If you've heard about the exclusive story that will be in tomorrow's Haaretz's Weekend Magazine, the news that for more than a decade a Hamas founder's son served as a spy to Israel's security agency, then you've almost certainly heard a component of the story that's two obvious for the media to miss. In fact, this element of the story was its own story -- and a good story at that -- in 2008. Back then, the news about Mosab Yousef was that the Hamas scion had converted to Christianity and admired the nation of Israel. You can imagine why this detail might be relevant. I say might because I can imagine several reasons. Let's see how reporters have dealt with them.
In both the preview that Haaretz published yesterday and the story that the Times of London wrote based on that preview, it is mentioned twice that Yousef "famously" converted to Christianity, but there is no indication of why that matters -- other than to possibly establish that Yousef had a falling out with Hamas. Here's a portion from the Haaretz preview:
The exclusive story will appear in this Friday's Haaretz Magazine, and Yousef's memoir, "Son of Hamas" (written with Ron Brackin) will be released next week in the United States. Yousef, 32, became a devout Christian 10 years ago and now lives in California after fleeing the West Bank in 2007 and going public with his conversion.
Yousef was considered the Shin Bet's most reliable source in the Hamas leadership, earning himself the nickname "the Green Prince" - using the color of the Islamist group's flag, and "prince" because of his pedigree as the son of one of the movement's founders. ...
"I wish I were in Gaza now," Yousef said by phone from California, "I would put on an army uniform and join Israel's special forces in order to liberate Gilad Shalit. If I were there, I could help. We wasted so many years with investigations and arrests to capture the very terrorists that they now want to release in return for Shalit. That must not be done."
OK ... not sure yet about the whole Christianity thing, but I can venture some guesses.
Maybe the New York Daily News can help. No ... just another mention of Yousef now being a "devout Christian." (I'm not even going to touch the d-word in this one.) The Associated Press? Blast. Nothing.
It's entirely possible that the Times, AP and NY Daily News reports about Yousef relied entirely on Haaretz for their facts, and therefore were left hanging when the Haaretz preview only tease the Christian confession. Not sure why that prevented one of these reporters from independently speaking with Yousef, though I doubt he's listed in the phone book.
Yousef's conversion, if it's worth mentioning, must mean something, though. Right? This NPR interview with the Haaretz reporter, Avi Issacharoff, who wrote tomorrow's exclusive suggests so:
"He's very religious. You can describe it as a personal crusade. He's going against Islam, against Hamas, against Allah, against the Quran, against everything that he was taught and trained to -- and everything that he believed in once when he was a young man This is not a political issue for him between Israelis and Palestinians. This is a matter of civilization or religion -- between Islam and the rest of the world."
Thanks to Robert Siegel for asking the obvious: "Is this his motivation?" But where is the follow up? And are we supposed to believe that being a "very religious" Christian led Yousef to spy for the Jewish nation? There is a connection there, and I can make it, but it's a logical leap that requires a few assumptions about the type of Christian Yousef is.
Here's looking forward to tomorrow's exclusive and hoping it offers a lot more details about Yousef's Christian "crusade."