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The Book of the Week is “Son of Hamas, A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices” by Mosab Hassan Yousef, with Ron Brackin, published in 2010. In this alpha-male bragfest, Yousef’s unique position as the son of a top Hamas leader afforded him special treatment at the hands of the Israelis.
Born in the West Bank (in the Middle East) in 1978, Yousef was his family’s oldest son. His father and six other men formed Hamas in 1986 in order to assert their perceived rights to the territories occupied by Israelis (Jewish people). At the end of 1987, the group encouraged discontented, impressionable youths to throw stones and burn tires in protest.
Thus began the First Intifada, which was comprised of a boatload of violence in Gaza and the West Bank (the “Occupied Territories”). In the ensuing decades, the violence waxed and waned, pursuant to shifting hatreds and alliances between and among various groups. It was actually in the best interests of most parties (whose motives differed) to keep the fighting going.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a group on the side of Palestinians– had an ideological rather than religious (Muslim) bent. Hamas had the latter; its source book, the Quran, was considered the ultimate authority governing their lives. Its leaders staged school closings and work stoppages so that they wouldn’t have to pay as much in taxes than otherwise to the Israeli government. In the early 1990’s, Hamas and the PLO took turns inciting the strikes in the West Bank.
By spring 1991, without their leaders’ permission, impatient to reclaim Palestine for themselves, some younger Hamas members armed themselves with guns (rather than stones, spray cans for graffiti and Molotov cocktails) and committed serious violence against Israelis. Hamas’ leaders didn’t want to acquire a reputation for attacking their enemies with savagery, so they created a spinoff group (called Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades) for public relations purposes, that could take responsibility for particularly ugly attacks.
The bloodshed escalated through 1992. In December, the Israeli military arrested hundreds of leading Palestinian activists of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Muslim Brotherhood. Those detained were bused to southern Lebanon and jailed. During their confinement, Hamas members allied with Hezbollah, a terrorist group based in Lebanon. Various other historical events all but guaranteed that the vendetta would plague the region for a long while.
One major sticking point in the negotiations among the warring parties was recognition of the sovereignty of Israel. In the early 1990’s, PLO leader Yasser Arafat conceded such recognition in treaty discussions. He and Israel’s prime minister Yitzhak Rabin signed a 1993 document (containing terms and conditions of a truce which didn’t last long) with the help of mediator, American president Bill Clinton.
On that territorial point, Hamas vehemently disagreed because, “… the land belonged to Allah. Period. End of discussion. Thus for Hamas, the ultimate problem was not Israel’s policies. It was the nation-state Israel’s very existence.” Hamas and Israel insisted they had to have the geographic entity they were claiming– they wouldn’t agree to settle on land elsewhere of equivalent size or value.
In 1996, at age eighteen, Yousef was an angry young man who wanted to wreak revenge by killing people such as members of the Palestinian Authority (formerly the PLO) and /or Israelis. He therefore tried to get hold of weapons through his cousin’s contacts in Nablus. He got caught. For, the Israeli intelligence service Shin Bet was tapping his phone.
Read the book to learn of how the course of events in Yousef’s life prompted a maturation process that led him to:
- quell his anger at his perceived enemies;
- play adolescent-boy spy games;
- learn Israel’s techniques for dividing and conquering their Palestinian rivals;
- learn why the United States was caught with its pants down in connection with national security that allowed 9/11 to happen;
- study the Christian bible;
- understand where his father was coming from (hint: Yousef’s father helped plot terror attacks carried out on the ground by restless young males temperamentally similar to his son, so he was able to rationalize away his sociopathic behavior); and do much more.