Saturday, February 27, 2010

A man of rare courage

By Melanie Phillips
Thursday, 25th February 2010

I have been following for some time the remarkable journey of Mosab Hassan Yousef, about whom I wrote here last year. Yousef, the son of a Hamas leader, renounced not just terrorist violence but his family and his faith to become a Christian and move to California. Since apostasy from Islam carries a death penalty, this in itself was an act of extreme courage. The Telegraph ran an interview with him which set out starkly the extreme risk he was running, along with the principled reasons for his actions:

Mosab Hassan Yousef, 30, said that his decision to abandon his Muslim faith and denounce his father's organisation had exposed his family to persecution in his home town of Ramallah and endangered his own life.

... ‘I’m not afraid of them, especially as I know that I'm doing the right thing, and I don't see them as my enemies,’ he said. ‘I do think about this a lot. But what are they going to do? Are they going to kill me? If they want to kill me, let them do it. I'm not going to stop anyone. It's going to be my freedom.’

... Mr Yousef said that his doubts about Islam and Hamas crystallised when he realised not all Hamas leaders were like his father, a moderate who he describes as ‘open-minded, very humble and honest’. Mr Yousef said that he was appalled by the brutality of the movement, including the suicide bombers seeking glory through jihad. ‘Hamas, they are using civilians' lives, they are using children, they are using the suffering of people every day to achieve their goals. And this is what I hate,’ he said.

Mosab Hassan Yousef

But now we learn that his courage and his principles extended far further than this. As Ha’aretz reports, for ten years Yousef worked for the Israeli security service Shin Bet for whom the intelligence he provided saved countless lives from human bomb attacks:

During the second intifada, intelligence Yousef supplied led to the arrests of a number of high-ranking Palestinian figures responsible for planning deadly suicide bombings... Loai [Yousef’s Shin Bet handler] makes no secret of his admiration for his former source. ‘The amazing thing is that none of his actions were done for money,’ he says. ‘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.

Loai recalled one time when the Shin Bet 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 20s and would be wearing a red shirt,’ he said. ‘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.'

Even more amazingly:

Yousef was also responsible for thwarting Israel’s plan to assassinate his father.

Not surprisingly, Yousef has trenchant views about Israel releasing the very terrorists he helped put in jail, indeed, in this he shows rather more backbone than many Israelis:

‘I wish I were in Gaza now,’ Yousef said 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.’

And on Hamas, Yousef says this:

‘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,’ he said. ‘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.’

All those foolish Brits and others who want Hamas brought in from the diplomatic cold, take note.

Israel should surely make this man a roving ambassador, to fight for the truth and justice in the Middle East to which he has so remarkably dedicated – and for which he has endangered -- his life.

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