Espionage/Counter-terrorism: Israel agent, son of a Hamas leader, depicted in documentary feature film (The Times)

The Times [UK], 12 December 2014

‘It’s like a bunch of memories. My family don’t exist to me any more’

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by Catherine Nixey
London – He was known as one of the Israeli government’s most powerful sources, but his value was greater than even that would imply. When Mosab Hassan Yousef decided to spy for the Israeli government he would also become one of their greatest propaganda coups. For this man, who would work for Israel for a decade and prevent numerous suicide attacks — even, he claims, saving Shimon Peres, the former prime minister and president of Israel, from a 2001 assassination plot — was the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, one of the most powerful leaders of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic organization. Not of course that anything could be made of this at the time: he had seen what Hamas did to those suspected of spying for the Israelis. And torture was rife on both sides. Yousef speaks so quietly in the bar of a London hotel that, at times, a nearby conversation almost drowns him out. “Some of the people I was close friends with were tortured. One day I wake up in the morning [and ask where a friend is and he] is gone. They shaved his head, putting needles under his fingernails, burning his body, pieces of burnt plastic on his skin …” The story of how and why the son of a Hamas leader would come to be Israel’s most valuable informant is told in The Green Prince, a documentary that has gathered awards from the Sundance Film Festival, the Moscow International Film Festival and the Israeli Film Academy, where it was given the award for Best Documentary. Yousef lives alone in California and although he is constantly on the move, it’s to attend film festivals rather than to protect himself. He no longer has a guard, has spoken at Sundance and the BFI London Film Festival, and arrives to our interview without security detail, in a short-sleeved shirt — somehow the bare arms make him seem even more vulnerable. He sits in a crowded bar with his back to the room. Does he not worry that someone will make an attempt on his life? “I live free, and I choose to be this way,” he says. Security is “not about castles you build for yourself. It’s not about guns. It’s not about money. It has to come from within.” He is, he says, ready for the idea that someone might “show up and point a gun on me. It does not scare me. When death comes, death comes. I choose not to die every day thinking about that moment.”

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