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Jewish Journal

Our man in Hamas

by Brad A. Greenberg

February 28, 2010 | 10:09 pm

I think Graham Greene would have liked that headline. But did the Haaretz story about Mosab Yousef, the son of a Hamas founder who spied for Israel, live up to the hype? I’d say so.

If nothing else, it looks like Yousef lived up to his billing as a crucial source of intelligence:

During that period he prevented dozens of suicide-bombing attempts and uncovered terrorist cells - including those planning to assassinate senior Israeli figures, such as Shimon Peres, then foreign minister, and Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The Shin Bet considered Yousef the most reliable and most senior agent it had succeeded in running at the top levels of Hamas. Within the organization he was known as the “Green Prince”: “prince,” because he was the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, one of the people who founded Hamas and one of its leaders in the West Bank, and “green” for the color of the Islamist organization’s flag.

During the grimmest period of the second intifada, Yousef brought about the arrest of the most wanted terrorists on Israel’s list, those who are mentioned repeatedly in the headlines - among them Ibrahim Hamed and Marwan Barghouti. He even agreed to the arrest of his father, who is still in jail today, to prevent his assassination by Israel. This is the story of an intelligent young man who acts courageously against the movement in which he was raised in an effort to save lives, and manages to persuade the Shin Bet to arrest wanted individuals instead of killing them.

“Captain Loai” - as Yousef’s handler in the Shin Bet was known at the time - makes no secret of his admiration for his “source”: “So many people owe him their lives and don’t even know it,” he says. “People who did a lot less were awarded the Israel Security Prize. He certainly deserves it. I knew him for six years, as a coordinator and as a district director. And I tell you, that if we had X number of intelligence coordinators in the region, thanks to him we had X+1. He was the extra coordinator. You know what? He was better than most of us - no offense to anyone.”

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Yousef said he had not planned to become an informer and did not make the decision all of a sudden: “I was taken to the detention facility, [which we call] the ‘Muskobiya,’ where I underwent harsh torture and was beaten repeatedly in the interrogation. My hands were tightly bound. Then this Shin Bet man arrived and suggested that I work with him. I did not ask for money, as my financial situation was good. I thought of telling him that I would accept the offer, and then become a double agent and take revenge on the Shin Bet and on Israel for arresting me and for the things that were done to my father.

“My plan,” he continues, “was to collect information about the Shin Bet from within and use it against Israel. I knew that it was a dark, evil organization run by evil people who were doing terrible things, like forcing people to become collaborators. After I agreed, I was kept in jail for 16 months, because if I were released too quickly it might stir suspicion that I had become a Shin Bet agent.” In prison he saw appalling things.

“I was in jail with Hamas people, with senior figures in the organization who ran an apparatus called Majad, a kind of internal security body of Hamas aimed at uncovering Israeli agents. They tortured prisoners, most of them from Hamas, whom they suspected of collaboration. My job was to write down the confessions and testimonies. As the sheikh’s son, I was trusted. It was there that I lost my faith in Hamas. They killed people for no reason. While everyone was warning me about the Shin Bet, for the first time in my life I saw Hamas people torturing their comrades, members of their nation, with exceptional cruelty. The truth was of no interest to them. If they so much as suspected someone, that was the end of him. They tortured people brutally, burned them, jabbed them with needles, put out cigarettes on them.”

There’s a lot more from reporter Avi Issacharoff’s conversations with Yousef. Read it here.

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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