Things were peaceful, Mosab’s relationship with Shin Bet became very relaxed. Then things changed:
Yasser Arafat had grown extraordinarily wealthy as the international symbol of victimhood. He wasn’t about to surrender that status and take on the responsibility of actually building a functioning society. So he insisted that all the refugees be permitted to the land they had owned prior to 1967—a condition that he was confident Israel would not accept (p.126).That has been the continuing tragedy of Palestinian politics, leaders who have been much more interested in maintaining their own power and position than serving their people’s interests. Back in the 1920s and 1930s, the Mufti of Jerusalem had acted to protect the interests of a landlord class that had nothing to offer the processes of modernisation the Jewish immigrants were letting loose—in their different ways, Arafat and Hamas continued in this sad and destructive tradition. At President Clinton’s Camp David talks, Israeli PM Ehud Barak had made the most generous Israeli offer ever, Arafat had rejected it and came back home a hero to Palestinian nationalism.
One cost was that the American political class essentially gave up on Arafat. But that was much less important than:
For Arafat, there always seemed to be more to gain if Palestinians were bleeding. Another intifada would surely get the blood flowing and the Western news cameras rolling once again (p.127).An excuse was needed.
“What’s going on?” I asked my dad.In previous weeks, the Muslim controlling authority on the Temple Mount had been systematically bulldozing away evidence of its (particularly Jewish) past. Sharon’s visit was a message to Israeli voters that he would stop this destruction. He turned up, looked around, and left, never entering the mosque. But a Second Intifada was duly manufactured, something that Arafat and the PA leaders had been planning for months, even before the Camp David (Pp129ff).
“Sharon is scheduled to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque tomorrow and the PA [Palestinian Authority] believes that this is a good opportunity to launch an uprising” (p.128).
A process helped by much of the Western media’s implicit acceptance that Palestinians are entitled to act like violent, narcissistic children.
Mosab’s father was caught in the middle, as Hamas was unable to outflanked in aggressive “resistance” by Arafat even though Arafat was clearly using (and intending to use up) Hamas. But the Intifada took on a life of its own, and was far more suited to Hamas than the corrupt PA: Hamas grew stronger. One can see the affinity with fascism and Nazism in Islamist and Arab nationalist politics: atavistic celebration of the past, elevation of collective harmony, glorification of violence—a sadly familiar mix. The escalating cycle of violence energised Mosab to work far more actively with Shin Bet (Pp132ff).
Mosab became “the Green Prince”, his Shin Bet codename; a 22 year old in constant contact with the religious and military wings of both the PA and Hamas, as his father was someone everyone would deal with and Mosab became his driver, assistant and bodyguard. Indeed, protecting his father became a motive for helping Shin Bet (Pp135ff). What Mosab saw just alienated him even more from the Palestinian leadership:
Amazingly in the midst of their sorrow and anger, the people seemed extremely grateful for the Palestinian leaders like my father who had come to share it with them. Yet these were the very Palestinian leaders who had led them and their children like goats to the slaughter and then ducked out of range to watch the carnage from a comfortable distance. This sickened me more than the gore (p.144).Mosab witnessed Palestinian leaders bickering over who would control what funeral arrangements:
The competing factions had been reduced to ridiculous bickering over the dead (p.144).Saddam Hussein paid $10,000 dollars to the family of anyone killed fighting the Israelis, $25,000 for each suicide bomber, $35m in two-and-a-half years:
You could say a lot about this mindless battle over real estate. But you could not say that life was cheap (p.145).Mosab’s story becomes a real-life spy drama as he manoeuvres between his roles and worked to help the Israelis foil, break up or kill terrorists (particularly the organisers), his growing Christian faith being a great comfort (Pp147ff).
That Hamas was not a conventional organisation showed up in that:
… the Hamas military wing consisted of only about ten people who operated independently, had their own budgets, and never met together unless it was urgent (p.211).The death of Arafat left a political vacuum: he had centralised everything in his own hands. Hamas debated over whether to participate in the PA elections—electoral politics meant compromise, the loss of ideological purity. Mosab’s father felt that a Hamas electoral victory would be a disaster, given its rigid contrarian nature and the ignorance and irresponsibility of its leaders. Frustrated by so much around him, Mosab was inspired to start up a small business providing home computers, which rapidly became very successful.
A friend introduced him to the Coptic priest Zakaria Botros whose televised forensic dissection of the Qur’an helped complete Mosab’s conversion to Christianity. (This article on Father Botros tells more.) An American Christian girl from San Diego gave Mosab a secret baptism in the sea off Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, things were getting worse. A Hamas munitions dump blew up during a Hamas rally, killing many people. Hamas blamed Israel and launched missiles. The Israelis retaliated, and the cycle of violence re-awakened. Mosab and his father went back to prison (Pp212ff).
When he came out, Mosab felt his life was going nowhere and nothing could be done to break the cycle of violence. As he told his Shin Bet contact:
Our enemies are ideas, and ideas don’t care about incursions and curfews. We can’t blow up an idea with a Merkava. You are not our problem and we are not yours. We’re all like rats trapped in a maze (p.236).Mosab decided he wanted to leave the Middle East and migrate to the US, even though Shin Bet offered to set him up as head of a new major communications company in the Palestinian territories. He moved to the US in 2008. In January, 2008 he gave an interview with Haaretz about becoming a Christian. His father was appalled and shocked but continued to stay in contact. In March 2010, the day before the first edition of Son of Hamas came out, his father disowned him (Pp237ff).
Mosab believes the only way forth for the Middle East is truth and forgiveness (Pp247ff). The final irony is that, before the first edition of the book came out, US Homeland Security wanted to deport him as a terrorist threat. His Shin Bet contact (no longer with Shin Bet) came and testified on his behalf (not something that made him popular with Shin Bet), having become a valued friend. Mosab lodged a draft of Son of Hamas as evidence, which Homeland Security attempted to use, by selective citation, as evidence against him. Various members of Congress, of the Knesset and a former Director of the CIA wrote on his behalf. Homeland Security dropped their application for his deportation, and he won his case, gaining political asylum in the US (Pp253). His book ends on a very Christian note, expressing his Christian faith and the hope of forgiveness as the way forward (Pp262ff).
Son of Hamas is autobiography, social and political analysis, true-life spy thriller, conversion text and religious meditation woven together in a very revealing and engaging book. It can be read for all these reasons. I am struck by the perceptive and informative way Mosab analyses emotionally fraught events that he was at the heart of. He makes his extraordinary personal story a window into the heart of events that allows one greater understanding of conflicts that are so often distorted through various preconceptions and misleading conventional wisdom. It is an enthralling and revealing read.