Mosab Hassan Yousef, the oldest son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founder and leader of the terrorist organization Hamas, was a key member of the movement. Yet he gave up position, power and the love of his parents to spy for the Shin Bet, Israel's intelligence service.
Yousef provided information that foiled suicide bombings and led to the deaths of Hamas leaders and the imprisonment of many members of the organization.
Mosab Hassan Yousef recounted his transformation and his experiences working with the Shin Bet in the book "Son of Hamas."
During his visit to South Florida, the 33-year-old Yousef spoke last Wednesday to more than 500 people during an appearance in Weston sponsored by the Chabad of Weston and the Daniel Cantor Wultz Foundation. On Thursday, he addressed two Chabad of Downtown audiences in Miami.
Yousef, who was born in Ramallah in the West Bank, said Israeli soldiers severely beat him when he was 17-years-old. Soon afterward he was contacted by the Shin Bet to spy for Israel and imprisoned for 16 months to "not arouse suspicion."
He said during his time in prison he saw Palestinians torturing other Palestinians. Hamas wanted to know who gave information to the Israelis, Yousef said. Hundreds were tortured and 16 were killed. Not one had a relationship with Israel, he said.
Yousef said he asked himself, "What is the difference between Israeli soldiers and the Hamas military wing?" He said, "For the first time I started to question the reality of the movement my father established."
Yousef said he eventually came to see that Israel was not the enemy. "We are the enemies of ourselves," he said. "Our leaders sent us to death for their own reasons and they still do. They care about their bank accounts and their positions. They lie to you on a daily basis for their selfish gain."
During a question and answer session following his talk in Weston, Yousef said, "There should have been a Palestinian state 50 years ago if the Palestinians wanted a state." Instead, he said, "they wanted to destroy Israel."
The establishment of a Palestinian state now will "destroy the dreams of the Palestinian people. They think they will be free. A Palestinian state will bring war to the region and the Palestinians will be the first to pay that price."
Yousef was asked about the likelihood that Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is being held captive by Hamas, will be freed in exchange for Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons.
"Israel has no choice but to give back the Palestinians," Yousef said. But Hamas has a long list of extremely dangerous terrorists. He said he hopes that Israel will receive "solid information" so that Shalit can be rescued.
Yousef, who received political asylum and lives in the U.S., said he is working on a "Son of Hamas" movie and an expose about Mohammed.
Howard Steinlauf of Weston said Yousef's talk "opened up my eyes. I wish the president of the United States had been here tonight to hear this."
Tuly Wultz, whose 16-year-old son Daniel died from injuries he received in a suicide bombing while father and son were eating at a Tel Aviv café five years ago, had been skeptical about Yousef and his motives for writing the book.
"I definitely learned much more about him," Wultz said. "He was really sincere. You could see that he was kind of distraught about Daniel."
Yousef had a great message, Wultz said. "I wish some other people in the world would wake up like him and we would be in a better place."
Yousef's message is "very, very powerful," Rabbi Yisroel B. Spalter, director of the Chabad of Weston, said. He has a remarkable story and "a lesson for everyone to get out of your comfort zone and speak truth, no matter what it takes."