Book Review – Son of Hamas

Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political and Unthinkable Choices

By Mosab Hassan Yousef 
240 pages, Authentic Media
ISBN 9781850789857

Goodreads rating: 4.15 out of 5

Unless you have the emotions of a tree trunk, you will be affected by the reading of this book. Maybe not as much as I was, but you will be moved somehow. 

Reading Son of Hamas was a journey of revulsion and sympathy. I hated the evil acts but at the same time, felt sorry for the perpetrators’ blindness. I felt the hopelessness of the Palestinian civilians caught in the conflict, yet there is a sliver of hope amidst the deep human misery in this Israeli-Palestinian war.  

Son of Hamas is the absorbing autobiography of Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of a founding leader of Hamas. If you want a quick lesson on the genesis and evolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this is the book to read. Mosab gives you the inside story, from the perspective of one who was born into and lived in this long-drawn war. Want to know how the Palestinians started throwing stones at the Israelis? How it progressed to throwing burning tyres and Molotov cocktails and finally, the deadly suicide bombing? This book tells you.

The pace is fast and edgy, right from the beginning. Mosab chronicles his arrest by Shinbet* for the petty act of possessing a gun, joining the Shinbet as their spy, but for a hidden, well-disguised motive. Along the way, he bumps into a group of Christians. Out of curiosity, he starts attending their weekly meetings and encounters Jesus in their Bible studies. It is Jesus’ radical teachings (e.g. love your enemies) that slowly transform him from a murderous Israeli hater to a peace-loving desperado.

The book focuses on his thrilling spy accounts – the carnage he helps to foil, his prison stays, and the horrific torture by Hamas against any Palestinian suspected of giving information to Israel. Meanwhile, the various Palestinian political groups are totally absorbed in their internal power struggle. The author paints them as greedy manipulators, capitalising on the Palestinians’ hatred of Israel to deepen their pockets through the generous donations from their sympathisers

Hassan also chronicles his budding relationship with his Israeli contact in Shinbet. It’s a charming story of two men on opposite sides of the conflict who become such firm friends that they are willing to risk their lives for each other.

One thing that sticks out like a sore thumb in the book is that all mainstream media have a point of view, no matter how they boast about their neutrality. Yousef singles out one very popular news channel (if not the most popular in the Middle East) for its skewed, untrue portrayal of events in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to encourage affection for the Palestinians. So, we should watch/read the news with suspicious eyes.

Because the book focuses on his spy activities, Mosab’s recount of his conversion to Christianity seems secondary. Yet, it was the current that changed the course of his life, and which drowned his relationship with his family, especially his beloved father.

I wished Mosab had given the specifics of his journey to Christ – how he came to the conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah, whether he saw visions and dreamed dreams, like many in his part of the world have experienced, etc. Perhaps that’s another book. For now, do read Son of Hamas and be encouraged by God’s wondrous work in the Middle East.

* Shinbet is one of the three Israeli intelligence organisations. It works under the radar and is largely invisible.

This month’s review was written and contributed by a member of our PJEFC library.

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