The son of one of Hamas’ founders has caused an uproar in Palestinian society recently by speaking out against the militant Islamist movement he grew up in, calling it a “racist terror organization that is dangerous for the Palestinian people.”
In an interview with an Israeli news channel aired Wednesday night, Suheib Yousef, 38, son of Hamas co-founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef, told journalist Ohad Hemo of his disillusionment with the group’s rampant corruption and disappointment with leaders living opulent lifestyles abroad while the people in Gaza continued to suffer in abject poverty.
Two million people live in the coastal Palestinian enclave in increasingly deteriorating humanitarian conditions, the United Nations and World Bank have both warned, citing Israel’s ongoing land, sea and air blockade of the strip. Egypt, which borders Gaza to the south, has also sporadically imposed such restrictions.
With unemployment as high as 50 percent, meager incomes for those who are working and reduced water and electricity supplies, Gaza residents have held weekly demonstrations at the border with Israel since March 2018. Protests have often turned deadly, with Israeli soldiers killing more than 60 people on a single day in May 2018.
Earlier this year, protests over the extreme poverty were also held inside Gaza, with Hamas facing sharp criticism for its brutal crackdown on demonstrators.
“Hamas leaders (in Turkey) live in fancy hotels and luxury towers, their kids learn at private schools and they are very well paid by Hamas. They get between four and five thousand dollars a month, they have guards, swimming pools, country clubs,” said Suheib, who worked for Hamas’ political branch in Turkey.
“When I lived in Turkey, I was shocked by the behavior of the Hamas members. They ate in the best restaurants, in places where one course cost $200,” he said. “A family in Gaza lives on $100 per month.”
In hiding in an unnamed Asian country, Suheib also said Hamas was working for a “foreign agenda,” selling information about Israel to the Iranians in exchange for financial assistance. He said the group’s operation in Turkey was run under the guise of a civil society organization, but was gathering intelligence on Palestinian leaders in Ramallah, as well as leaders from other Arab countries.
He also said the group actively recruited young Palestinians in the West Bank to carry out attacks against Israel, not to liberate Palestinian land or for resistance, but to spread the crisis from Gaza to the West Bank.
Suheib is the second son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef to turn on the movement. In 2010, Yousef’s oldest son, Mosab, revealed in a detailed autobiography how he had helped Israel’s Shin Bet Security Agency, for more than a decade while working as his father’s right hand man.
Known as the Green Prince, Mosab provided Israel with details on planned terrorist attacks and terror cells as the Second Intifada, the Palestinian uprising against Israel, raged. Mosab, now estranged from his family, sought asylum in the United States and converted to Christianity. His story was made into a documentary.
In Wednesday’s interview, Suheib was quick to distance himself from his brother’s actions, saying he never worked for Israel and never betrayed Hamas. He also said he hoped his father would respect his political views, just as he honored his father’s for 40 years.
“My main motivation is to help the Palestinian people by exposing the true face of Hamas,” he told journalist Hemo.
But Suheib faced a backlash, with hundreds criticizing his actions on social media and airing their continued support for his father.
“Sheikh Hassan Yousef’s son could have said what he said about Hamas and its corruption from Ramallah,” tweeted Mustafa Ibrahim, from Gaza, using the hashtag “We are all your sons.”
Samia Zubaidi, also in Gaza, commented that many people, even those not affiliated with Hamas, were now rallying around the sheikh, who spent many years in Israeli jails.
“Although the question about what led two of the sheikh’s sons to betray their father and family and their homeland is very legitimate question,” she wrote.
Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political leadership, said that the Palestinian people would continue to stand beside the sheikh.
Hazim Qasem, Hamas spokesperson in Gaza, called him an icon and “one of the great flags of the contemporary Palestinian revolution, who had contributed clearly to the struggle of the Palestinian people.”
Most of the comments on social media focused on defending Suheib’s father, however, with few actually addressing his charges against Hamas itself.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Ruth Eglash, Hazem Balousha