir and Jouda’s tales that they could be a book from the Masnavi. They seem laboriously, contrivedly perfect mirror images. And as such, they appear implausible. Personally, they make me doubt that the statue’s discovery was an accident. More to come soon…
1: Yes, jetlagaddict, the “Apollo” might be a tray-bearer. I was trying to stop it getting any more complicated (and it does get even more complicated), but I should’ve put it in a footnote or something.
Yes, chambers, there are individual and factional struggles within Hamas; but there was no evidence that they were immediately relevant to this particular story, so I didn’t discuss them. Still, one of the features of Silver’s story is the intra-Hamas rivalry between the Al-Qassam Brigade and the police. Your off-the-cuff conjecture is not bad conjecture and I hope to be able to write more about it at some point…