By Michael Ashcraft
As a Palestian boy, Mosab Hassan Yousef hurled stones at Israeli tanks and ran from bullets on the West Bank. But misgivings about the Intifada arose when he saw Hamas leaders torture fellow Palestinians in an Israeli jail.
“Those people I was hoping would bring justice, happiness to earth by creating a global Islamic state were torturing their own people. They were suspicious that someone was giving information to the Israeli interrogators,” Yousef said in a YouTube video.
“They were torturing their own people without mercy, much worse than the Israelis. One question arose, why do I hate Israel for torturing me and why don’t I hate Hamas for torturing their own people? What my enemy was doing made more sense than what my family and closest friends were doing.”
During his jail sentence, Yousef, then 18, signed up to work as a double agent. He did so thinking he would infiltrate and exact revenge on Shin Bet, the Israeli version of the FBI. But as he witnessed more and more Hamas’ brutality, that plan got scuttled and he collaborated with Israeli intelligence to foil Palestinian plots. He worked to stop senseless deaths on both sides.
He agreed to betray his countrymen on the condition that the Israelis not assassinate but only imprison. He even betrayed his father, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founder member of the anti-Israel, pro-Paletinian group Hamas.
“I was the person that put my father in prison. I was working against his organization to destroy the idea of violence.” Yousef said. “If he’s outside, he was going to be assassinated. The safest place for him was in a prison.”
From 1997 to 2007, Yousef halted assassination attempts against Israeli leaders and put high-ranking Hamas leaders behind bars.
After a cab driver invited him to a Bible study, he was confronted with Jesus’ injunction to love your enemy. “That made perfect sense,” he said. From his birth, he had been drilled to regard the Israelis as his enemies.
Leaders of the Bible study gave him an Arabic-English Bible. At first they didn’t know his terrorist connections. As he searched and questioned, he eventually accepted Jesus as his Savior, and in 2005 he was secretly baptized in Tel Aviv.
“The religion of my people is a fake religion. It’s a lie. The god of Islam is a liar,” Yousef said. “I hope that I am not offending anybody. This is kind of dangerous to say, but I have studied Islam. My family started the Islamic Revolution in the Middle East. That was our business. This is still my family’s business. After almost 20 years in Islam, I tell you that Islam is going nowhere. My family, my people are suffering the most because of this false teaching.”
On the eve of the release of his autobiography Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices, his father disowned him in 2010.
“I am hopeful that one day we will talk,” Yousef said. “What’s between me and my people, what’s between me and my father, is the god of Islam. This wall. If I can destroy this wall, I will do it with the power of love and the power of my God. I have been paying a very high price because they consider me politically incorrect.”
Yousef was the oldest of nine children born in Ramallah, six miles north of Jerusalem on the contentious West Bank. From a young age, he was indoctrinated to hate Israel for political, ideological and religious reasons.
“The god of Islam doesn’t like Jews. Mohammad doesn’t like Jews. He described Jews as pigs and monkeys,” Yousef said. “Mohammad is the highest example for them. If Mohammad killed Jews, they have religious reasons to kill Jews. They worship the god of the Koran by killing Jews.”
With his family and others, he organized the First Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, to fight the “illegitimate occupiers” of Israel from 1987 to ’91. As he grew older, his commitment intensified, and at 18 years old, he bought guns. This caught the attention of Israeli security forces, and he was arrested.
His disillusionment with the movement of his father and family led him to eventually become an “undercover Christian” in a small church in Jerusalem. After six months attending the church, members found out that Yousef had been previously a terrorist, and they began to fear him, Yousef said.
“If Hamas knew those young people converted me to Christianity, they would kill all of them. For their safety, I didn’t tell them, ‘I am a Christian,’” he said. “Every time they looked at me like, ‘What are you doing here? You’re not more than a son of a terrorist.’ I looked at them, like, ‘Guys, I’m one of you.’”
It took him six years of studying Christianity and comparing its teachings with Islam. For good measure, he even compared Hinduism in a brutally honest quest for truth. Questioning the religion of his childhood and his family was not easy, but he vowed to learn the truth regardless of the consequences.
“It was a very difficult thing for me to do,” Yousef said. “I took the risks of the journey. At the beginning, I saw Jesus Christ as a great teacher. But later on, I adopted Him as my Lord, God and Savior. It was a whole process.”
When Yousef worked for Israeli intelligence, the Shin Bet even orchestrated an arrest raid on him to throw off Palestinian suspicion. Because he knew beforehand, Yousef escaped “arrest” moments before soldiers arrived.
For 10 years, he worked as a spy neutralizing terrorist attacks. But he began to grow disillusioned with Shin Bet because he realized that they weren’t winning the fight. For every plotter he put behind bars, more rose up to replace them. It became a game of whack a mole.
Yousef recognized that the battle was spiritual more than military.
“I understood that we were fighting a ghost,” he said. “We need to fight their ideology. We need to fight their fake god, their fake prophet. No government on earth can fight ideology. You can only fight ideology with another ideology. Today when I fight the god of Islam that represents hate and revenge, I fight him only with one God that represents pure unconditional love.”
He moved to San Diego in 2007 and joined the Barabbas Road Church. He publicly proclaimed his Christianity the following year and published his autobiography in 2010.
But if he left the war behind, Yousef’s trials were far from over in the United States. He thought his intentions would be understood, but instead he endured a deportation trial based on his confession of belonging to the terrorist group Hamas. He stood to be forcibly repatriated to the Palestinians – a move that would be certain death for him.
In his trial, his former handler Gonen Ben-Itzhak unmasked himself and testified on Yousef’s behalf. “He risked his life every day in order to prevent violence,” Ben-Itzhak told the immigration judge, who granted political asylum in June 2010.
His life was the subject of the German documentary The Green Prince – from his codename at Shin Bet – in 2014.
“I was born in the heart of Hamas, and I was in heart of the Israeli Shin Bet. I was in every meeting for the Palestinian Intifada. Muslims have a great zeal for their god. They think they have God Almighty. They believe that if they go blow themselves up and kill a thousand Jews – or any infidel, anyone outside the body of Islam – to them, they are going to heaven, and they’re having the 72 virgins, and they’re having all type of fun and their crazy fantasy.”
For Yousef, the path to peace in the Middle East is neither Muslim appeasement nor military might. It is prayer and the preaching of the gospel. He identifies technology as a powerful tool to get the message of Christianity in behind the enemy lines.
“When any seculars come and tell me I’m doing this wrong, I tell them if you have five guys with my experience, let them come and we can talk. In Islam, I was one of the best Muslims. In Shin Bet, I was one of the best agents. To defeat its ideology, you cannot be politically correct. We need to go to their minds, their areas. Thank God for technology. We can outreach to everybody everywhere.”
Michael Ashcraft teaches journalism at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa