2011-02-24 / Community

‘Son of Hamas’ speaks in T.O.

Hundreds pass through tight security to attend
By Jessica Chadbourn
Special to the Acorn


HERO OR TRAITOR?— Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of one of the founders of the militant group Hamas, speaks to an audience of 1,000 people Monday at the Hyatt Westlake Plaza. Yousef, under the protection of several bodyguards, discussed his book, “Son of Hamas,” in which he explains how he went from the organization’s inner circle to being a spy for the Israeli government. 
IRIS SMOOTAcorn Newspapers HERO OR TRAITOR?— Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of one of the founders of the militant group Hamas, speaks to an audience of 1,000 people Monday at the Hyatt Westlake Plaza. Yousef, under the protection of several bodyguards, discussed his book, “Son of Hamas,” in which he explains how he went from the organization’s inner circle to being a spy for the Israeli government. IRIS SMOOTAcorn Newspapers The line to enter the Hyatt Westlake Plaza’s Grand Ballroom was out the door Monday night, and not just because the event was sold out.

Attendees were required to undergo a security screening to hear the controversial speaker: Mosab Hassan Yousef, the Palestinianborn son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founding leader of Hamas. The militant organization is devoted to the formation of an Islamic state in Israel.

Yousef was invited to speak by the Conejo Jewish Academy.

“I felt that his was a message that needed to be heard,” said Rabbi Moshe Bryski, executive director of Chabad of the Conejo, which operates the academy. “He speaks having seen both sides and can give us an inside glimpse into the world of the Palestinian people and its leadership.”


BIG DRAW—A crowd fills the Hyatt Westlake Plaza on Monday to hear Mosab Hassan Yousef speak with North County Chabad Center’s Rabbi David Eliezrie. 
IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers BIG DRAW—A crowd fills the Hyatt Westlake Plaza on Monday to hear Mosab Hassan Yousef speak with North County Chabad Center’s Rabbi David Eliezrie. IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers Raised amidst the inner workings of Hamas, Yousef began to question the organization’s motives during one of several imprisonments by the Israeli secret police.

“As a child I learned only how to hate,” Yousef told the standingroom only crowd. “But now, this is a time we need to look to the future and move on.”

After discovering that Hamas was torturing its own people based on “suspicions,” Yousef became a spy for Israel and a double agent within Hamas for almost 10 years, in spite of the repercussions he knew he would face.

“It was a very difficult life,” said Yousef, who endured torture while in prison. “We can’t fight an idea with a gun or a tank. You have to fight an idea with another idea.”

Yousef said he discovered “lies and shocking truths” about Hamas and details his experiences in the book “Son of Hamas,” published last year.

The book’s release caused his now-imprisoned father to disown him. Calling his father “a victim of his own government,” Yousef said he wrote the book to rid himself of the enemies’ “shame, guilt and fear.”

His mission, he said, is to liberate his people from “a false god.”

“You have to make choices,” Yousef said. “You either become a coward and you stick your head in the sand, or you stand up and save human lives. This is what really matters.”

Yousef became a Christian and sought political asylum in the United States, which U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (R-Sherman Oaks) noted before presenting him with an American flag Monday night. He introduced Yousef as “a man of great courage and conviction.”

Yousef told the audience that Muslims need to understand the “true nature of Islam” in order for change to occur in Palestine.

“They focus on chanting rules without understanding their meaning,” he said. “We need to expose the very nature of Islam and tell the truth the way it is. Palestinians need to live in peace, but they are being lied to.”

The event was sponsored by the Conejo Jewish Academy, a project of Chabad of the Conejo. Rabbi David Eliezrie, founder of the Chabad Center in Yorba Linda, interviewed Yousef during the presentation.

Eliezrie pointed out that some people criticize Yousef for betraying the Christian faith by spying for Israel.

“If you knew about a suicide bomber that would be on its way to kill 20 innocent people and you could inform someone to prevent this, would you do it? I did it and I am proud of it,” Yousef said to resounding applause.

Not all in attendance were impressed with Yousef, however.

“I wanted to give this guy the benefit of the doubt, but it just reinforced my conviction that this is a troubled individual who crossed all boundaries of morality and sense of personal dignity,” said Nader Barakat, a 30-year Moorpark resident of Palestinian descent. “He lost any and all sense of credibility or moral argument because of his spying and collaborating background.”

Due to the large crowd and tight security, questions from the audience were permitted only on index cards.

One of the questions: If Hamas is in charge of the Palestinians, how can an agreement can ever be reached in the Middle East?

“Peace is not a state of political borders,” Yousef said. “It’s a state of mind.”

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