Son of Hamas charts the odyssey of Mosab Hassan Yousef, from being the heir apparent of Hamas, to his working for the Israeli intelligence service, the Shin Bet, against the organisation that his father helped found. It gives an insiders view of both sides of the turmoil and cycle of violence that is the Middle East Peace Crisis.
An insight into Hamas
The book offers a brief history of the founding of Hamas from a unique perspective, examining its roots with the Muslim Brotherhood and the ebb and flow of its power and influence. There is a variety of information regarding the foundation of Hamas, many sources providing different details. Son of Hamas sets these discussions straight using inside information.
Yasser Arafat shaking hands with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Arafat is accused of enjoying the limelight and using it amass a vast fortune. [image: AP]
Son of Hamas is critical of both Palestinian and Israeli actions and the ensuing circle of violence, as well as disapproving of assassinations on both sides. One of the main political elements of the book is its criticism of Yasser Arafat and the squabbling amongst the different Palestinian factions for power and their support for terrorism. This shines light on quite how divided the Palestinian political leadership are – a very interesting portrayal.
A key element of Son of Hamas, and a major factor in Mosab’s spiritual journey, is that of Palestinian violence – against fellow Palestinians. Ranging from lynching of suspected Israeli informers and the ostracism of their families to Hamas torturing Palestinians, Son of Hamas details numerous events and highlights how it made Mosab question who the real enemy of Palestinians was. Was it Israel or the Palestinians themselves?
A Spotlight on the Shin Bet
The work offers an insight, not only into the mindset and thought process of Palestinians, but also the Shin Bet. The portrayal of the Shin Bet changes over the course of the book from being the enemy to his handler, eventually becoming his friend. Son of Hamas gives a first hand account of Israel ‘turning’ a prisoner into an informer and agent; a vital utility in its counterterrorism campaign. This exposure of Shin Bet actions and activity is extremely useful for people interesting in intelligence and counterterrorism. This first hand account also provides context and allows the reader to engage on a deeper level with books such as A High Price: The Triumphs & Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism by Daniel Byman.
Throughout the latter half of the book, amongst recalling Mosab’s adventures and activities working for the Shin Bet, Son of Hamas increasingly begins to discuss religion and how Mosab slowly converted to Christianity. Whilst there is a certain amount of proselytising within the text, both Islamic and Christian, this does not occur to the extent where it could detract from the content of Son of Hamas, but provides context of his, and others actions. It is important to remember that it is very difficult to completely separate politics from religion in the region and that extremism on both sides has, at times, set back peace talks.
Son of Hamas is, without a doubt, worth a read. It flows well, providing enough history and context that anybody can pick it up and engage with it, rather than just those with a knowledge of the Middle East and Israeli politics. It provides a unique view of the Palestinian struggle from someone who was deep within a terrorist organisation before they renounced violence, changed religion and turned their back on a cycle of bloodshed. The Middle East Peace Crisis is unlikely to be solved in the short term, with Israel recently announcing the expansion of settlements to ease its housing crisis and the Palestinian Authority preparing to go before the United Nations to seek recognition. Well balanced personal accounts, such as Son of Hamas, allow outsiders a greater understanding of the situation and thus are a worthy addition to a bookshelf.