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Born Hamas, turned Shin Bet

How the son of a Hamas founder ended up an Israeli agent, as told by the "Green Prince" himself.

An Israeli carries a cardboard cutout of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit during a protest outside the residence of Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem Jan. 26, 2010. Confessed Shin Bet operative Mosab Yousef expressed a desire to be in Gaza so that he could secure Shalit's release. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Parents often lament that their kids don’t follow them into their chosen professions. They ought to think themselves lucky. They could be Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founder of the Islamic militant group Hamas whose son converted to Christianity and became a key Israeli agent.

Mosab Hassan Yousef, 32, reveals his secret life in a book to be published next week “Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices” (Salt River Publishers).

A few days ago on his Facebook fan page, Yousef announced that he’d given an interview with the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz about the contents of the book. “The story will blow your minds away, it is going to be like a tsunami in the Middle East, couple of days later it will spread like a wild fire,” he wrote.

The tsunami was that Yousef’s previous account of his struggles — that he had turned against the violent ways of Hamas and, consequently, rejected Islam as a religion of hatred and violence — wasn’t the whole story. In fact, Yousef had been an agent for the Israeli Shin Bet domestic security service during the intifada, informing on the very organization of which his father, Sheikh Hassan, was a prominent leader.

His actions earned Yousef the codename “Green Prince” from the Shin Bet, a reference to the Islamic green of Hamas’s flags.

The account in Ha’aretz Wednesday was verified by Gideon Ezra, an Israeli legislator who’s a former deputy chief of the Shin Bet.

Yousef’s father was a founder of Hamas and is currently serving a six-year sentence in an Israeli jail. The younger Yousef has said that he turned against Hamas when he realized that his father, who’s seen as a relative moderate, didn’t represent the heart of the organization. Yousef saw that core as rotten with a self-destructive hatred that brought down disaster on the Palestinian people.

Sheikh Yousef’s reputation as a moderate, of course, doesn’t preclude him giving fiery speeches about the victory of Islam in battle — which I witnessed several times at his mosque in al-Bireh, a city abutting Ramallah.