Born in Palestine to a founding member of Hamas, Mosab Hassan Yousef became a spy for Israel, then a Christian, and now he is seeking political asylum in the United States. According to Yousef, not only did the Department of Homeland Security deny his claim but now they may deport him as a security threat.
Yousef wrote on his blog last week that the DHS did not even know he was in the U.S. until he told them, seven months after he arrived on a tourist visa.
Yousef believes that his book Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices, released in March, proves he is not a threat. The book details Yousef’s involvement with Hamas—through his father—along with the information he supplied to Israel that helped them arrest leaders of the organization.
At 17, Israeli soldiers snatched Yousef off the street. Held captive and tortured because he is the son of a leader of Hamas, Yousef said the experience gave him personal reasons to hate Israel on top of his cultural predisposition.
Yousef discussed what he called his “crazy transformation” from hatred of Israel to working for the Israeli Security Agency and from Islam to Christianity at an event hosted by author Eric Metaxas in New York City on May 27.
Yousef said he has paid a “high price” for publishing his story. His father, a founding member of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, disowned him earlier this year. He is accompanied by guards at public events.
“Worst case scenario, I run,” he said to a security guard hired for the event. “I keep on running.”
The event was part of a forum series Metaxas calls Socrates in the City: Conversations on the Examined Life. Yousef spoke to a crowd of around 200 people at the Union League Club in Manhattan and answered questions about his years as a spy for Israel, his faith and why he believes Islam drives people to kill.
Palestinian society works on a shame and honor system, Yousef said. If doing something wrong is honored, that is what everybody wants to do. That is why Yousef’s family disowned him for doing what he considered the right thing.
“Our problem is not with terrorists. Many times they are amazing people. But they are deceived. They are victims of their god and their country,” he said.
Examining his own life—and the policies of his family and friends—turned Yousef into an informer. Eventually, his position as a valuable source of intelligence about Hamas allowed him to save his father’s life by keeping him off the terrorist hit list. “He was protected by his enemies. He had no idea, by the way,” he said.
In the book, Yousef reveals that as a spy for the Shin Bet, he helped Israel prove that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was using American aid money to fund terrorism. He helped investigate several suicide bombings which killed dozens to hundreds of Israeli civilians, and the information he provided to Israel led to the arrest of several leaders behind the attacks, such as Ibrahim Hamed, Marwan Barghouti and Abdullah Barghouti. Combined, these men have been sentenced to longer than 70 life sentences.
Yousef said that he worked with the Shin Bet, Israel’s intelligence agency, to arrest high-level targets without killing them. “I didn’t take sides. I took the side of humanity,” he explained.
Although questions at the event focused on political turmoil in the Middle East, Yousef did not take a political stance. “When we have an ideological problem, we need an ideological solution,” he said in the speech. “We cannot have a political solution to an ideological problem.”
The ideology he criticized was the Islamic one. Yousef held up Muhammad and Jesus as the “highest example” of Islam and Christianity, respectively. The first drives people to kill and the other offers only love, he said. “Islam is not a religion of peace,” he said, reminding the audience that he has authority to speak harshly about Islamic culture because he grew up in it. “This is my experience.”
Yousef said that his choice to write a book that reveals the inner workings of Hamas and admits to the extent of his work with Israeli intelligence was not a safe one, and he continues to face the consequences here in the U.S.
“I am at peace because I believe I did the right thing,” said Yousef on going public with his story. Perhaps the best evidence was his attitude throughout the event. He laughed with Metaxas and joked with the crowd throughout his speech, despite learning the previous week that he faces the threat of deportation. According to his blog, Yousef’s hearing before the DHS Immigration Court in San Diego is set for June 30.
“I love this country,” he concluded in his speech. “I’m enjoying my life."
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