Love Thine Enemy

Masab Yousef is the son of West Bank Hamas founder and MP, Sheikh Hassan Yousef (“Abu Masab”).

In an interview in this weekend’s Haaretz, he announced that he had converted to Christianity, supports Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks on its civilians, and has changed his name to Joseph. Which means that he is now called Joseph Joseph.

This is how it happened:

I was in Jerusalem and I received an invitation to come and hear about Christianity. Out of curiosity I went. I was very enthusiastic about what I heard. I began to read the Bible every day and I continued with religion lessons. I did it in secret, of course. I used to travel to the Ramallah hills, to places like the Al Tira neighborhood, and to sit there quietly with the amazing landscape and read the Bible. A verse like “Love thine enemy” had a great influence on me. At this stage I was still a Muslim and I thought that I would remain one. But every day I saw the terrible things done in the name of religion by those who considered themselves ‘great believers.’ I studied Islam more thoroughly and found no answers there. I reexamined the Koran and the principals of the faith and found how it is mistaken and misleading. …

This is what he believes now:

 “I consider Islam a big lie. The people who supposedly represent the religion admired Mohammed more than God, killed innocent people in the name of Islam, beat their wives and don’t have any idea what God is. I have no doubt that they’ll go to Hell. I have a message for them: There is only one way to Paradise – the way of Jesus who sacrificed himself on the cross for all of us.”…

I respect Israel and admire it as a country. I’m opposed to a policy of killing civilians, or using them as a means to an end, and I understand that Israel has a right to defend itself. The Palestinians, if they don’t have an enemy to fight, will fight each other. In about 20 years from now you’ll remember what I’m telling you, the conflict will be among various groups within Hamas. They’re already beginning to quarrel over control of the money.”

He does not conceal his abhorrence of everything representing the human surroundings in which he grew up: the nation, the religion, the organization.

“You Jews should be aware: You will never, but never have peace with Hamas. Islam, as the ideology that guides them, will not allow them to achieve a peace agreement with the Jews. They believe that tradition says that the Prophet Mohammed fought against the Jews and that therefore they must continue to fight them to the death. They have to take revenge against anyone who did not agree to accept the Prophet Mohammed, like the Jews who are seen in the Koran as monkeys and the sons of pigs. They speak in terms of historical rights that were taken from them. In the view of Hamas, peace with Israel contradicts sharia and the Koran, and the Jews have no right to remain in Palestine.”

Is that the justification for the suicide attacks?

“More than that. An entire society sanctifies death and the suicide terrorists. In Palestinian culture a suicide terrorist becomes a hero, a martyr. Sheikhs tell their students about the ‘heroism of the shaheeds’ and that causes the young people to imitate the suicide bombers, in order to achieve glory. I’ll give you an example. I once met a young man named Dia Tawil. He was a quiet boy, an outstanding student. Not a Muslim extremist and not radical in his ideas against the Israelis. I never heard extreme statements from him. He didn’t even come from a religious family: His father was a communist and his sister was a journalist who didn’t wear a head covering. But Bilal Barghouti [one of the heads of the military arm of Hamas in the West Bank] didn’t need more than a few months to convince him to become a suicide terrorist.” (Tawil, 19, blew himself up in March 2001 next to a bus at the French Hill junction in Jerusalem; 31 people were wounded.)

“Do you know that Hamas was the first to use the weapon of suicide bombers against civilian targets?” he continues. “They are blind and ignorant. It’s true, there are good and bad people everywhere, but Hamas supporters don’t understand that they are led by a wicked and cruel group that brainwashes the children and gets them to believe that if they carry out a suicide attack they’ll get to Paradise. But no suicide bomber will find himself there and no virgins are waiting for them after they have carried out an attack. They have to understand that Islam was created by people and not by God.”  

I don’t believe that it is necessary to reject Islam for Christianity, or indeed believe in any god at all, in order to embrace the Golden Rule. However, having escaped from a violent and hateful Islamist background, the switch of religion clearly has played some part in the process.

As has his love of music:

Masab-Joseph listens to singer Eyal Golan in his free time. “I’ve been listening to his music for 10 years,” he says. “I like his voice but don’t always understand the words.” However, his favorite singer is Leonard Cohen. “He’s a Canadian Jew,” he explains.

Imshin also reports that the Hebrew version quotes Joseph’s father, Abu Masab, who is an important and powerful Hamas leader:

“Your debate about the future of the settlements and about the necessity of the presence in the territories just served to strengthen us to continue with the terrorist attacks. The people of the Peace Camp in Israel, those who spoke of the end of the occupation and of retreat, pushed us forward in our decision to continue with the suicide bombings.”


“But the cracks in your resistance encouraged us greatly and proved that this instrument (suicide bombings – IJ) was very effective. Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan from Gaza is a great achievment that is a result of our actions. One of the best pieces of evidence for us of the fracture in the Israeli society, as a result of the suicide bombings, was the refusenik phenomenon. We thought we should further deepen this fracture, and the use of suicide bombers became a matter of consensus in the organisation.”