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‘Son of Hamas’ battling deportation

SAN DIEGO (BP)–Mosab Hassan Yousef, the eldest son of a prominent Hamas leader on the West Bank and author of a globally circulated book recounting his conversion to Christianity, is facing a June 30 deportation hearing in San Diego.

“I am Homeland Security File #A 088 271 051,” Yousef wrote on his blog in May.

Yousef, 32, who first sought political asylum in the United States in 2007, acknowledged that the deportation dispute, which began last year, could be lengthy.

“If [the judge] rules to deport me, I will appeal. And Homeland Security has assured me that, if he rules in my favor, they will appeal. And this insane merry-go-round can go on like that for decades,” Yousef wrote.

“My concern is not about being deported. It is that I am being forced to stand and defend myself as a terrorist! This is ridiculous.”

Yousef recounted on his blog and in his book, “Son of Hamas,” that he worked as a secret agent for the Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet for more than 10 years as a way of countering violence in the Mideast that he had come to regard as senseless. In a 2008 Baptist Press article, Yousef said he became disillusioned with Hamas’ lack of morality and integrity after he was incarcerated at age 18 for his leadership in a Hamas youth organization.

While a secret agent, Yousef became a Christian, four years after a chance invitation to a Bible study in Jerusalem. He was secretly baptized in 2005 at a beach near Tel Aviv.

As a secret agent, Yousef said his information “saved the lives of many people” -– Israelis, Palestinians and Americans.

The book was published earlier this year by Tyndale House under its SaltRiver imprint. It sparked appearances on CNN’s “Amanpour,” NBC’s “Today Show” and Fox News’ “Hannity,” among others, along with articles by the Associated Press and in such newspapers as The Wall Street Journal and Haaretz, a leading Israeli daily.

The book was released in Hebrew in Israel earlier this month and already is near the top of the best-seller charts there, according to publicist Beverly Rykerd.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement public affairs officer, Lauren Mack, confirmed to Baptist Press June 9 that Yousef, who now goes by Joseph as his first name, is the subject of deportation proceedings in San Diego.

Mack said she has received a number of calls in Yousef’s behalf from across the country but noted that the most effective way of registering concern is via e-email addressed to her at [email protected], which can be forwarded to the appropriate immigration officials.

Otherwise, Mack said, Homeland Security is not commenting on the case because it is in litigation. In a subsequent e-mail, she stated, “… with respect to individual privacy and integrity in the immigration system, ICE is not in a position to discuss ongoing immigration litigation.”

A San Diego-area Southern Baptist church that has befriended Yousef is working to have supporters on hand for his 8 a.m. hearing June 30 before the immigration judge, identified by Yousef as Rico J. Bartolomei in San Diego.

Matt Smith, pastor of Barabbas Road, told Baptist Press he does not intend to foster “a protest mentality” but wants “as many people to be there as possible” on June 30 as a “respectful and prayerful” way of showing that Yousef is “very loved and accepted” by his fellow Christians.

Smith said he met with Yousef for coffee on June 8. Rykerd, the publicist, said Yousef is not planning to do interviews until after the immigration hearing.

On his blog, Yousef wrote, “Yes, while working for Israeli intelligence, I posed as a terrorist. Yes, I carried a gun. Yes, I was in terrorist meetings with Yassir Arafat, my father and other Hamas leaders. It was part of my job. And I passed on to the Shin Bet all the information I gathered during those meetings and saved the lives of many people — including many Americans.”

Yousef wrote that his greatest concern involves “the weaknesses of Homeland Security,” and he aims to “put pressure on it to make changes that can save lives and preserve freedom.”

As he recounted in his blog, dated May 22:

“If Homeland Security cannot understand a simple story like mine, how can they be trusted with bigger issues? They seem to know only how to blindly follow rules and procedures. But to work intelligence, you have to be very creative. You have to accept exceptions. You need to be able to think beyond facts and circumstances.

“Homeland Security has absolutely no idea of the dangers that lie ahead. For nearly 30 years, I watched from the inside as Hamas dug its claws deeper and deeper into Israel. They started awkwardly, clumsily, but they got good at it. And al-Qaeda is becoming more like Hamas.

“The strategy of Hamas has always been to bleed Israel. A slow bleeding war to destroy Israel in the long term. They don’t have nuclear bombs, so they send a suicide bomber here, another one there. And over the years, they severely damaged the economy and gave Israel a bad reputation all over the world.

“Al-Qaeda started with huge attacks like September 11. But bin Laden has learned from Hamas’s war against Israel how to bleed its enemy. Al-Qaeda understands how effective the Hamas strategy will be on American soil.

“Americans have never experienced anything like this. This country is not ready. Try to imagine attacks by suicide bombers and car bombers, attacks on schools, in shopping malls, in the gridlock of rush-hour traffic, week after week, month after month, year after year, here and there, in big cities and rural towns. No one feels safe anywhere. There seems to be no reason behind the attacks, no pattern. Everyone is a target. Men, women, children, office buildings, private homes, town halls, schools and hospitals. The government is powerless to stop them. Every car and truck you see is suspect. Every suitcase and package is suspect. …

“I was born and raised in this kind of environment. More than that, I was on the inside of both sides. I am not asking Homeland Security or anybody else for a job or a salary. I am asking them to be humble and listen, so they can learn.

“Exposing terrorist secrets and warning the world in my first book cost me everything. I am a traitor to my people, disowned by my family, a man without a country. And now the country I came to for sanctuary is turning its back.”

To those who concur with his concerns, Yousef called for letters to be addressed to:
Kerri Calcador
Senior Attorney
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
880 Front St. Suite 224
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: 619-557-5578
Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press. Mosab Hassan Yousef’s blog can be read at http://sonofhamas.wordpress.com. For earlier Baptist Press stories on Yousef, go to www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=32386 and www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=28663.