TORONTO — Disowned by his father and despised by many Arabs as a traitor and apostate, Palestinian Arab Mosab Hassan Yousef was hailed as a beacon of integrity and truth by Canadian Zionists last week.
A former spy for the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal intelligence agency, and a convert to Christianity who abandoned his Muslim faith, he is the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founder of Hamas, the militantly anti-Israel Islamic Resistance Movement.
Delivering an impassioned lecture at the Ernest Manson Lubavitch Centre co-sponsored by Chabad Flamingo and B’nai Brith Canada, Yousef told a full house about his bumpy journey from Hamas activist to defender of Israel and admirer of the Jewish people.
Now living in exile in California, Yousef, in colloquial English, described himself as a person “dedicated to saving lives” and a “new believer in Christ” who came “to love his enemy” and “know the truth.”
Born in 1978 in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Yousef was recruited by the Shin Bet after being arrested as a Hamas arms smuggler.
Working as an undercover agent for Israel from 1997 to 2007, he reportedly played an instrumental role in exposing Hamas cells, supplying the evidence that resulted in the arrest of several key Palestinian commanders, preventing suicide attacks and thwarting a plot to assassinate Shimon Peres, then Israel’s foreign minister and now its president.
Last year, Yousef published his flamboyantly titled autobiography, Son of Hamas, A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue and Unthinkable Choices (Tyndale House).
Given his notoriety, security at Chabad Flamingo was extremely tight. People who had bought tickets for the event were required to show photo IDs twice before being admitted.
“We’re here tonight because it is incumbent on us to hear the truth,” said Rabbi Mendel Kaplan, the Chabad spiritual leader. “The truth will set us free.”
Yousef was formally introduced by Frank Dimant, the executive vice-president of B’nai Brith Canada. Describing him as “a man of conviction” whom he admires, Dimant said that Yousef has “put his life on the line” and “stands for the truth.” In closing, he hugged Yousef.
The oldest of six brothers and two sisters, Yousef sketched out the broad outlines of his biography in bold brushstrokes, saying that he comes from “the heart” of Hamas’ leadership and explaining that his family’s devout Islamic identity was “everything” for him.
He added, “I was born as a son of a Hamas leader and dedicated myself to Islam. I have a very good understanding of what Islam is all about.”
Claiming that Hamas is a front group for the Muslim Brotherhood and is driven by the goal of destroying Israel and building an Islamic state on the rubble, Yousef said he developed a keen hatred for Israel after his father’s arrest when he was 10 years old.
Having himself been arrested and imprisoned by Israel, Yousef agreed to work for the Shin Bet. “I had a hidden agenda. I wanted to take revenge.”
But in jail, he was jolted by an awakening.
He discovered that his fellow Hamas inmates were consumed by brutality, were quick to murder Palestinians deemed to be Israeli collaborators and did not care about sacrificing the lives of ordinary Palestinians to achieve their objectives.
Yousef, torn by an identity crisis, did not know where he belonged, nor could he ascertain who his enemy was. “I became very confused.”
Introduced to Christianity by a British missionary in 1999, Yousef found himself and learned that Israelis and Palestinians were killing one another out of pride and ignorance.
He continued spying for Israel, amassing a reputation as one of its most useful agents in the field. “I don’t believe I did anything wrong working for Israel,” he said. “You can’t go wrong saving human lives.”
Turning to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Yousef suggested that Palestinians should be satisfied with self-rule, saying that a Palestinian state cannot be fitted into the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “It would be like fitting an elephant into the eye of an eagle.”
In a dire prediction, he claimed that the creation of a Palestinian state would bring war and destruction to the Mideast.
“I want my people to recognize Israel’s right to this historic land,” he declared, advising Palestinians to learn from “the Jewish nation” that life is more important than death or vengeance.
Wading deeper into politics, Yousef said that western civilization will fall if Israel fails, asserted that God will “protect” Israel, urged the international community to stop Iran’s nuclear program, denounced Hamas as a duplicitous organization and claimed that Arab culture is underpinned by shame, fear and intimidation.