I just finished reading “Son of Hamas.” It was a best-seller when it was first published in 2010, and I always wanted to read it but never had time. Luckily, I had some free time last week and decided to use the opportunity to check it out. And I just couldn’t stop reading it! This book is highly recommended if you’re coming to Israel and are interested in the longtime Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It gives you a unique perspective of the conflict through the eyes of the son of a well-known Hamas terrorist.
Here’s my full book review of “Son of Hamas,” including some personal insights as a Jewish Israeli living today in Israel.
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Who is this son of Hamas?
The book was written by Mosab Hassan Yousef, the elder son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, who was one of the founders of Hamas. When Hamas was first founded, it wasn’t so powerful and deadly, but while reading Mosab’s book, you can understand how Hamas grew to be one of the leading terrorist organizations in the Middle East. Hamas is responsible for many dreadful terrorist attacks that killed hundreds of innocent Israeli civilians.
But back to Mosab. Mosab was born in 1978 and grew up in the area of Ramallah, the central city in the Palestinian territories. He was born not too long after Israel won the Six-Day War in 1967 and took control of the West Bank, which the Jewish people call Judea and Samaria. The Palestinian people living in the West Bank were under Israeli military control and had no real government. Mosab describes it as “the Wild West.” He lived in a place with no laws and no police force. People killed each other, and nobody cared.
Mosab says that his father cared deeply about his Palestinian people. He was religious and very connected to the Quran, and people respected him. Mosab also respected his father and even admired him. Throughout his entire life, Mosab did everything to protect his father, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, although he slowly-slowly became more radical and was one of the men who encouraged the terrorist attacks against innocent people.
At some point in life, Mosab thought of executing a terrorist attack himself. But then, something happened that changed his way of thinking, and Mosab ended up as a Shin Bet collaborator who helped stop many terrorist attacks and, by doing so, saved the lives of many people.
His story in “Son of Hamas” describes his journey from hating the Jews to loving them. He tells the inside story of the terrorist organizations. He shows us that people have always used fake news to gain whatever they wanted. And he points a blaming finger towards the Palestinian leaders, who seem to be busier in getting rich and powerful than in saving their own people’s lives.
You can learn more about Mosab’s views from his speech in the The Jerusalem Post‘s Annual Conference in 2019:
Personal insights from “Son of Hamas”
I always like reading books or watching movies connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially if they are shown from the Palestinian point of view. As a Jewish Israeli, I have minimal contact with the Arab-Palestinian community in Israel. While I did get to work a while with a lovely Arab Muslim woman, I still can’t help but remember an earlier encounter I had with a Palestinian man, a hotel owner in East Jerusalem. I was working on a project and wanted his hotel to become part of it. He listened to all I had to say but never replied to my follow-up email. One thing he said, and I can’t get out of my mind, is, “We Palestinians have been here for decades. We’ve survived the Crusaders, the Turks, the British. We’ll stay here also after you Israelis will be gone.”
When reading “Son of Hamas,” I remembered that meeting and my uncomfortable feeling. The Palestinians don’t want us here, no matter what we do. In his book, Mosab confirmed my feelings. He writes that the Palestinian leaders have received generous proposals from the Israelis during peace negotiations. Some leaders were willing to even give them East Jerusalem. And they declined because they want all or nothing. Or maybe they simply want to preserve their power. If there will be peace and everyone will be happy, what will the terrorist organizations have to do? They will be worthless. So they have to keep spreading hatred and turning down great deals that could have done good to their people.
So, my main insight from reading the book is – we really need good leaders from both sides. Leaders who truly care about their people and are willing to work together to provide us good lives.
Stone-throwing from two points of view
In his book, Mosab talks a lot about stone-throwing. At the beginning of the uprising against Israel, Palestinians didn’t use guns as weapons. They used stones. And Mosab describes it as harmless compared to the guns that the Israeli soldiers and settlers have. He tells how he had thrown stones at Israeli buses and cars as a child and that many children in his town did the same. And it seems like he didn’t really understand the severity of stone-throwing.
Until today, Palestinians throw stones at Israeli cars driving in the West Bank. In Israeli news, those events are called “stone terror attacks.” The rocks smash the windshield of the vehicles, panic the drivers and the other riders, and can cause injuries and even death.
There is a debate in Israel regarding the way we should deal with stonethrowers. In “Son of Hamas,” Mosab says he was once caught by an Israeli settler, taken to his settlement, and forced to walk back home barefoot because he had thrown stones at that settler’s car. It didn’t stop him from throwing more stones. He also tells that at some point, stonethrowers were shot down by the IDF. When hitting the wrong place, a stone can kill. So, the soldiers shoot to protect themselves, and today, there are very strict rules about when they are allowed to shoot and when they aren’t, trying to minimize the loss of lives.
But what will stop this stone-throwing? The Palestinians say they will not stop until the Israelis leave the Palestinian areas, but they are not willing to settle for any peace agreement.
After becoming a Shin Bet collaborator, Mosab says he was outraged to hear his were brothers throwing stones during demonstrations. He didn’t understand the parents who were okay with sending their kids to throw stones and risk their lives while the Palestinian leaders kept away from trouble and were unwilling to risk anything.
Fake news was here long ago
After reading this book, I understood fake news is not new. Today, we see it more often because we have much more access to it. Mosab mentions again and again that everybody gets the wrong picture. He does something, and people report it as something else.
One day, Al Jazeera news reported that the Israelis had attacked a crowd of Palestinians from the air during a demonstration. This, while there was a truce between them and the Palestinians. Hamas leaders rode on this story and used it as an opportunity to break the ceasefire. But Mosab couldn’t believe it. He asked his handler in the Shin Bet, who denied that Israel had done such a thing. Mosab then went to Al Jazeera and asked to watch the footage from the event. As he watched the footage, it was clear that the missiles didn’t come from the sky. They came from a truck full of missiles on the ground. The Palestinian rockets had killed their own people. But that didn’t change anything. The truce had already been broken by Hamas.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be one of the most complex because no one sees all sides of the story. We don’t know what is really happening, and we are fed to believe all kinds of things that aren’t necessarily true. Both Israelis and Palestinians. And we don’t stop to think how we can really make things better.
“Son of Hamas” is a great read that gives a unique point of view into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I’ve tried not to tell too much in this book review so you can truly enjoy the book from a first-hand experience.
If you don’t like reading, you can also watch the movie, “The Green Prince”. I watched it, too, and it offers some extra information not mentioned in the book. It’s also told by Mosab and his handler, so it’s very authentic. You can get the movie on Amazon. And if you like movies, check out >> My favorite movies about Israel.
No matter if you choose to read the book or watch the movie, the information you get is incredible.
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