MORE than 600 women came together last week to attend the United Israel Appeal (UIA) Women’s Division Brunch at the International of Brighton.
Newly appointed UIA Victoria president Hayley Southwick welcomed the ladies, using the opportunity to announce that she will be stepping down from her role as chairman of the Women’s Division Victoria – a position she has held for a decade – in order to dedicate herself fully to the presidency.
The audience heard from special guests Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia Belaynesh Zevadia, the first Israeli woman of Ethiopian origin to achieve an ambassadorship, and Shay Lazer, the national director of UIA flagship project, Youth Futures in Israel.
But there was no denying that the audience eagerly awaited the conversation between keynote speaker Mosab Hassan Yousef, otherwise known as ‘The Green Prince’, and Alon Ben-David, senior defence correspondent for Israel’s Channel 10.
Yousef has a remarkable story. Born to one of the founding members of Hamas, the Palestinian took a leap of faith into the Israeli Shin Bet rather than follow in his father’s footsteps. Yousef became a spy and a most reliable source; the information he gathered thwarted dozens of terrorist attacks.
It was an evolution, explained Yousef. “There is no one turning point.”
While Yousef was first arrested by the Israeli Defence Force at the age of 10 for “being a troublemaker and throwing some stones”, his first prison term was not served until he was 18. It was at this time that he was approached by Israeli intelligence, who offered him the opportunity to work with them as a collaborator. He agreed, but not with good intent.
“My motive was revenge against Israel. I thought Israel was our greatest enemy, so I agreed to work for Israel with a hidden agenda to actually infiltrate and destroy from within,” Yousef confessed.
Despite agreeing to collaborate, he was still incarcerated so as to not arouse any suspicions. This was when he was exposed to the real and very ugly truth of Hamas, who ruled inside the prison. While at home, Yousef had experienced Hamas through his father, “…and I loved my father, so I see everything from that lens,” Yousef recounted.
“But in prison it was face to face. There was brutality. They [Hamas] were looking for collaborators with Israel. And those guys were tortured to the point of death.
“It was lucky I was not tortured. I was protected because of my father’s status.”
Over the next 16 months, Yousef witnessed countless tortures, and began questioning everything he had come to know about Hamas, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and himself.
Upon his prison release, he no longer had the desire to work for Hamas, nor did he harbour enough hate to want to take revenge on Israel, for “at least Israel was not doing the things that Hamas was doing in prison”.
Yousef was then informed about those who had been tortured and murdered at the hands of Hamas – and learned that indeed, most were innocent, and not collaborators.
The son of Hamas was ready to genuinely assist Israel.
“I knew that if I am exposed, I will be killed, so always death was dancing in the corner of the streets, wherever I go.
“First, I had to conquer the fear of death. Then we have to conquer the greater fear – which is fear of life.”
The risk was unmitigated, with elaborate plots “bigger than Hollywood movies” created to provide him with a cover.
Like the time that five suicide bombers arrived on Yousef’s doorstep looking for his father.
The terrorists needed a safe house to hide, and a place to conceal their stolen Israeli car which brimmed with explosives and guns. Yousef lead them to an apartment in Ramallah, but the only place he could hide the car without attracting unwanted attention was in his own garage – next to his house. Passing on the information to Israeli intelligence, the IDF stormed the apartment of the suicide bombers, one of whom exposed Yousef’s involvement.
According to Yousef, the IDF then had to stage an escape for him. Enter the special forces, helicopters and air force.
But 30 seconds before their arrival, the Israelis called Yousef ensuring that he could “disappear” just in time.
Yousef’s collaboration with the Israeli forces spanned 10 years.
“It was my decision to write my truth and stand for my own truth,” said Yousef in relation to his choice to share and publish his story.
“My father, my people are in a state of delusion. They don’t know what’s going on. I was able to perceive first-hand truth and I wanted to share that with the world – without shame and without guilt.”