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Subject: Israel's man in Hamas just 'wanted to save lives'
Israel's man in Hamas just 'wanted to save lives'
Last update - 15:03 26/02/2010
By Avi Issacharoff - Haaretz (Magazine section)
I wish I were in Gaza now," says Mosab Hassan Yousef by phone from
California. "I would put on an army uniform and join Israel's special forces
in order to liberate Gilad Shalit. If I were there, I could help. We wasted
so many years with investigations and arrests to capture the very terrorists
that they now want to release in return for Shalit. That must not be done."
Yousef's book, "Son of Hamas," written with Ron Brackin, will be published
next Tuesday (Salt River Press). In it, the 32-year-old tells his entire
life story for the first time and reveals the great secret he harbored for
I first met Mosab Yousef, a Muslim, in July 2008, in California. He told me
then about the dramatic upheaval in his life. In 1999, he began to draw
closer to Christianity and a few years later converted. Haaretz Magazine
published his story at the time, and Hamas immediately denied it vehemently.
A year and a half later, Yousef, son of the Hamas leader in the West Bank,
has decided to reveal the whole picture: For more than a decade he was an
agent of Israel's Shin Bet security service. He was motivated not by
economic gain or self-interest, but by sheer ideology.
During that period he prevented dozens of suicide-bombing attempts and
uncovered terrorist cells - including those planning to assassinate senior
Israeli figures, such as Shimon Peres, then foreign minister, and Shas
spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The Shin Bet considered Yousef the most
reliable and most senior agent it had succeeded in running at the top levels
of Hamas. Within the organization he was known as the "Green Prince":
"prince," because he was the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, one of the people
who founded Hamas and one of its leaders in the West Bank, and "green" for
the color of the Islamist organization's flag.
During the grimmest period of the second intifada, Yousef brought about the
arrest of the most wanted terrorists on Israel's list, those who are
mentioned repeatedly in the headlines - among them Ibrahim Hamed and Marwan
Barghouti. He even agreed to the arrest of his father, who is still in jail
today, to prevent his assassination by Israel. This is the story of an
intelligent young man who acts courageously against the movement in which he
was raised in an effort to save lives, and manages to persuade the Shin Bet
to arrest wanted individuals instead of killing them.
"Captain Loai" - as Yousef's handler in the Shin Bet was known at the time -
makes no secret of his admiration for his "source": "So many people owe him
their lives and don't even know it," he says. "People who did a lot less
were awarded the Israel Security Prize. He certainly deserves it. I knew him
for six years, as a coordinator and as a district director. And I tell you,
that if we had X number of intelligence coordinators in the region, thanks
to him we had X+1. He was the extra coordinator. You know what? He was
better than most of us - no offense to anyone."
Captain Loai is no longer with the Shin Bet; he works as a security officer
in the center of the country and is studying at university. But it's clear
that he is nostalgic for the days and nights of pursuing wanted individuals
and suicide bombers.
"The amazing thing is that none of his actions were done for money," he says
of Yousef. "He did things he believed in. He wanted to save lives. His grasp
of intelligence matters was just as good as ours - the ideas, the insights.
One insight of his was worth 1,000 hours of thought by top experts.
"Let me tell you a story," Loai continues. "One day we received information
that a suicide bomber was going to be picked up at Manara Square in Ramallah
and be given an explosives belt. We didn't know his name or what he looked
like - only that he was in his twenties and would be wearing a red shirt. We
sent the Green Prince to the square and with his acute sense, he located the
target within minutes. He saw who picked him up, followed the car and made
it possible for us to arrest the suicide bomber and the man who was supposed
to give him the belt. So another attack was thwarted, though no one knows
about it. No one opens Champagne bottles or bursts into song and dance. This
was an almost daily thing for the Prince. He displayed courage, had sharp
antennae and an ability to cope with danger. We knew he was one of those who
in any situation - rain, snow, summer - give their all."
Informer or double agent?
Mosab Yousef remembers vividly the day on which a Shin Bet agent entered his
cell in the detention facility of the Russian Compound in Jerusalem and
suggested he work for Israel - i.e., become a collaborator. Until his
arrest, he was a member of the Hamas students' organization at Birzeit
University in the West Bank and had been involved in stone-throwing; he was
sent to prison after buying a gun in 1996. Soldiers at the Ramallah
checkpoint stopped the Subaru he was driving and told him to turn off the
engine, he recalls: "They pulled me out of the car and even before I could
defend myself they threw me to the ground and pummeled me."
In our conversation, Yousef said he had not planned to become an informer
and did not make the decision all of a sudden: "I was taken to the detention
facility, [which we call] the 'Muskobiya,' where I underwent harsh torture
and was beaten repeatedly in the interrogation. My hands were tightly bound.
Then this Shin Bet man arrived and suggested that I work with him. I did not
ask for money, as my financial situation was good. I thought of telling him
that I would accept the offer, and then become a double agent and take
revenge on the Shin Bet and on Israel for arresting me and for the things
that were done to my father.
"My plan," he continues, "was to collect information about the Shin Bet from
within and use it against Israel. I knew that it was a dark, evil
organization run by evil people who were doing terrible things, like forcing
people to become collaborators. After I agreed, I was kept in jail for 16
months, because if I were released too quickly it might stir suspicion that
I had become a Shin Bet agent." In prison he saw appalling things.
"I was in jail with Hamas people, with senior figures in the organization
who ran an apparatus called Majad, a kind of internal security body of Hamas
aimed at uncovering Israeli agents. They tortured prisoners, most of them
from Hamas, whom they suspected of collaboration. My job was to write down
the confessions and testimonies. As the sheikh's son, I was trusted. It was
there that I lost my faith in Hamas. They killed people for no reason. While
everyone was warning me about the Shin Bet, for the first time in my life I
saw Hamas people torturing their comrades, members of their nation, with
exceptional cruelty. The truth was of no interest to them. If they so much
as suspected someone, that was the end of him. They tortured people
brutally, burned them, jabbed them with needles, put out cigarettes on
After his release from prison in 1997, Yousef started to meet with Captain
Loai, and says, "I had no plans to kill anyone or to be a spy, I was just
curious." Already in their second meeting, he relates, the Shin Bet man
managed to surprise him.
Yousef: "He explained to me that if I wanted to work for the Shin Bet, I had
to respect a few rules. 'You must not befriend loose women or behave
immorally,' he told me. 'Do not sleep with women or behave like a wise guy -
especially you, the son of a sheikh. You have to find work and get along.'
One time, Captain Loai stopped the meeting and asked me if I had already
recited the midday prayers. Surprised, I said I hadn't. He then asked me to
purify myself [by washing hands, face and feet] and pray, and then said we
"It was important for them that I would continue to be the person I was, for
me not to change, to be serious. They wanted respectable people, who were
respected in their society, not those with a poor reputation. I became even
more curious and wanted to learn more about them. My handlers told me time
and again, 'You must respect your father and your mother and not do anything
bad to anyone.' They did not yet ask for information about anything or
anyone, and I became more and more serious in regard to them. My handlers,
for their part, respected me and treated me very well and even helped me
with my studies. I was stunned by their behavior. They did not want to take
action against the Palestinians as such, only against the extremists. I
looked at these people, whom in the past I had so much wanted to kill, and
discovered that everything I knew about them was incorrect."
It was also in this period that Yousef began to be drawn to Christianity and
read the New Testament. "I remember encountering the sentence, 'Love your
enemies.' That made me think: These enemies of yours, the Shin Bet, the
soldiers, are only trying to do their job. I thought to myself how Hamas
would behave in a reverse situation: Would they show mercy to Jews? And I
thought: 'Who are you trying to kid? Hamas and Fatah would behave more
humanely?' I couldn't define who my enemy was anymore.
"True, the Shin Bet made horrible mistakes and killed innocent people, but
its main goal, like Israel's, was to preserve the principles of a democratic
country. There are 1.2 million Palestinians living inside Israel, within the
Green Line, who enjoy rights and benefit more from Israel's prosperity and
welfare than in any Arab state. Still, those soldiers took my father away
before my eyes and shot people before my eyes, and believe me, it was no
small thing for me to work for those people. It was a real turnaround."
What were your goals when you agreed to work for them?
Yousef: "I saw torture, killing, a war over land. For me, human life and
saving human lives is the most important thing, more important than any
piece of land or real estate. I wanted to save - and did save - human lives,
Israeli and Palestinian. I did not do it because the Shin Bet pressured me,
or for money. I did it because I understood what Hamas really is and I had
to make a change. For my sake and for the sake of others. I thought to
myself that even if people claim I am a traitor, let them say it. People
will not believe it, they will think I did it for money, but they have no
idea. I was happy, delighted when I stopped a suicide bomber."
Hamas is born
It's striking, throughout the interview, that Yousef uses the first person
plural in talking about Shin Bet activity. In California, he says, he has a
T-shirt saying, "I do secret work but I don't know what it is - the Shin
Bet." "I also have an Israel Defense Forces T-shirt - olive colored, with
the symbol - which I really love," he adds, laughing.
By 1999 he had penetrated the heart of Hamas in the West Bank and was
accompanying his father everywhere. As the book reveals for the first time,
Sheikh Yousef conceived the idea of establishing Hamas in the West Bank a
year before the organization's formal creation. In 1986, the son relates in
his book, Sheikh Yousef met in Hebron with Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Mohammed
Jamal al-Natshe, Mohammed Musleh and others, and together planned the
creation of the new organization. Hamas officially announced its existence
in December 1987.
In September 2000, when Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount, Mosab Yousef
was naturally accompanying his father to meetings. On September 27, the
night before Sharon's visit, Sheikh Hassan met with Marwan Barghouti,
commander of the Tanzim militia in the West Bank, and leaders of other
Yousef recalls: "I drove them to the meeting, and when we returned he told
me that they had agreed that the next day, after Sharon's visit to the
mount, they would foment demonstrations and in the end an intifada. Their
plan was to stir up riots that would continue for two to three weeks.
"They planned the intifada, and don't let anyone tell you anything
different," he continues. "[However,] the Hamas leadership in Hebron and
Gaza did not want to take part in the riots, because they said [Palestinian
leader Yasser] Arafat did not deserve to be helped after he persecuted the
organization so harshly. And the truth is that Hamas in Gaza did not take
part in the demonstrations at the start of the intifada. But my father was
in favor [of participating]."
What do you mean by "planned"? Did Arafat ask them to do it?
"I can't tell you for certain that he gave an order. But he did give them
his blessing. Listen, man, what do you think? Barghouti, Hussein al-Sheikh,
all those who organized the demonstrations - they met with Arafat every day.
So what did they talk about? But that is not the worst thing I discovered at
the time about Arafat. I was the one who revealed that the first squad of
the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade was actually a group from Arafat's Presidential
Guard, Force 17, which got money from Barghouti, who got it from Arafat."
According to Yousef, it was he who led the Shin Bet to Force 17 man Muhanad
Abu Halaweh. "Abu Halaweh sent more and more people to perpetrate terrorist
attacks," he says. "He was a dubious type who walked around with a heavy
machine gun and opened fire at every opportunity. The Shin Bet wanted to
liquidate him and I told Loai that I agreed to the mission, even if it meant
he would be killed. I felt there was no choice, because otherwise Muhanad
would go on killing innocent people.
"On August 4, 2001, I waited outside the office of Marwan Barghouti until I
saw Abu Halaweh go inside. A few hours later he came out and got into his
gold VW Golf. I informed the Shin Bet that he was in the car, alone; it was
important for them not to hurt Barghouti. The Israelis waited a little,
until the car was in an open area, and then fired a missile at it.
Apparently he saw the missile coming and tried to jump out, but it hit the
car and he was thrown out. A second missile hit the sidewalk. I felt the
blast in a car 100 meters away. Muhanad's car went up in flames, and so did
he, but he was not killed.
"That evening I went with my father to visit Muhanad in the hospital. His
face was burned and I could hardly bring myself to look at him. But he
recovered and continued his killing campaign. It was not until a few months
later that he was assassinated, when two Apache helicopters fired at him as
he came out of a restaurant in Bituniya."
Thanks to his father's name, the Green Prince was able to weave a network of
connections within the organization. After the assassination of Sheikh Jamal
Salim and Jamal Mansour in Nablus, both of them friends of his father, in
July 2001, he decided to isolate and hide his father, to save him from
death; he put him up at a hotel and fired his bodyguards. He told the Shin
Bet what he had done, but reached an agreement with his handlers to ensure
that no Israeli would come near his father.
"In that period I started to behave like a leader in Hamas," he recalls. "I
walked around with an M-16 [rifle], emphasized my blood ties to the sheikh
and hung out with members of the Hamas military arm, who were certain that I
was plugged in to everything that was going on in the organization's
leadership. They told me about their problems and I extracted more and more
Yousef also managed to forge a direct connection with the Damascus-based
head of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Meshal. The two spoke by phone at
least once a week. In his book, he describes how the Mossad espionage agency
asked for the Shin Bet's help in discovering the identity of the "dangerous
person" in Ramallah who was speaking with Meshal on a regular basis. But the
Shin Bet, Yousef writes, chose to keep his identity a secret from the
He was distanced from Arafat, he says, because of an inadvertent act: "I met
Arafat a few times when I accompanied my father to meetings with him. I
didn't like him, but I could not show my feelings. One time he kissed me and
I instinctively wiped my cheek. He was offended, and my father was
embarrassed and did not take me to meetings with him after that."
He does not have a high regard for Marwan Barghouti, either. "He is a
terrorist with the blood of many Israelis on his hands," Yousef says. "Even
though the Shin Bet hated him, they did not want to liquidate him and turn
him into a martyr. I knew Marwan through my father. I accompanied him to
meetings with Marwan at the start of the intifada, but also later, when the
representatives of the organizations met. For Hamas, I became a sort of
mediator between them and the other organizations, particularly after my
father went underground, and the other organizations asked me many times for
explosives and weapons. Everyone thought I had 'merchandise' to offer and
believed in me, in part because I was the sheikh's son.
"So it was that Ahmed (the Frenchman) Barghouti, Marwan's faithful
assistant, told me he needed a large quantity of explosives for seven
suicide bombers arriving from Jenin. I told him I would try to organize
something, but already that night he sent one of them to perpetrate the
attack at the Seafood Market [restaurant] in Tel Aviv. The next day, we
arrested the other six."
'To my beloved father'
"To my beloved father and my wounded family / To the victims of the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict / To every human life my Lord has saved. My
family, I am very proud of you; only my god can understand what you have
been through. I realize that what I have done has caused another deep wound
that might not heal in this life and that you may have to live with its
shame forever - With love, Your son."
'Son of Hamas'
In this interview, as in earlier ones, the Green Prince makes a point of
saying how much he loves his father. Captain Loai also says he heard much
from Yousef about how his father raised him to love humanity.
Nevertheless, the son is responsible for his father's arrest and provided
the information leading up to it. Moreover, in order to camouflage the
source of the information, Mosab told his mother where his father was
hiding, so that she would meet with him. The arrest was made minutes after
Yousef's mother arrived.
"As usual, my father surrendered peacefully," Mosab Yousef writes. "And he
and the other Hamas leaders assumed the Shin Bet had followed my mother to
"The kid saved his dad," Captain Loai says in his defense. "If not for him,
his father would be dead 10 times over. He effectively became a kind of
protective umbrella for his father, and he understood that. One time, after
the terrorist attack in the Beit Yisrael [neighborhood] in Jerusalem, Ariel
Sharon issued an order to shoot, more or less, at everything that moved and
breathed Hamas. His father's name came up for discussion as a candidate for
liquidation. Mosab emphasized that his father was important to him and human
life is precious to him, and this prevented his liquidation."
Some time after his father's arrest, which was in the summer of 2002, Mosab
Yousef and Loai initiated Mosab's own arrest. He was held for a few months
in administrative detention (arrest without trial) and met with his father
in prison. Mosab was released in April 2003, his father the following year.
Yousef recalls that one evening in March 2002, someone knocked on the door
of his family's home. Two people were standing there, he says: "'We are
looking for Sheikh Hassan Yousef,' they said. I asked them what they wanted.
They said they were representatives of five suicide bombers who had been
sent from Jordan to carry out attacks. Their contact man had been arrested
and they needed a safe place to stay. I told them they had come to the right
place. They said they also had a car packed with explosives. I told them to
leave the car, gave them money and explained where they could hide. I passed
on the information to Loai, and within half an hour Sharon had already
authorized their liquidation.
"I said that if they were hurt, I would stop working for the Shin Bet. 'Are
you threatening us?' Loai asked, and I replied that I could not agree to
killing. These were five ignorant young people who did not know the
difference between good and bad. I knew that an attempt to kill them would
constitute a tremendous danger for the soldiers and for me, because they
knew about me and would suspect that I had brought about their capture.
Nevertheless, I continued to insist, so that no one would be killed.
"In the end, the Shin Bet, which didn't want to lose me, agreed, but wanted
to know what was going on in the room where they were sleeping. I drove over
on the pretext of taking them some furniture, but what they didn't know was
that highly sensitive bugs had been inserted into it. On March 16, Israeli
special forces encircled the building where they were staying in the center
of Ramallah. The forces waited until we knew they were asleep and then blew
open the door with explosives. One of the men jumped out of the window with
a weapon and was shot to death by the Israeli forces. When the other four
were in the Jeep and about to be taken to the detention facility, one of
them mentioned my name. I was sure my cover was blown and I didn't know what
to do. But Loai had an idea: He released the one who had mentioned my name
and returned him to Jordan, so the others thought he was the informer. In
the interrogation of the three who remained, it turned out that one had been
given a mission to assassinate Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
"So I say again: If I had done it for money, would I have insisted on five
suicide bombers not being killed? No, I would have let them die."
It became increasingly clear to the Shin Bet, Yousef explains, that he was
in great danger of being exposed. "We had two options: either send me back
to jail or 'play the game,' as Loai put it, by staging a real attempt to
arrest me, big and impressive, that would fool not only Hamas but also the
Israeli army. The Shin Bet gave an undercover IDF unit intelligence
information that I was armed and dangerous, and would be going to visit my
mother. In the meantime, I was told to go home and wait outside in the car
for instructions from the Shin Bet. When I got Loai's call I drove quickly
to my new secret location somewhere else. Within a minute, the undercover
unit, dressed as Arabs, arrived on the scene in 10 cars with Palestinian
license plates. They surrounded the house and ordered everyone to come out.
My brother and my sisters went out.
"In the meantime, to ensure that the raid would get a lot of publicity, I
had tipped off Al Jazeera and said an attempt would be made to assassinate
my father, and they sent a TV crew to the house. But the soldiers called for
'Mosab Hassan Yousef' to come out and not 'Hassan Yousef.' In the meantime,
dozens of armed Palestinians, who realized that an operation was under way
at the sheikh's house, started to approach, and air force helicopters fired
at them to stop them. By now, I was watching the drama live on TV in my new
hiding place. The army even fired a missile at the second floor of our
house, which blew up half the building. Overnight I had advanced to the
most-wanted list and the whole Arab world knew about it."
During Operation Defensive Shield, which the IDF carried out in the West
Bank in the spring of 2002, Yousef says he was scurrying all over, even
though his handlers wanted him to stay in the hotel where he was "hiding."
His father was also in a safe house at the time: When the army carried out
house searches, the soldiers - amazingly - skipped the one in which the
sheikh was hiding.
Yousef: "'It's a miracle,' my father told me. They looked in all the houses
around us and ours was the only one they skipped. And I thought to myself,
Another story revealed by Yousef concerns the relations between Jibril
Rajoub, while he was head of Palestinian Preventive Security, and the Shin
Bet. One of the first places raided by the army after troops entered
Ramallah was Preventive Security headquarters in Bituniya in April 2002.
Fighting broke out at the site until those in the building were ordered by
their commander to surrender. The soldiers told them to come out naked; both
the Preventive Security personnel and Hamas prisoners who were incarcerated
in the facility did so, received sweatsuits and were sent by bus to the Ofer
army base. It was only then, Mosab Yousef says, that the Shin Bet realized
its mistake: How could they differentiate between those on the wanted list
and the security personnel, when the ID cards remained behind in the totally
Ofer Dekel, now head of the Shin Bet and at the time chief of the Jerusalem
district in the Shin Bet, "was in charge of the operation," Yousef recalls.
In his book, he describes what happened next.
"[Dekel] called Jibril Rajoub, who had been away from the compound at the
time of the attack. Dekel gave Rajoub a special permit so he could pass
safely through hundreds of tanks and thousands of soldiers at the army base.
When he arrived, Dekel asked Rajoub if he would mind pointing out which men
worked for him and which were fugitives. Rajoub said he would be happy to do
so. He identified police as fugitives and fugitives as police, and the Shin
Bet released all the wanted men [apart from Bilal Barghouti, whom they
"'Why did you do that to me?' Dekel asked, after he figured out what had
happened. 'You just blew up my offices and my compound,' Rajoub calmly
explained ... The Shin Bet was deeply embarrassed. The only thing they could
do in retaliation was release an official account that branded Rajoub a
traitor for turning over the wanted men to Israel in a deal brokered by the
Rajoub lost much of his political clout in the wake of that fiasco, Yousef
notes. Hamas and Fatah accused him of betraying them, even though he had
actually saved Hamas' wanted men.
In a recent conversation with Haaretz, Rajoub denies having been involved in
the incident at the Ofer base. His deputy at the time, Jibrin al-Bakri, now
the governor of Nablus, says he was also not in the vicinity and doesn't
know any details: "I think Abed Alun was the person involved," al-Bakri
says. (Alun, a senior figure in Preventive Security, was killed in an
Al-Qaida attack in an Amman hotel.)
Mosab Yousef's handlers in the Shin Bet declined to comment on the event.
On July 31, 2002, a suicide bomber blew himself up on the Mount Scopus
campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Following the attack, in which
seven people were killed, Mosab Yousef lost touch with Saleh Talahmeh, from
the Hamas military wing, with whom he had formed close ties over the years.
"We had become true friends," he relates. "He even helped me with private
lessons in economics."
The members of Talahmeh's close circle - Mohammed Jamal a-Natsheh, Ibrahim
Hamed, Sayed Sheikh Qassem and Hasnein Rumaneh - also disappeared.
Information gleaned about the Mount Scopus attack led to five residents of
the neighboring village of Silwan and from them to Mohammed Arman, who under
torture in interrogation related that "the sheikh" was responsible for
sending him on missions, but he did not know his full name. Shown a photo of
Ibrahim Hamed, he identified him immediately.
It was not until 16 months later that Israeli security forces located
Talahmeh and his group, in a residential building in Ramallah. In the course
of an all-night battle, Talahmeh, Kasem and Rumaneh were killed. Captain
Loai informed Mosab Yousef that his good friend Talahmeh had been killed and
told him to go to the hospital in Ramallah to identify the bodies.
Yousef: "I identified Saleh [Talahmeh] immediately. Kasem was in pieces and
I could not identify Rumaneh. In the absence of other central activists in
Hamas, I was compelled to organize the funeral of my friend Saleh and the
others." Ibrahim Hamed had not been in the building. "The Shin Bet planted
many bugs in his house, in the hope that someone from the family would say
something, but they were very careful." Hamed simply vanished.
'Most important mission'
Sheikh Hassan Yousef was released from prison in November 2004. In the days
that followed, hundreds of people flocked to his office to ask for help with
various matters. In their eyes, the sheikh was the leader of Hamas in the
West Bank. However, according to Mosab Yousef, his father had no money and
no access to the organization's financial assets. His conclusion: The fact
that the organization continued to operate even after most of its recognized
leaders had been killed or imprisoned, meant that there was a secret
leadership, which was in direct contact with Hamas' senior figures in
Damascus and with the military wing.
A few months earlier, Loai had asked Yousef to visit an Internet cafe in
Ramallah, to find out who in the cafe was in e-mail correspondence with the
Hamas leadership in Damascus. There were about 20 people in the cafe when he
got there. He looked for a bearded man, but everyone was clean-shaven.
A few weeks later, Yousef put a house in Ramallah up for sale. Someone
called and came over to look at the property, and Yousef identified him as
one of the 20 people from the cafe. The man introduced himself as Aziz Kayed
and said he was the director of a center for Islamic studies called
After Sheikh Yousef was released from prison, Mosab accompanied him to
Nablus to meet with senior Hamas figures. One of them remarked that the
sheikh should be in contact with "Aziz Kayed from the Al-Buraq Center."
Mosab asked the Shin Bet to check Kayed's background. It turned out that
during his student days he had been a key activist in the Hamas cell at the
university, but had ceased all political activity a decade earlier, was now
conducting a normal life and had even gone abroad without interference.
Mosab Yousef recalled a few other young men he had known in the past from
Hamas who, as he writes in the book, "have advanced university degrees and
were at one time very active in Hamas. But for whatever reason, they simply
dropped out of sight 10 years ago."
A check revealed that all of them had remained in touch with one another and
worked at Al-Buraq. The Shin Bet began to monitor the men's activity - with
dramatic results: "We learned that these deadly 30-somethings had gained
total control of the money and were running the entire Hamas movement in the
West Bank," Yousef writes.
One day, they followed one of them, Nahdi Mahadi, from his apartment in
north Ramallah to a garage in the commercial zone. "Suddenly we saw him pull
up at the garage door, enter, and close the door behind him. We watched the
place for two weeks until one day the garage door opened from the inside and
before us stood Ibrahim Hamed. The Shin Bet waited until he went back in and
then surrounded the building." Hamed did not try to resist. At the soldiers'
orders, he came out naked and was arrested.
"The exposure and arrest of Hamed and of the Hamas secret leadership was the
most important mission I carried out in all my years of work with the Shin
Bet," Yousef says. "Hamed was responsible for the death of 80 Israelis. That
was also my last mission in the Shin Bet."
In September 2005, the Shin Bet informed Yousef that following the
escalation in Gaza, it had been decided to arrest his father again. Having
no other choice and realizing that this was the only way he could save him,
Yousef agreed to his arrest. As mentioned, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, who is
undoubtedly one of the most moderate figures in Hamas, is still in prison.
God of truth and lies
"I was not surprised when I heard he had converted to Christianity," Captain
Loai says. "But I was surprised to read in your article [in 2008] that he is
abroad. Personally, I am happy for him. We had a very strong personal
Another of Yousef's handlers also recalls having many intimate talks with
the Green Prince about matters of religion. It is clear that the religion
Mosab adopted some five years ago constitutes a significant element in his
worldview today. In a conversation with him, and while reading his book, one
sometimes gets the feeling that he is engaged in a fierce crusade against
Islam, the religion into which he was born and raised.
"I tell you again, I did everything out of a sense of mission, in order to
save human lives," Mosab Yousef says. "Take, for example, Jamal Taweel, a
senior figure in Hamas. If I had not worked for the Shin Bet, Taweel would
now be dead. He was due to be assassinated, but because I was the one who
provided the information about his location, he was arrested. He spent a few
years in prison and maybe will hate me now, but he is now free, lives with
his family and is the mayor of El-Bireh. I am not exaggerating or showing
off," he says in the phone call from California. "I supplied priceless
information. No one but me was capable of obtaining it."
Aren't you afraid now after exposing all this?
"I will not lie by saying I am not afraid. But I am motivated by the fact
that I saved hundreds of people - Israelis, Palestinians, Americans. That
gives me the strength to go on. I am not a Zionist and I did not work for
the Zionists. I am not pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian. I worked for my God,
who is the father of all human beings wherever they are. I do not want to go
back to that work. I chose to leave, because after 10 years of fighting
terrorism, I understood that it is not the problem. Of course, it is
important to fight terrorism, but if I think about the long term, the only
way is not to do battle against suicide bombers but against their
motivation: namely, their God.
"Many people think the terrorists' motivation is the Israeli occupation, the
corruption, but all that is just the backdrop. It is not the root of the
problem. The occupation is like the rain that falls on the soil in which the
seed has been planted, but it is not the seed itself. The root of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not lie in security or politics: It is a
war between two gods, two religions. Between the God of the Torah and the
God of the Koran. The Koran teaches that this is Waqf land - a sacred
endowment which must not be given up. The Torah taught the Jews that this is
their land and must not be given up.
"It follows that there will be no peace in the Middle East. Israel's problem
is not with Hamas or with any other organization, nor with the
interpretation Hamas reads into the Koran. It is with the god of the Koran.
After all, even a moderate Muslim who reads the Koran must read that the
Jews are the sons of apes and that the infidels must be killed. The
Palestinians must stop blaming Israel, or the West, for all their problems.
If they want true freedom, they must free themselves from their God."
You sound completely pessimistic. What about a Palestinian state?
"That is not a solution. Today we do not have a leadership worthy of ruling,
not Hamas and not Fatah. The Palestinians move between the corrupt
leadership of Fatah, and the Hamas leadership, which sends them all to die.
Besides, Hamas cannot make peace with the Israelis. That is against what
their God tells them. It is impossible to make peace with infidels, only a
cease-fire, and no one knows that better than I.
"The Hamas leadership is responsible for the killing of Palestinians, not
Israelis. Palestinians! They do not hesitate to massacre people in a mosque
or to throw people from the 15th or 17th floor of a building, as they did
during the coup in Gaza. The Israelis would never do such things. I tell you
with certainty that the Israelis care about the Palestinians far more than
the Hamas or Fatah leadership does. Israel withdrew from Gaza, and instead
of the place being built up and cultivated, look what happened there. We
need to take a break from these leaders. And I call on the government of
Israel: Never accede to Hamas demands, not even about Gilad Shalit. They
will not hurt him - he is too important to them. Even if it goes on for 10
years, Israel must not give in and release all those people from prison."
What about you? Where do you live? What do you do for a living?
"I rent. I don't have a place of my own. After I left, the Shin Bet tried to
pressure me to return and even told the FBI that I am the son of a dangerous
terrorist, in the hope that I would have no choice but to come back. What
kind of behavior is that? Aren't they ashamed? I risked my life for them;
they should be ashamed. I am still processing the experiences I underwent
and sometimes I don't believe I survived. I am only writing about my
experience and hope the book will help me earn a decent living.
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