When I first heard about Son of Hamas, I remember thinking it must be a novel. After all, any book that involved the son of a Hamas founder becoming a spy for the Israeli government had to be fiction, right? Never for a second did I think that the book was a memoir. But it was.
When I started reading Mosab Hassan Yousef’s book, I thought that I’d never be able to keep all the groups (Hamas, Fatah, PLO, Al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, etc.) straight. But that is one of the wonders of the book. For the first time I have a grasp on who are these people are, what they want, and why. And even if you don’t agree with his conclusions, the clear writing by someone who loves people on all sides of the conflict helps you finally understand what’s going on.
Beyond the conflict itself is the story of Mosab. Growing up in a strict Muslim home, learning about terror first hand, experiencing torture and betrayal, protecting his family, choosing to love his enemies and fighting both sides to prevent murder. It’s an amazing story.
Interestingly, it is written with a restrained hand. Perhaps because I’m a fiction writer, I often thought, “Wow, this could have been written in much bolder way.” But I suspect that Mr. Yousef wouldn’t want that. Though he admits he found the spying “addictive,” he presents the work that he did with great humility. His goal in the book is to explain what he did and why and to point his reader to a better way—to replace hate, vengeance and bitterness with love.
Threaded throughout the novel is Mosab’s experience with the Bible. And though it’s only at the end of the book that he talks about his conversion to Christianity, it’s the words from Matthew 5 “Love your enemy” that alter his life forever. It’s this idea that he holds out as the hope for not only the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but also for us all.