Son of Hamas
A few weeks ago I read a terrific non-fiction book titled Son of Hamas. It's the self-told story of Mosab Hassan Yousef, a young Palestinian man who was raised under the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. His father, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, is one of the founders of the terrorist organization, Hamas. Mosab grew up idolizing his father, who was stuck in a cycle of imprisonment and release, for years. Mosab grew up like other Palestinian kids, throwing rocks and causing trouble for the Israeli soldiers out of disdain for the treatment of his people. He learned the politics of his region from a young age and, growing up the son of a famous Sheikh, got to spend time with people like Yasser Arafat and other well-known political figures.
Mosab describes pretty severe treatment (definitely in the realm of torture) after being detained on several occasions by the Israelis. He spent a lot of time in prison and the Israeli Shin Bet took interest in Mosab because of his father's influence within Hamas. They asked Mosab to spy for them and he agreed, but only so he could later kill them for the treatment he'd received. He was working as a double-spy for the Shin Bet organization, spying on his own people while secretly planning to backstab his Shin Bet handlers.
But then things changed.
Mosab describes the tit-for-tat mentality of the Middle East. You strike us, we'll strike you back harder. You kill one of ours, we'll kill five of yours. His own father, who he thought to be a brilliant spiritual and political mind, could not out-think this tit-for-tat scenario himself. He simply went along with it, not knowing of a better way. Mosab also witnessed jealousy, bickering, and a string of despicable lies within the Hamas organization which he'd branded himself to. It seemed to him, after spending a lot of time in the inner circle, that the people working for Hamas were no more noble than the Shin Bet he was working for. At least he'd been preventing massive causalities while spying for them. That's more than anyone else had done to bring peace. The Shin Bet had a code name for Mosab: The Green Prince. He was their most valuable agent, and they showed him tremendous gratitude for working with them. This surprised Mosab, and turned his opinion of them upside down.
It was on a trip to Jerusalem that Mosab fell into a group of people that had been studying the Bible. Mosab was given a Bible, which he began to secretly study alongside the Koran. He describes being shocked at Jesus' command to love our enemies. He'd never heard such an idea before and became convinced, though still a Muslim, that Jesus was teaching the right way and “loving ones enemies” is the only hope for peace. He'd seen all the other alternatives and the blood that had been spilled as a result. He began to love the Israelis the way he loved his own Palestinian brothers and sisters. It would take some time before Mosab finally converted to Christianity, and the decision was a painful one.
By this time, he'd threatened the Shin Bet to let him go to America for a visit, where he planned to stay while applying for asylum. The Shin Bet was reluctant to agree because they couldn't protect him anywhere else, and the entire operation was a secret—even the Israeli special forces didn't know what they were up to, or who was involved. Mosab had grown very close to his main ally at the Shin Bet, an Israeli man named Loai (a code name). Finally, he was allowed to leave the country to visit America.
After spending some time in the States, the US government became aware that a Hamas terrorist was living within their borders—it was Mosab. They went after him and detained him in order to process his deportation back to Palestine. Mosab pleaded for asylum, stating that he was not a terrorist, but had been working with the Shin Bet to stop suicide bombings. They didn't believe him. Then, on June 24, 2010, Mosab's Shin Bet ally, Loai, stepped forward and vouched for the entire story, risking his life in the process. His real name, Gonen Ben-Itzhak, was revealed and Gonen flew to California to testify for Mosab, who he described as a “true friend.” Due to Gonen's testimony, Mosab was allowed to stay in the US. He'd risked his life to save Mosab's.
Shortly after, word got out that Mosab had become a follower of Jesus and his family, including the father he adored and idolized, disowned him. He knew it might happen, but the sting was no less painful. He's currently living in the US as an exile and more than likely will never get to see his home, or family, again.
I found Mosab's story to be thrilling and heartbreaking at the same time. I'm amazing that someone like him could change so dramatically (from a hate-filled Hamas sympathizer to a Christian who believes in loving his enemies) but it's difficult to read what he had to go through in the process. There were too many near-death situations to recount but Mosab tells them with engrossing, visceral prose littered with the kind of incidental details one usually finds in first-person accounts. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.
So my recommendation is to pick up this book and read it with an open mind. It's well worth your time.