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Son of Hamas

The autobiography of 32-year-old Mosab Hassan Yousef, the eldest son of Hamas co-founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef, is packed with real-life drama.

By / March 31, 2010

Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue and Unthinkable Choices By Mosab Hassan Yousef and Ron Brackin Salt River 288 pp., $26.99

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Son of Hamas, a story that feels like a long-lost Abrahamic fable that has morphed into contemporary history, is explosive. To be sure, the writing is clumsy in places, but that occasional distraction does nothing to blunt the impact of the material.

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The book is the autobiography of 32-year-old Mosab Hassan Yousef, the eldest son of Hamas cofounder Sheikh Hassan Yousef. And what a tale Mosab has to tell. As a child, he was a stone-throwing participant in the first intifada, the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation that rocked Israel and the Palestinian territories in the early 1990s. Although Mosab had a tender relationship with his father – a man widely regarded as a voice of moderation within Hamas and portrayed by Mosab as a gentle human being – Mosab himself is nearly consumed with hatred fed by the bitter frustration of life under Israeli occupation.

When he gets hauled into Israeli prison on the suspicion that he is preparing a terrorist attack, Mosab strikes a deal with an Israeli intelligence agent and becomes an informant, a move he sees as a way to get out of the clink sooner rather than later. While things don’t work out as pleasantly in the near term as Mosab might have liked, his departure begins a sort of slow unraveling. His feeling of powerlessness at the senseless death around him pushes into deeper and deeper connections with his new Israeli colleagues.

Code-named the “Green Prince” for his position amid the upper echelons of Hamas (whose signature color is green), Mosab goes on to help Israeli intelligence imprison scads of Palestinian resistance leaders (including Marwan Barghouti, who many analysts now believe will play a leading role in the future of Palestinian politics) and head off suicide bombings. At the same time, he wrestles with the agonizing realization that his beloved father will stay alive only if Mosab uses his influence to keep him in the safest possible place: an Israeli prison, where he remains to this day.

Mosab’s transformation into the Green Prince carries a spiritual shift as well: he becomes a Christian. Mosab is not shy about laying out answers to the moral dilemmas he faces. It’s an aspect of the book that is endearing at some moments but preachy and an impediment to the flow of the narrative in others.

There are more than a few vignettes in “Son of Hamas” that will make your heart race. When a cell of would-be suicide bombers seeks out Mosab’s assistance in securing accommodation before their attacks, the listening equipment he stows in their room allows the Shin Bet (the Israeli Security Agency) to hear the men discuss their impending murderous immolation. “Everyone wanted to be first, so they didn’t have to watch their friends die,” Mosab writes. “We were listening to dead men talking.”

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