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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.

The sheikh’s broad white mosque with its plain carpeted floors is a long way from the Barabbas Road Church in San Diego, Calif., where Mosab Yousef now worships.

The last time I saw Sheikh Yousef during the intifada, he claimed that as a representative of Hamas he was in contact with U.S. diplomats via a European intermediary. “And I know that what I tell the Americans they will tell Israel,” he said, “so, yes, I’m talking to the Israelis.”

In Hamas, that makes him pretty moderate.

The following week, Sheikh Yousef was arrested by the Shin Bet.

In prison, according to Mosab Yousef, his father was devastated by the news that his son had become a Christian. The sheikh refused to disown his son, however, because that would imply consent to the boy’s murder.

Former Shin Bet deputy chief Ezra said Mosab Yousef was recruited as an agent while being held in an Israeli jail. Ezra, like several anonymous Shin Bet sources quoted by Ha’aretz, said Yousef’s information helped prevented numerous suicide bombings and saved many Israeli lives.

Most Palestinian informers — or collaborators, as Palestinians call them — are recruited either in jail or when they visit Israeli military bases to obtain travel permits. The collaboration begins with something small and apparently harmless, in return for permission to travel through army checkpoints for medical treatment in Jerusalem, say. By the time the Palestinian realizes he’s a fully fledged collaborator, the Shin Bet are able to control him by the threat of exposure.

In Mosab Yousef’s case, no such threats were needed, it seems. In the Ha’aretz interview, he expresses a desire to be in Gaza so that he could secure the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held hostage there, and end the suffering of Gaza’s people under the Hamas regime.

A Hamas leader, Ismail Radwan, denounced the report as an attempt to undermine Sheikh Youssef’s standing. "The Palestinian people have great confidence in Hamas and its struggle and they will not be fooled by this slander and these lies of the Israeli occupation," he said.

Editor's note: This article was updated to correct the surnames of Mosab Hassan Yousef and his father, Sheikh Yousef.