book review: Son of Hamas by Mosab Hassan Yousef

I just finished the book Son of Hamas, and I have to say, wow, I’m completely blown away.  In my humble opinion, it may very well be one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read and I think anyone with an interest in the Israel/Palestine conflict should have this on their must-read list.

After devouring the entire thing in 48 or so hours (this is WITH a 20 month old people – it’s that good) I wanted more and ended up googling for what has happened to Mosab (the Son of Hamas) in the ensuing years after the end of the book.  I was a bit disturbed to see that in 2011 he was essentially accused by another former Islamic radical (although I would argue that it would appear Mosab was never REALLY a radical) of being a “fake.” Not that anything he had written about his actions on behalf of the Shin Bet or to protect innocent lives were untrue, but that he actually is the “enemy” because he still calls Israel an occupier or something…Apparently this is all based on some Arab-language interviews Mosab gave where he was wearing a scarf that shows solidarity with the Palestinian people and he refers to Israel’s crimes and occupation against the Palestinian people.

Maybe I’m naive (okay, I know I can be) but it struck me as so sad and ridiculous that anyone who actually read his book (the facts of which were verified by his Shin Bet handler during his asylum hearing) could believe this unless they are just SO biased against all Arabs or anyone with a Muslim background.  I actually saw one comment that said there are NO Arab-Christians who are also Palestinian.

I mean, really?  Assuming this person was a Christian (which all the commenters seemed to at least claim to be), does he/she really believe our God is so weak and powerless that not one single Palestinian could accept Jesus as their Savior?

It’s funny because just the other day I had a bit of an exchange with my sister on FB about the attitudes of Christian towards ISIS, and while I still completely believe that ISIS is evil (sans quotes – just pure, unadulterated evil), I think I now better understand HER point, which is that as Christians it is our duty to try a little harder to find the humanity even in our enemies.

I still think the article she posted to was awful and ridiculous (some of the statements were just plain false, or else laid out in such a way as to obviously try to guide the reader into downplaying the evil acts of ISIS) but I will concede that for those who try to stay informed on the conflict, there is a reflex to uniformly praise Israel while never allowing yourself to go too far down the road of loving the terrorists.

There is good reason for this too.  On one side there is tiny democratic Israel attempting to defend innocent civilians from terrorist and missile attacks expressly designed to murder innocent civilians.  I think any fair-minded person recognizes that the vast majority of Israeli’s would love nothing more than to live peacefully with their neighbors and would accept a two-state solution if they felt it would guarantee (relative) peace.

Then on the other side we have the terrorists who not only attack innocent Israeli civilians but routinely use their own innocent civilians as human shields (need some proof?  how about using Al-Shifa Hospital as their headquarters?).  Mosab spells out clearly in his book that Hamas’s abuse of it’s own people is one of the key reasons he decides to spy for Israel.

So why then do people take the passages or interviews where he discusses Israeli human rights abuses (which he clearly doesn’t believe are representative of the IDF or the Israeli people as a whole – he is on their side) to mean that he is obviously a total fraud.

Trust me, as someone who is very pro-Israel, this was hard to swallow at first too.  I wanted to believe he was lying about the things he says he personally experienced or saw so that I wouldn’t have to think about the ramifications if it was all true.

Yet the further into the book I got, the more I had to face that he really seemed to be trying to tell it like it was – the negative things he wrote about Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Islam completely dwarfed anything negative he said about Israel or the U.S.

I believe strongly that the United States is made up of some of the kindest and most courageous people in the world and that those who join our military tend to be the cream of the crop in both those capacities.  We are a good people who do incredible good all over the world and a lot of that has been through our troops who have helped rebuild countries all over the globe and provided protection and comfort to countless innocents everywhere.  And yet even we have atrocities in our past.  Even we have bad individuals within our midst.  As supporters of the military we can’t and shouldn’t turn a blind eye to these atrocities and bad individuals because they are a stain on the GOOD men and women of the military – i.e. the vast majority of them – and we need to confront evil in order to stamp it out.

If we, as good as we are, could have Abu Ghraib after only a short time in Iraq, why then is it so hard to believe, that in a country where military service is compulsory, there might be a few bad individuals in the IDF?  I believe strongly that the Israeli people are good, the IDF does all it can to minimize civilian casualties, and that Israel is fighting for good while the terrorists fight for evil.  But given all that Mosab has been confirmed to have done for the Israeli’s, I have to believe that he is not lying about the abuses he has also experienced/seen Israeli soldier’s commit.

Which leads me all the way back to the discussion I had with my sister on FB (whoa! I can’t believe I still remember where I was trying to go with this).  My sister is much more loving than I could ever hope to be and was asking me to consider that even our enemies are made in the image of God and that a lot of these people are brainwashed.  I still don’t think being brainwashed is an excuse for committing terrorist acts, but after reading this book, I’m willing to think more about what we as Christians can do to understand how people come to this way of thinking so that we can figure out how to combat this evil at its core.

In my reading of his story, it’s pretty clear Mosab believes that Israel as a whole wants to do the right thing, but that there are still individual soldiers committing acts of brutality.  And when you consider the fact that this war has been ongoing for the better part of a decade (or since ancient times if you look at it another way) between people who are supposed to be neighbors (i.e. very close proximity), again, this is not exactly an unbelievable claim is it?  There is SO much bad blood in this part of the world, I doubt that we can even begin to really understand the depth of it.

It made me really stop and think – how WOULD a young Palestinian child be able to separate the acts they may see an individual Israeli soldier commit? Particularly in light of all the lies I’m sure they are fed from the time they can even begin to understand words.

I’m still not a good enough Christian to actually feel love for any terrorist.  I believe they are evil plain and simple and that their humanity has been stripped out of them.  I stand by the idea that the only good terrorist is a dead one.

But at the same time I am now willing to think seriously about the fact that at some point, some of them might not have lost their humanity had they had the opportunity to walk a different path.  Yes, Mosab actually points to a few terrorists he personally felt this way about, having known them as real people.

And that is at the heart of what I think is so amazing about this book.  Perspective.  I was telling Paul that the author it almost seems, by having ALL the bias’s (Palestinian Muslim spying for the Israeli’s and eventually accepting Jesus as his Savior) he has none of them.  He can understand how the terrorists came to be even while he actively seeks to destroy them.  He can love these terrorists even while he fights them.

It’s sad to me that so many seemed to have missed this point entirely.  So many seem to want to argue that if he doesn’t 100% support Israel in every statement he makes then somehow he is a fake?  This seems wrong to me.

It’s also odd that some seem to call him a liar but when asked if they believe he really has converted to Christianity they say he at least believes he has.  1) Converting to Christianity boils down to one thing, accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.  If he believes he has done that then….?  What else is there?  and 2) If you do believe he thinks he has accepted Jesus then why would you still think he secretly wants to wipe out Israel?

Anyway, lil sis, if you are reading this, know that your sister is not a heartless bastard who is incapable of empathy 🙂  It takes me longer to get it, and reading a book that lays it out so clearly, but I do understand now what you were trying to say.

I hope it’s clear by my posts (which admittedly are never very clear) that I highly, highly recommend this book.  It seems like such an important perspective, such a highly personal testimony, yet one with so many major historical implications in an age old conflict.

Mosab’s journey is truly inspiring, his book has stretched me and pushed my capacity for empathy.  I still don’t condone evil, nor am I willing now to accept it.  (And to be clear nothing in the book indicates Mosab is either!) I still prefer the cowboy method for dealing with terrorists over the law professor take.  Yet, I recognize that Jesus would have wept that any of His sheep could become so lost as to become terrorists.  Jesus never tolerated evil, yet He loved His enemies who committed evil acts.  And I recognize that He commanded those that follow Him to do the same.

I really hope that anyone instinctively wanting to call Mosab out as a terrorist sympathizer or something along those lines, would actually take the time to read his book first.  Maybe he phrases things awkwardly at times, maybe he does still have some sympathy for the Palestinian people (they are the people of his homeland after all?), maybe he does recognize that the Israeli’s have had flaws at times in how they handled their response to terrorism…yet it’s clear that while all those things may be true, his actions speak for themselves.  He was willing to lay down his life to defend both his friends and those he grew up believing were his enemy.  No one denies this.

At the end of the book Mosab makes clear that he is not an expert on Christianity, nor is he perfect by any means.  He admits that he is only just coming to know Jesus and he asks that we not look up to him as some token convert but pray for him that he would continue to grow in his understanding of Jesus.

It’s hard for me not to think of him as some sort of Super Christian, just because of his life and the sacrifices he has made to even acknowledge Christ as his Savior in public.  I’m still pretty sure he’s light years ahead of me, whatever he might think.  But I will take his request to heart and pray sincerely for him and his walk with The Lord.

And because I’m a sucker for happy endings in this life too, I hope that he finds a nice wife and has himself a nice little family.  We need more people like him in the world.

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