Father and Son

Mike Moore reviews the international bestselling biography of former Palestinian terrorist Mosab Hassan Yousef, Son of Hamas.

When the news that a celebrity or public figure has “found God” or is “born again”, more often than not it is greeted with hilarity, scorn or scepticism. But when it became known that the son of the founder of one of the most notorious terror organisations in the world had become a Christian and had had to flee for his life to America, the comments were either muted or silent, at least in the UK.

As I write, I’m in America and over the last couple of evenings the television news has carried stories of the Obama administration’s attempts to deport a young Palestinian called Mosab Hassan Yousef for links to terrorism. Yousef, referred to in the news headlines as “the Son of Hamas”, has been seeking asylum in the States after fleeing the Palestinian Authority, and last night Yousef claimed he would be dead “within ten minutes” of stepping off the plane if he was sent home. The news tonight is that America’s homeland security will allow Mosab Hassan Yousef to stay in America.

Yousef’s story, up to the time he fled to America, is told in gripping detail in Son of Hamas. He chronicles how his father Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a moderate Palestinian activist, became a founder and one of the key figures of the terror organisation Hamas and how he reluctantly but inexorably climbed the ladder of Islam until he finally embraced the Islamic doctrine of jihad. Yousef himself was sucked into the same world of terror, violence and political intrigue at a young age but, through a Christian Bible study, he was introduced to the teachings of Jesus and thereafter became increasingly disaffected with the way of violence. He came to the point where he recognised that “the [Israeli] occupation was not to blame for our suffering. Our problem was much bigger than armies and politics”.

I asked myself what Palestinians would do if Israel disappeared—if everything not only went back to the way it was before 1948 but if all the Jewish people abandoned the Holy Land and were scattered again. And for the first time, I knew the answer.

We would still fight. Over nothing. Over a girl without a head scarf. Over who was toughest and most important. Over who would make the rules and who would get the best seat.

It was the end of 1999. I was twenty-one years old. My life had begun to change…

For more than a decade, Yousef was one of Shin Bet’s most valuable spies as he worked undercover, supplying Israel’s intelligence service with information that enabled them to prevent acts of terrorism against Israel’s citizens. Intertwined with the stories of Yousef and his father are details of the origins of the conflict in the Middle East, the growth and development of Palestinian terrorism and the true reason for the second Intifada.

Although Yousef’s attitude to Israel has changed radically, he remains critical of some aspects of Israel policy vis-à-vis the Palestinian people but Israeli errors of judgement and acts of torture (Yousef does not tell us that the Israeli Supreme Court banned torture in 1999) pale as he leads the reader into the shadowy and terrifying world of Palestinian terrorism, revealing Hamas’s reign of terror over the very people it was founded ostensibly to liberate.

Though it deals with politics and cultures, Son of Hamas is essentially the story of how a young Muslim committed to violent resistance was changed, first of all by encountering the teachings of Jesus and then by the person of Jesus. As a consequence, Mosab Hassan Yousef came to see that the answer to the Israeli-Palestinian problem is not politics but a Person. The solution to the problem, he says, is not something to be “discovered” but to be “embraced” by both sides.

There will, of course, be some who view Yousef’s story with scepticism and see him as a pawn of Israel and America. There are those who will continue to see Israel as the villain of the peace and Hamas and Hezbollah as unfortunate necessities brought into being through Israeli intransigence. They will point to the fact that there are Israelis and Jews who are fiercely critical of the Jewish state. Fair enough; but when did you ever hear of an Israeli dissident who had to flee the country for fear of his or her life? And why is it that Palestinian dissenters and people of conscience and faith, such as Mosab Hassan Yousef, are not safe among the people they continue to love?

Son of Hamas

Mosab Hassan Yousef with Ron Brackin

265 + xv pages


Available from the CWI Bookroom for £10.50, including p&p.

Visit Mosab Hassan Yousef’s blog: at

Autumn Herald 2010

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