Hamas is a “nasty organization … a terrorist group responsible for the deaths of many innocent people, Palestinians as well as Israelis,” said a former official in that group who worked for 10 years as an undercover agent for Israel.
“I fought to sabotage their operation, and I would fight [again] against them,” said Mosab Hassan Yousef. His struggle was “against Hamas extremism, Islamic terrorism, against the ones who want to hurt innocent people, have no respect for women, have no respect for human rights, no respect for the other.”
In a rambling talk that was filled more with personal musings than with his experience as an Israeli operative inside Hamas, Yousef, 41, left his audience at a Jewish National Fund breakfast at Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase with more questions than answers.
The biggest question that Yousef didn’t touch: Why had had become an Israeli agent?
He explained that he was born in Ramallah, the son of Sheik Hassan Yousef, one of the leaders of Hamas on the West Bank.
“I was meant to be something completely different,” he said. “I had the life of a prince, and I had the support of so many forces in the Middle East. And real privilege and power.”
He said he paid a big price for spying for the Jewish state — he lost his father and mother, both of whom disowned him, and his siblings. But he believes what he did was worth the price.
Apparently, he was arrested by Israel in 1996, impressed by the Jewish state’s nonviolent interrogation technique and agreed to spy on Hamas for Israel’s General Security Service (Shin Bet). He was an Israeli agent for 10 years before coming to America and requesting political asylum.
He had authored a book about his exploits (“Son of Hamas”), but had no documentation to back up what he had written. The U.S. government rejected his claim and decided to send him back to the West Bank, “simply a death sentence,” Yousef said.
Sarah and Buddy Stern helped him, he said, quipping that Sarah Stern, president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, “considered him a son. Can you imagine — the son of Hamas leaders with a Jewish mother?” (Yousef joked that he had been a Jew in a previous life — a bad Jew — and he was suffering for the sins he had committed in that other time.)
Yousef revealed no further information on why the U.S. government changed course and granted him asylum. Research revealed that the testimony of a Shin Bet agent at his hearing was the decisive factor.
Although he supports peace (Every person is obliged to be a peacemaker, he said), that doesn’t mean he is anti-war.
“Sometimes, you have no other choice but to fight. When Hamas gives a bomb to a child and sends him to a school or a bus or to a market to blow himself up, this is beyond disgusting, this is beyond violence,” said Yousef.
He also slammed Islam and, by inference, other religions. The world has heard his “rejection of Islam, of Allah,” he said. “The Bibles say that God created man in his image, but the truth is that man created God in his own image. Why do I need to obey those gods?
“As long as we are afraid of death, they [clerics] will take advantage of us,” the former Hamas official said.
Israel is the solution, not the problem in the Middle East, he said. Tiny Israel’s contribution to humanity is large, while the Arab or Muslim equivalent is proportionately much smaller.
Aaron Leibel is a Washington-area writer.