Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Son of Hamas by Mosab Hassan Yousef

Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices

This book left me terribly conflicted. I was forming an opinion of the author and his actions as I read, but his postscript turned my opinions around at the end. I was left with lots of discussion material, and lots of questions. This is a great reading club book.

This man, born and raised in the Palestinian settlements of the West Bank, is the son of a leading Hamas figure. Jailed by the Israelis at eighteen years old, he becomes an informant for the Shin Bet, the Israeli intelligence service upon his release. His recruitment is detailed in the book, and it is classic. The good-looking, polite, smiling, soft-talking, friendly blond recruiter takes this essentially fatherless youth from an extreme prison situation and explains the delicacy of his position.

One can only imagine the exhaustion of those involved with demands for Palestinian rights--over forty years they have been living in increasingly putrid settlements feasting on hate and resentment. I am not going to judge this man, but I will say that I was aghast and horrified to read of his role as informant. I completely understand how one can see the contradictions in the Qur'an, and reject its literalness. I completely understand how one would want to get away from the misinformation, boredom, sanctity-of-death mirage, and cruel inequities of life on the West Bank as a Palestinian. He sounds like an ordinary young man with extraordinary demands placed upon him.

Yousef is clearly a religious man. His father is a cleric, and taught him the importance of the written word. When Yousef failed to find comfort and peace (and perhaps justification for his chosen path) in the words and teachings of the Qur'an, he found what he sought in the words of Jesus Christ in the Bible's New Testament. I was astonished to read in his early years studying Christianity that he found no violence or vengeance in the Bible. Later we learn he'd never read the Old Testament. Years on now, he has probably found that Christians can be as closed and vehement and intolerant as any Muslim, as full of righteous indignation and fervid vengeance as any Israeli Jew. And none of it matters so much as the constant, plodding insistence on trying to see and speak reason, to live an admirable and courageous life, to give and receive love. I imagine all the religions write about this, but hardly anyone actually lives it. It is not for me to judge Yousef. That is between him and his God.

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