July 10, 2010

Sons of Terror

I recommend highly "Son of Hamas" by Mosab Hassan Yousef.

Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of a founder of the Hamas, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, discovered when he was 17 that despite his loathing of Israeli occupation and despite his love and awe for his father, he could not allow innocent bloodshed and that Palestinians were not set free by violence, they were locked up by violence. The trigger to these realizations were both his reading of the Christian Bible and seeing in an Israeli prison how Hamas members could persecute and torture their own without an ounce of mercy nor justice. From around that time and for ten years, he collaborated with Israel to defuse Hamas's military actions - at the risk of being exposed and killed. Large parts of the book read like a thriller and all of it is compelling - a very instructive account of what happens behind the scenes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But I was also very interested in the father-son relationship. It is striking to see how Yousef the son describes Yousef the father: as a very sensitive man who would help his wife with the chores in the house, would be very kind with everyone and especially his children (he would never force them to pray, just give them desire to do so by setting the example himself, MHY explains).

In the epilogue, MHY explains that when he made public his conversion to Christianity after moving to the States everyone expected his father to "disown" him but he refused. "You are still my son. You are part of me, and nothing will change" he quotes his father as saying on the phone. A little bit later, MHY broke to his father the news that he had been collaborating with Israel. According to the book, his father remained silent. According to news report the father did issue a statement at that point in which he did disown his son but I was struck by the mild language (see here and here).

Separately, I read in the English Wikipedia article on Yasser Arafat,
Arafat's sister Inam, states in an interview with Arafat's biographer British historian Alan Hart, that Arafat was heavily beaten by his father for going to the Jewish quarter in Cairo and attending religious services. When she asked him why he would not stop, Arafat responded by saying that he wanted to study their mentality.
I was immediately reminded of the famous study by Alice Miller "Adolf Hitler: How Could a Monster Succeed in Blinding a Nation?" tracing back the roots of Hitler's violence in his father's "rearing":
The Führer once told his secretary that during one of the regular beatings given him by his father he was able to stop crying, to feel nothing, and even to count the thirty-two blows he received.
In this way, by totally denying his pain, his feelings of powerlessness, and his despair- in other words, by denying the truth - Hitler made himself into a master of violence and of contempt for human beings.
I thought about how Hitler and Arafat were compelled all their lives to pursue a destructive goal although they could have pursued a normal life and even protected human life. And I thought about the phrase from the Pentateuch "פֹּקֵד עֲו‍ֹן אָבֹת עַל בָּנִים", "making the sons carry the sin of the fathers": some children are compelled to do harm because of the wrong that their fathers did onto them.

Now a quote from Mosab Hassan Yousef's epilogue:
Delivered from the oppression of Europe, Israel became the oppressor. Delivered from persecution, Muslims became persecutors. Abused spouses and children often go on to abuse spouses and children. It is a cliché, butit's still true: hurt people, unless they are healed, hurt people.

So my advice to terrorists is: beat your children. If you treat them too kindly, you never know, they may turn their back on terrorism.