On June 30 of this year, Mosab Hassan Yousef was granted asylum here in the United States. This decision had hung in the balance for the past three years during which time he had applied for and been denied political asylum. After all, Mosab is a son of Sheik Hassan Yousef, one of seven founders and a leader of Hamas.
The events of June 30 are very much a continuation of the story presented in Mosab’s book, “Son of Hamas,” co-authored with Ron Brackin (a Washington Times contributor). Until the last day of June, Mosab was a proverbial “man without a country,” and had he been deported back to the Middle East, his chances of breathing desert air for more than 24 hours would have been pretty much slim to none. His own former countrymen may have seen to that. For while serving a prison term in Israel's Maskobiyeh Detention Center (aka “The Slaughterhouse”) when he was just 18, agents of Shin Bet, the Israeli Security Agency, convinced the young Mosab to become one of their operatives.
Mosab initially accepted the offer, but with a plan to turn on the Israelis at his first opportunity. However, after witnessing the cruelty of his own Hamas cohorts toward each other behind razor-wire fencing, he began to rethink his position.
A Bible study visit in 1999 drew Mosab in a different direction. The truths Mosab continued discovering through the following months and years from his own personal study led him to an overriding, overarching biblical virtue: forgiveness. Very soon, Mosab found himself, as difficult as it was, actually forgiving his Israeli as well as Palestinian adversaries - and working toward the eventual reconciliation of the two.
“Freedom, a deep longing for freedom, is really at the heart of my story,” Mosab writes. “I am the son of a people who have been enslaved by corrupt systems for many centuries.”
While reading “Son of Hamas,” I could not help but think about similarities to Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather.” Mosab was being groomed for a leadership position within Hamas much like Michael Corelone was morphing into the heir apparent for the Corleone crime family. The reference holds true, as well, when it comes to “hits.” Mosab observed his father’s kind treatment toward a bug in his path, careful not to tramp on it; however, in the obliteration of human life, he was nonchalant.
This is not to say that there wasn’t a strong bond between father and son and, indeed, his entire family of 11. Perhaps surprisingly, Mosab seems to lean toward championing the role his father ultimately could play in bringing peace to the Middle East.
A prime lesson portrayed in the book is that power itself is inherently destructive. Several years before his death, Yasser Arafat had a Palestinian-Israeli peace treaty within his grasp, because Israel was willing to make huge concessions. Even so, Arafat walked away from the table. Why? Mosab, present with his father at many meetings with Arafat, discloses that Arafat was afraid of losing his personal power, control and wealth. Of course, this is not unique to the Middle East. Groups everywhere have their leaders who will fail those they represent in order to maintain power, control and prosperity for themselves.
During a brief meeting with Mosab after a talk he gave in New York City, I was amazed to find this former secret agent for Israeli’s Shin Bet incredibly, well, ordinary. He was soft-spoken, unassuming and entirely humble. His journey, which began as a young man on the road to violence, continues as a man at peace with both himself and a historically angry, violent conflict.
Despite the fact that most of Mosab’s story deals with torture, betrayal, death and destruction, “Son of Hamas” offers hope. But this is not the buzzword kind of hope of catchy political phrases. This hope is the result of one of the most difficult virtues to master: forgiveness. Mosab writes: “Truth and forgiveness are the only solution for the Middle East. The challenge, especially between Israelis and Palestinians, is not to find a solution. The challenge is to be the first courageous enough to embrace it.”
In the end, “Son of Hamas” is an uplifting tale of one man’s discovery that true freedom, personally as well as between nations, is found ultimately in forgiveness.
Albin Sadar is a writer living in New York City.
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