The Traitor


by Rev. Frank Julian Gelli

The Green Prince is a gripping docudrama about a Mosab Hasan Yusuf, a handsome Palestinian young man who betrayed: a) his father b) his friends; c) his cause; d) his country and e) his religion.

Mosab is the son of a founder and top leader of Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement. After Israeli soldiers arrested the teenage Mosab for arms smuggling, his interrogator Gonen suggested that he became a spy. He was then transferred to a prison compound housing other Hamas fighters. The violence he saw there, he claims, persuaded him to become an informer for Shin Bet, the Israeli internal secret service. For ten years Mosab efficiently spied, unsuspected and undetected.

In Dante’s Inferno no sin is graver, vilest than treason. Traitors are thrust in the ninth cycle of Hell, the nethermost pit, frozen in a lake of ice, suffering shameful torments. Satan, Judas, Brutus and Cassius – a motley crew – are lowest amongst the dismal gang. Satan as the fallen angel who betrayed the holiest relationship, that with his Creator. Judas, one of the Twelve Apostles, sold out Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As to Brutus and Cassius, they betrayed and murdered their friend and benefactor, Julius Caesar. All are traitors of their Lords but the ghastly site includes betrayers to their kindred and their country – a medieval hall of infamy. I suspect Mosab, the Green Prince (Shin Bet so codenamed him after his father’s high rank in Hamas, plus green being Islam’s colour), would qualify under most headings.

Why do traitors choose to betray? Satan did it for pride but money is perhaps a more mundane motive for non-angelic beings. Thus the Gospels accuse Judas of doing it for 30 pieces of silver. Mosab too was paid but not much, he says. Given the risk he was running – Hamas does not deal kindly with traitors – it is not too credible. Of course, famous British spies like Kim Philby and Guy Burgess were motivated not by lucre but by Communism. A powerful universal ideology that long captured the minds and hearts of countless men, high and low, bright as well as dim. Israel hardly offers an analogous inducement, except to Zionists, naturally. But to a Palestinian? It seems unlikely. Mosab avers that spying for Israel is a deed a Palestinian considers more shameful than raping his own mother. Why willingly embrace that shame then? What could the motivation be?

When still a boy the ‘Green Prince’ was victim of a homosexual rape. He kept it dark because amongst his people suffering such a fate elicits no sympathy, quite the opposite. Why then does he choose to relate it in the film? Is it because invoking a violent sexual trauma might excuse him somewhat? A Western audience might feel that way but…would an Arab one?

Naturally for Israelis Mosab is a good guy. His work helped to save many Jewish lives, to foil bombers’ plots and to have Hamas fighters apprehended. His ‘controller’, Gonen, developed a real relationship with him. They became friends. Gonen ended up caring for Mosab to the point of resigning from Shin Bet when he thought the agent’s life was in danger. That according to the film. True? Or just a corny movie ploy?

There is no great moral problem about spying on the enemies of your country. James Bond is a hero OK. Betraying your own people is different. Lord Haw-Haw was gleefully hanged by the victorious British because of his pro-German broadcasts. Conversely, Germans who betrayed the Third Reich are generally honoured – the nature of the regime supposedly makes all the difference. Had Germany won the war, that distinction might have looked rather theoretical.

You could of course prioritised friendship over patriotism. ‘If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friends, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country’ wrote that ambiguous old maid, E. M. Forster. Why stop at friends? Lovers would prove even more potent a motive. Anyway, the Green Prince let down his Palestinian friends too. Except his Israeli controller but then Gonen was not totally disinterested a friend, I think.

The problem is that there appears to be no objective, irrefragable and irrefutable standard to guarantee the moral excellence of a cause. Dante was on safer grounds, having theology on his side. Satan and Judas are awful by definition – for a Christian. Not so with Brutus and Cassius. What would the poet sing about right and wrong in the Middle East, I wonder? Apart from wishing the Crusaders back…

Those who loathe Hamas as a terrorist organisation will admire Mosab. Still, he is not making it easier for himself. He has repudiated not just his family, friends, cause and country but also his religion. Because he has converted to Christianity – don’t expect a priest to object to that, guys – though what he says about his new faith sounds a bit ad hoc, banal and garbled. And Mosab also wants to make a film about the Prophet Muhammad, one unlikely to please Muslims, I bet.

The Green Prince now lives in California. His dark good looks have improved since he had an ungainly prognathous jaw fixed. A veritable film star. But…does his conscience ever bother him? Does he sleep soundly at night? Does he wish he never betrayed? Idle questions.

Only a spy and a traitor would know the answer.

FATHER FRANK’S RANTS   Rant Number 612     .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)