By LeRoy Lawson
I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity
London: Bloomsbury, 2010
Son of Hamas
Mosab Hassan Yousef, with Ron Brackin
Carol Stream: SaltRiver, an imprint of Tyndale House, 2010, 2011
For many years I led tours to the Holy Land. It never failed that as we prepared to go, someone would ask, “Don’t you think you should wait until there’s peace in the Middle East?”
My answer? “We have been waiting for 4,000 years now. I don’t think we can wait any longer.”
Flippant, admittedly. But awfully close to the truth. When our government (either Republican or Democrat) announces yet another peace initiative, I don’t get my hopes up. So many tried, so many failed.
Today’s books offer insight into the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with its issues, complications, frustrations, and maddening contradictions defying both sides to find a route—or passageway or tunnel or even a detour—to peace. While the politicians scheme and the terrorists kill, the people riot and demand and suffer.
For my first two tours I employed Israeli agencies. The guides were competent, the sights worth seeing, but the perspective was completely one-sided. We learned almost nothing about Palestinians in Israel. For the third visit, though, we went with a Palestinian Christian travel agency. It was as if we were seeing a different country. I never changed agencies after that. The groups all were glad to learn the Palestinian point of view, so different from what they were seeing on television.
These books will do the same for you. Izzeldin Abuelaish’s I Shall Not Hate recounts the author’s remarkable struggle from his birth in a Gaza refugee camp to his work as a distinguished obstetrician-gynecologist who was eventually nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize because of his humanitarian endeavors for both sides. He was the first Palestinian doctor to be on staff at an Israeli hospital, yet he, like all other Palestinians, experienced deprivations, fear, humiliations, and physical abuse in the unending undeclared (and declared) wars that are the norm in the occupied territory.
In spite of—or because of—Dr. Abuelaish’s contributions to the health and peace of both sides, his family’s house was bombarded by Israeli soldiers in Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 and January 2009. Desperate for rescue, he phoned an Israeli journalist friend during his evening news broadcast; Abuelaish’s pleas went live. Too late, though. Three of his daughters and a niece were already dead. Their deaths came just a few months after his wife had died of leukemia; he was left alone to raise their eight children. Now there were five. He was in anguish and almost inconsolable.
By this point in his narrative you wonder how much more any one human being could stand. As a child in the refugee camp he had worked to help support his family while at the same time excelling in school, even though his family valued his child labor above his education. The descendant of generations of proud farmers who had been forced off their land and into the camp, he could not expect any help from his impoverished parents—or anyone else, for that matter.
As a teenager, though, he had worked for a kind Israeli family from whom he learned that virtue was not the sole possession of Palestinians, nor vice the sole characteristic of Israelis. He developed a lifelong habit of seeing individuals as persons, not as stereotypes.
That’s why, even as his people’s enemies were killing his children, he vowed, I shall not hate.
Most of us would think he had reason enough to hate. Some of the occupying powers’ policies and practices seem indefensible: unjustified confiscation of private property; destruction of houses and crops; arbitrary control of food, water, fuel, medicine; unnecessarily restricted movement within Gaza and between occupied Palestine and Israel; and other forms of dehumanization.
The author was raised a Muslim. He’s a devout Muslim to this day. You will be intrigued by his conviction that his God has a plan for his life, that God takes a personal interest in him, that God expects high moral behavior from him, and that Allah does not want him to hate us. That’s why he doesn’t. He also believes “the disease affecting our relationship—our enemy—is ignorance of one another.”
But what is needed, the book makes so clear, is not a casual getting acquainted, but rather a determination to know, understand, tolerate, and appreciate one another. A tall order. The alternative, though, is hatred.
We have had enough of that.
The Way to Peace
Like Dr. Abue-laish, Mosab Hassan Yousef, eldest son of a founder of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, also decided not to hate. Also like Dr. Abuelaish, Mosab was born a Muslim, but unlike him, he became a Christian.
His story reads like an intense spy mystery. And with reason. Appalled by the brutality he witnessed when Hamas threw him into prison, he became a double agent, working in the heart of Hamas while at the same time reporting to Shin Bet, Israel’s intelligence agency, as their best source of information on Palestinian intrigues.
His double (or triple) life took its toll. Trusted confidant of Hamas, trusted source for Shin Bet, and college student on a spiritual quest, Mosad finally wrested his release from Israel and sought asylum in the United States, from which he was almost deported until his former Shin Bet superior courageously testified on his behalf.
Of his spiritual journey he says,
For years I had struggled to know who my enemy was, and I had looked for enemies outside of Islam and Palestine. But I suddenly realized that the Israelis were not my enemies. Neither was Hamas nor my uncle Ibrahim nor the kid who beat me with the butt of his M16 nor the apelike guard in the detention center. I saw that enemies were not defined by nationality, religion, or color. I understood that we all share the same common enemies: greed, pride, and all the bad ideas and the darkness of the devil that live inside us. That means I could love anyone. The only real enemy was the enemy inside me.
As the only insider who could infiltrate Hamas’s military and political wings and other Palestinian factions, the 22-year-old Mosad believed the responsibility wasn’t only his: “It was clear to me by now that God had specifically placed me at the core of both Hamas and Palestinian leadership, in Yasser Arafat’s meetings, and with the Israeli security service for a reason.”
That reason was to save lives, to work for peace.
There was too much blood. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I didn’t see it just through the eyes of a Muslim or a Palestinian or even as the son of Hassan Yousef anymore. Now I saw it through Israeli eyes too. And even more importantly, I watched the mindless killing through the eyes of Jesus, who agonized for those who were lost. The more I read the Bible, the more clearly I saw this single truth: Loving and forgiving one’s enemies is the only real way to stop the bloodshed.
Thus the young man who hated Jews and cheered when Saddam Hussein fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, who smuggled weapons so Hamas could kill Jews, came to believe that peace can only come through the reconciling power of the Prince of Peace.
He lives in America now, but speaks of returning to the Middle East—to love and not to hate.
LeRoy Lawson is international consultant with CMF International and professor of Christian ministries at Emmanuel Christian Seminary, Johnson City, Tennessee. He also serves as a CHRISTIAN STANDARD contributing editor and member of Standard Publishing’s Publishing Committee.