The other night, I attended a preview screening of “The Green Prince,” a documentary film on the son of a top Hamas leader who became an Israeli agent. It debuts Friday in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, DC.
Based on Mosab Hassan Yousef’s memoir, Son of Hamas, “The Green Prince” tells the story of the oldest son of one of the founders of Hamas and its leader on the West Bank (Sheikh Hassan Yousef) who became Israel’s most valuable informant, and the Shin Bet agent who sacrificed his career to stand by him. Mosab Yousef’s story is encapsulated online in a film review published in The Daily Beast, one month ago.
|Mosab Hassan Yousef|
Previously, I had only vaguely known about this person, including the unlikely fact that he converted to Christianity and has been outspoken in his opposition to Hamas. What convinced Mosab to betray his father’s cause was his experience in a Hamas-controlled compound in an Israeli prison, where he learned of the group’s wanton brutality (a fact of life in many if not most prisons everywhere is that organized groups of prisoners exercise enormous power). As he told the audience in a post-screening Q & A, 16 people were murdered in that prison by Hamas on the barest suspicion of working for Israel, with many others tortured.
Mosab worked as his father’s closest assistant during the worst years of the Second Intifada. Those bloody times reinforced his conviction that “. . . cowards in the name of courage are leading children, women, and an entire nation to death.” According to the film, he facilitated Israel’s arrest of a number of bomb plotters while deftly avoiding suspicion; he even managed to convince his father to go into hiding with an “anonymous” tip — which saved his life at a time when Israel was assassinating most Hamas leaders. Interestingly, his father eventually entertained a more moderate course for Hamas, that of a long-term hudna (truce) with Israel.
Mosab’s story helped explain two historical occurrences: Most critical for me was his testimony as to Arafat’s complicity with Hamas and other factions in supporting violent attacks on Israeli civilians during the Second Intifada; Mosab had a unique vantage point, being privy to secret communications between his father and Arafat. This uncomfortable fact is more readily believed by the right than the left; but I recall that no less a dovish commentator than Robert Malley (a former Clinton-era official) has said of Arafat that after being disappointed by Barak and Clinton at Camp David, he chose to “ride the tiger” of violence, thinking very wrongly that it would help the Palestinians negotiate a better deal. Instead, the Second Intifada massively wounded Israel’s electoral peace camp, a blow from which it has not yet fully recovered, and perhaps never will.
The second was Mosab’s discovery, from repeatedly viewing film footage of a deadly explosion at a Hamas military parade in Gaza, that it was the result of an accident rather than an Israeli attack. His father is shown on television bitterly blaming Israel, but his son explained in the movie that he had convinced his father that the color of the smoke indicated an explosion on the ground rather than from the air.
Finally, what interested me was his response to a question from the audience on his current state of religious faith. He said that since spending most of his life as a Muslim, he has been to many churches and synagogues, and loves religion and rituals, but chooses no religion at this time. He practices (and teaches) yoga, is a vegan, and spoke appealingly of “growing, evolving, learning.” Perhaps Mosab can be characterized as a humanist today. At the end of the evening, both he and his former Shin Bet handler, Gonen Ben Yitzhak (also present at the Q & A), expressed the hope that their unlikely friendship signifies that peace is still possible.