Mosab Hassan Yousef, quite literally the son of Hamas, has experienced life on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he shared his story of transition from one side to the other on the Kendall Hall Main Stage on Sunday, March 3.
Growing up in a loving home, seeing his father taken away by Israeli forces, Yousef found it easy to harbor resentment toward Israel.
Yousef, at 10 years old, did not understand the role his father, Hassan Yousef, played as a founder of Hamas. He did, however, understand that the Israeli forces did not allow his father to return for more than a year.
“The Israelis were definitely the bad guys, and I had to do everything possible to make them feel the pain that we were feeling,” Yousef said.
This statement represents the viewpoint that Yousef said he came to believe in his youth. By age 17, he was arrested by Israel for terrorist activities, including buying guns with the intention of shooting Israelis.
When the Israelis asked him to gather information as a spy for them, he agreed, but with the intention of leveraging this information in a way that was beneficial to Hamas.
As Yousef spent time in prison, however, he began to see how Hamas was torturing its own people. Anyone suspected of cooperating with Israel was subject to torture by Hamas’s militant wing.
This activity came as a surprise to Yousef, who had seen Hamas in the image of his father, humble and nice.
As he came to see Hamas in a worse light, he began his work as an Israeli spy, but decided to aid the cause rather than undermine it. He ended up preventing many attacks in his time working for the Israelis, but he also built on his perspective in a way that was not available to his peers.
“I saw a much broader picture than the average person, or even intelligent person, could see,” Yousef said.
This highlights a main point Yousef was attempting to make — the Islamic culture in which he was raised did not have the exposure to the type of thought that was necessary to understand why Israel was justified in its actions against Hamas.
Yousef saw everything unfold and decided that he was on the wrong side — he went from being a terrorist against Israel to spy for them. This gave him an uncommon perspective on the conflict that drives the discord in the area.
“We cannot have a (peace) process as long as we don’t have enough people who praise peace in the Middle East,” Yousef said. “There are amazing Arabs and Muslims who believe in peace, I hope at some point they will have the courage to stand for what’s right.”