Friday, July 2, 2010

Son of Hamas by Mosab Hassan Yousef

Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable ChoicesThis one is so topical, I'm bumping another post to move it into this week's lineup. I was out on the blogosphere a few weeks ago, and saw a bit about Yousef, recommending his book, so I put it on hold at the library and it showed up last week. I was about 2/3 of the way through it yesterday when I was watching Fox News and saw that Yousef won his battle with INS, who were trying to deport him because of his ties to Hamas. Ironically, Yousef was a spy within Hamas for the Shin Bet, an Israeli security service, and our immigration folks wanted to send him back to Palestine to be tortured, shot, or both.

Yousef shares an insider's perspective on the conflict in Palestine that might help some of us understand why this conflict drags on for generations. The writing, at least in the first half of the book, is not all that gripping. Perhaps language problems, or just bad editing by his collaborator, make his work sound like an elementary school student's "How I spent my summer vacation in Hell" essay. Mosab is the son of Sheik Hassan Yousef, a founding leader of Hamas, and he grew up under the oppression of Israeli occupation, quite bitter about the Palestinians situation. In his late teens, he grew more angry and active in the violent resistance movement, eventually being arrested by the IDF, and spent several months in prison being tortured and interrogated.

While he was there, the Shin Bet attempted to recruit him, but he was initially reluctant. He describes his experiences in the Hamas area of Megiddo prison, and it's interesting to note that the Hamas leaders there treated their people worse than the Israeli jailers did, often torturing suspected informants who were merely weak, socially unacceptable, or who came from poor families. As the son of a sheik in Hamas, Mosab was mostly immune to this sort of treatment, but seeing it happen began to open his mind a crack, questioning Hamas and Islam. He began to meet with the Shin Bet on a regular basis shortly after being released from prison.

Several months later, Mosab was invited to a bible study group which met at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. He was, in his own words "a little bored" so he decided to go and learn about Christianity. He began to study the New Testament the people there gave him, and began to be excited about the teachings of Jesus, though he wouldn't actually become a Christian for quite some time. As he tried to integrate what he was learning into his own cultural background, he came to believe that the occupation was not the source of the Palestinians' troubles, and that even if Israel was removed from the picture, they would continue to fight with each other for sex, power and money.

Mosab talks quite a bit about the corruption of the Palestinian Authority under Arafat, and the duplicity in its dealings with Israel and the West. For the next five or six years, through the Intifadas, he provided information about the activities of Hamas to the Shin Bet, trying to help to stop the rampant attacks against civilians and suicide bombings, providing information that would lead to the capture or assassination of  many leaders within the movement. Eventually, he tired of leading a double life, and applied for permission to leave the country and come to the United States, where he remains today.

Interesting reading, all in all, and the writing improves in the latter half of the book. Definitely worth the time to read.

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