ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 233

Mosab Hassan Yousef, Florida, December 2018 (Courtesy)
Mosab Hassan Yousef, Florida, December 2018 (Courtesy)
Interview'When October 7 happened it was like an earthquake for me'

‘Son of Hamas’ Mosab Hassan Yousef: ‘If we finish Rafah, we finish Hamas’

Back in the public sphere after Oct. 7, the former terror scion turned undercover Shin Bet agent laments how the Islamist group his father co-founded is tolerated in the West

Mosab Hassan Yousef, Florida, December 2018 (Courtesy)

One of the most passionate voices in support of a large-scale Israel Defense Force operation to clear Hamas from its last major stronghold in the Gaza Strip’s southernmost city of Rafah comes from a man raised by the terrorist organization.

Mosab Hassan Yousef, the disowned son of a Hamas co-founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef, told The Times of Israel last week that the Israeli government must “finish the job” in Gaza to remove Hamas from power, regardless of the unfolding situation with Iran.

“We need to go into Rafah now. Not tomorrow. What are we waiting for? We finish Rafah, we finish Hamas. This will remove them from power, which will be the first step [toward peace],” he said.

The 45-year-old was born in Ramallah and vividly remembers the foundation of Hamas in 1986. Decades ago, Yousef was dubbed the “Green Prince” (also the title of a 2014 documentary based on his autobiography) for his efforts to help Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, in thwarting terror attacks during the Second Intifada in the early 2000s.

After saving countless lives in those harrowing days, he has developed a “fundamental relationship” with the Jewish people, albeit not without bumps along the road.

His sharp-tongued criticism of Hamas has been considered too controversial by some, he said, eventually leading to his disappearance from public activism. However, the October 7 atrocities brought him back.

On that day, thousands of Hamas-led terrorists invaded southern Israel and butchered 1,200 people, most of them civilians, with stunning brutality in an orgy of violence that saw entire families burned alive, widespread rape and sexual assault, and the torture and dismemberment of victims that included women, children and infants, and the elderly. Two hundred and fifty-three people were also abducted to the Gaza Strip, where 133 are still being held hostage.

“When October 7 happened it was like an earthquake for me,” said Yousef. “I wanted to go into silence. I was leading a very simple life. But that morning, the lion within me awakened, a volcano was about to erupt. I made a decision to burn this evil down to ashes.”

‘I made a decision to burn this evil down to ashes’

Yousef warned that Iran’s latest attack against Israel with more than 300 ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and drones was “just a rehearsal. We don’t know if Iran has biological weapons, we don’t know if Iran has chemical weapons.”

Mosab Hassan Yousef addresses an American Friends of Magen David Adom event in Florida, December 2018 (Courtesy)

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is a very serious global threat, not just against Israel. Iran is not only a dictatorship, a terrorist regime, but a truly irresponsible religious leadership that is not concerned with this life; they are concerned with the afterlife. If they destroy the entire region to achieve their religious agenda — they are willing to do it,” he claimed.

Ambassador of anti-Hamas ‘hope’

Since speaking with British talk show host Piers Morgan in the early days of the war in Gaza, Yousef has again become a popular speaker on the campus circuit — though he’s not always given a warm welcome. In early April, Indiana University urged the Jewish organization IU Hillel to postpone an event featuring Yousef for “security concerns.”

The Times of Israel spoke with Yousef ahead of a planned event at UC Berkeley last week that was billed as a debate with Al Jazeera host Marc Lamont Hill. According to The Jewish News of Northern California, there were no protesters outside the auditorium, which was filled to capacity.

He was invited to Berkeley by Israel-born Siena Naaman Cohen, who saw Yousef deliver a talk at the University of Michigan a few months ago. Cohen, who lives in Lafayette, California, a few miles east of Berkeley, urged her husband, Scott, to help make this happen. Her husband graduated from UC Berkeley, and the couple is active in the local Jewish community.

Marc Lamont Hill, left, addresses Mosab Hassan Yousef in a debate at the University of California, Berkeley, on April 18, 2024. (Courtesy of Silver Cue)

October 7 was a “shock” for Cohen, who said that bringing Yousef to UC Berkeley, infamously known for its anti-Israel activism, was a significant statement, one that filled her with “hope.”

Cohen related that when she contacted the Jewish Community Center in the San Francisco Bay Area to raise funds for the event, the organization rejected the request. Her friend, attorney Michael Geller, a member of the JCC’s board of directors, resigned over the decision, she said.

Even without the fundraising help, the event in Berkeley took place as planned with no on-campus tensions — unlike the violent protest in late February that forced the cancelation and evacuation of a pro-Israel event, and the takeover of the Golden Gate Bridge by pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

“We published the event only last week, without disclosing the Jewish groups behind it,” Cohen noted. “In just one or two days, 500 people signed up. The university gave us a hall with 237 seats.”

‘Jewish groups consider me controversial’

Yousef, who has converted to Christianity, sought political asylum in the United States in 2007, after which he published an autobiography titled “Son of Hamas.” In it, he details how he became a spy for Israel, speaks about the brutal Hamas regime, and discusses how he became disillusioned with Hamas’s ideology.

From left to right: Dr. Scott Cohen, Mosab Hassan Yousef , and Siena Naaman Cohen in Los Angeles, April 18, 2024. (Courtesy of the Cohens)

“The Islamic ideological dimension, their hatred toward the Jews, is something that we need to address. We cannot keep hiding. Every time I bring up the topic everybody just closes their ears. Even some Israelis, they don’t want to hear it,” Yousef said.

Yousef said he is frustrated by the Jewish organizations, campuses and institutions that don’t invite him to speak to students about the conflict with his firsthand knowledge of the workings of the notorious terrorist organization.

“I could have been educating students about Islamists, about Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and even Iran. This is my field,” Yousef said. “But for some reason, some Jewish organizations still consider me controversial; they look at me even in suspicion, which is very hard for me to say.”

“Most people don’t want to face the truth,” he said. “When I touch the religious and ideological aspect of the conflict, which is fundamental — I cannot ignore it — when I say Islam is a problem, many Jewish organizations say: Wait a moment, he will be considered an Islamophobe, that’s not how we want to represent ourselves.”

The former spy noted with bitter irony that those who were supposed to be his friends were critical of his messages, while the pro-Palestinians accused him of being funded by the Israeli government and Zionist organizations such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) — all while he was advocating for Israel at his own expense.

‘I’m following my moral compass and taking my own moral responsibility’

“I’m following my moral compass and taking my own moral responsibility. For me this is not a business, it’s the future of children, the future of the region, the future of humanity; it’s a fundamental fight,” Yousef said.

October 7 ‘seeps to the depths of my soul’

Yousef approaches the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in black-and-white terms: right and wrong, good versus evil. Having witnessed the terrorist organization’s cruelty against its own members while he was imprisoned in Israel in his late teens, Yousef has taken on the task of warning people against the Islamist power that now reigns in Gaza.

Mosab's autobiographical book 'Son of Hamas' (photo credit: courtesy/Tyndale Publishers)
Mosab Hassan Yousef’s autobiography, ‘Son of Hamas.’ (photo credit: courtesy/Tyndale Publishers)

“For many years I warned Israel, I warned the global community. I wrote a book about it in detail; I appeared on so many media outlets saying that Hamas is not good news. I was sentenced to death [by Hamas] in the process. But instead of listening to my warnings as an eyewitness from the ground, I got canceled,” Yousef said.

While Yousef initially avoided watching the footage of Hamas’s atrocities on October 7, he eventually mustered the strength to view it.

“When I look at this it is very personal… and I am very frustrated. I don’t want to say that this is my war, but it seeps into the depths of my soul. I cannot help but now yell. I’m shouting out loud and people are still not listening,” he lamented.

Yousef speaks with great pain about Hamas’s strengthening. Allowing it to rule over Gaza was a “big mistake,” he said, adding that to reverse course now and revive the more peaceful days once shared by Israelis and Palestinians would require an ideological reboot from the ground up.

“I’m not trying to ignite a religious war because there is already a religious war,” he said. “I’m trying to turn this around by saying you cannot weaponize your Islamic, religious identity against a religious minority and expect to get away with it. I have to call them out.”

‘I’m not trying to ignite a religious war because there is already a religious war’

People cite land, occupation, or colonization as the primary causes of the conflict while ignoring the fundamentalist religious aspect, “which is how Hamas is winning the PR war,” Yousef said.

When discussing his renunciation of Hamas and abandoning his religious and tribal identity, Yousef recalled what was at stake. Entrusted with the Hamas finances at one point, Yousef had financial security, social prestige, and a well-connected Palestinian family. But to Yousef, all of it was “death.”

“You need to defy death in order to live. Suppose we do not make our peace with death… In that case, people bullying us, people trying to control us in the name of God, in the name of religion — at some point [you] have to rebel,” he said.

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