A beacon of hope for the Middle East

2011-06-22 00:00

THERE is courage, there is audacity, and then there is Mosab Hasan Yousef. Apart from being the epitome of bravery, this son of Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef is also a beacon of hope for the Middle East.

In Son of Hamas, Yousef tells the astounding story of his life, which started in Ramallah on the West bank, as a son of “one of the most religious Islamic families in the Middle East”. Aged nine, he throws stones at Israeli soldiers during the first Intifada in 1987 and loathes Jews.

Aged 28, he embraces Christianity, defends Israel and despises the organisation of which he was seen as the heir apparent.

The turnaround came when he was 18 and in prison.

To avoid torture he agrees to spy for Shin Bet, the Israeli secret police, but only with the idea of becoming a double agent. Before being released, he serves time in Megiddo prison.

The (Israeli) prison is run by Hamas, which torture and kill their own and other Palestinian prisoners whom they suspect of being collaborators. It is here that Mosab starts doubting the political and spiritual legitimacy of Hamas.

What follows is an extreme double life as the Green Prince and super spook for Shin Bet, as his views on Islam start to change.

He is impressed by the friendliness of his Shin Bet handlers and the compassion of Christian friends, something he misses in Hamas and the Palestine liberation Organisation (PLO), which he sees as platforms for power-hungry, self-serving politicians.

His complicated relationship with his ever more radical father is beautifully described, as are his changing views on Islam, which he sees as the main obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

This book shows the inner workings of the Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation and sheds some unexpected light on events during the two intifadas. A must-read for Middle East watchers.

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