By Khalid Amayreh
In addition to its protracted war of terror against the Palestinian people, Israel has long waged an unrelenting campaign of psychological warfare against the Palestinian will, aimed at debilitating the domestic front across the occupied territories. The Israeli media, which often operates in sync with the Israeli occupation army and intelligence agencies, readily and routinely parrot the carefully concocted lies coming out of the Disinformation Department at the Israeli Defence Ministry headquarters at Hakirya in Tel Aviv.
The dirty propaganda is based on half-truths or outright falsehoods. Sometimes these lies are leaked to pro-Israeli media organs abroad in order to give them an air of credibility. But in most cases, the "scoops" are released to the Israeli media itself.
This pattern of disinformation is as old as Israel itself and has been used frequently. I remember that during the Romanian revolution Israeli radio reported that the bodies of dozens of Arab mercenaries, who had been fighting for the Ceausescu regime, were scattered on the streets of Bucharest and Timisoara, a claim that turned out to be totally untrue.
During the First Palestinian Intifada (1987-1992), the Israeli media would often describe a Palestinian activist freshly arrested by the Israeli army as "a high-ranking leader of the uprising" who was responsible for attacks on Israeli soldiers. However, a few days or weeks later, when the suspect was arraigned before a military court, all the talk about being a "high-ranking leader" of the intifada would have disappeared from the list of charges. In many cases, the activist would be released a few months later for lack of evidence against him.
Similarly, the Israeli media will often publish reports claiming that major Palestinian businesses and factories faced bankruptcy and were closing down. This, of course, has a demoralising effect, as is intended.
These are examples of the psychological warfare Israel has been waging against the Palestinians, which, by the way, failed to stop the intifada or, indeed, force the Palestinians to succumb to the Israeli occupation.
When I first read the fictionalised story of Musa'ab Yousuf, the son of Hasan Yousuf, a former Hamas spokesman in Ramallah, I remembered these and other examples of Israeli disinformation. We Palestinians have been living under the Israeli occupation for decades and not even the Americans know the Israeli way of thinking better than us. To put it bluntly, the Israelis lie as often as they breathe. Indeed, it is only a slight exaggeration to say that Israel is based on three elements: murder, theft and mendacity.
The Israeli media claims, inter alia, that Musa'ab, who had been recruited by Israel's chief domestic security agency, the Shin Beth, penetrated the high echelons of Hamas and that he prevented and thwarted resistance operations against the Israeli occupation army and other targets. Well, it is true that the Shin Beth succeeded in recruiting the disoriented young man when he was 17 years old through blackmail. However, it is also true that Hamas and his own father knew about his tryst with Shin Beth from the very inception as a result of which Hamas's student activists were warned against dealing with him.
Moreover, it is well known that Sheikh Hasan Yousuf, whom I have met several times, was never involved, either directly or indirectly, in the activities of Hamas's military wing, the Izzidin al Qassam Brigades. Any claim to the contrary should be treated with contempt. Indeed, with all due respect, Sheikh Yousuf was no more than a media spokesman who would explain the Hamas position and reaction to certain events, and he would do that after careful coordination and consultation with the movement's political leaders in the occupied territories.
Hence, the claim that the Sheikh's son, Musa'ab, was able to penetrate the military wing of Hamas and thwart several resistance operations, including an assassination attempt against Shimon Peres, the certified war criminal responsible for the Qana massacre in 1996, looks like a vile lie.
I have spoken to several peers of Musa'ab who knew him very well both when he was a student at Beir Zeit University and following his graduation. The following are taken from their testimonies:
"He was not a serious person, he was kind of happy-go-lucky, he would go out with foreigners and tourists, brag about his English. I think very few people took him seriously," said Ahmed.
One college classmate described Musa'ab as "looking insecure, a person without an intellectual direction, infatuated with the luxurious life, would do anything to attract attention."
These and other statements indicate that Musa'ab was nearly always viewed with suspicion by Hamas people in Ramallah, including his own father.
Toward the end of the 1990s, Musa'ab mingled with evangelical Christian missionaries who, probably through a feminine connection, brainwashed him to "accept Jesus as his saviour". They also promised that they would facilitate his migration to the US, where Christian Zionists used him on his arrival as a propaganda asset in their war against Islam and the Palestinian people. Musa'ab, nearly penniless when he arrived in the US, was given a house and a job in exchange for praising Israel, maligning Islam and singing halleluiah.
According to Ha'aretz newspaper (27 February), the Shin Beth officer who looked after Musa'ab, code-named Captain Loay, said, "The amazing thing is that none of his actions were done for money. He did things he believed in. He wanted to save lives."
What lives? Even a person with minimal intelligence and living in Ramallah during the Second Intifada would know all too well that the Israeli occupation army murdered Palestinian civilians in cold blood, including children. These murders were nearly always carried out knowingly and deliberately just like the killings in Gaza last year.
For example, on 4 March 2002, and not far from Musa'ab's home, Israel bombed the car of Hussein Abu Kweik, a political activist affiliated with Hamas, killing his wife and three children as they were returning home from school. So, why did we not hear anything about "saving lives" when the targets were Palestinian civilians? Could Musa'ab have converted secretly to the Chabad sect of Judaism which, apparently, views all non-Jews as animals whose lives have no sanctity?
In fact, the repeated invocation of "saving [Jewish] lives", terminology characteristic of the Israelis, suggests that Musa'ab was instructed, perhaps in return for a certain sum of money, to say what the author of the story wanted him to say in order to sell the book, or that the author wrote what he did in Musa'ab's name.
The Shin Beth handler makes many claims suggesting that Musa'ab was aware of what was going on with the Izzidin al Qassam Brigades. "Let me tell you a story. One day we received information that a suicide bomber was going to be picked up at the Manara Square in Ramallah and be given an explosive belt. We didn't know his name or what he looked like-only that he was in his twenties and would be wearing a red shirt. We sent 'the Green Prince' [Musa'ab] to the square and with his acute sense, he located the target within minutes."
Being thoroughly aware of the vicissitudes of Hamas and its military wing, I can safely say that this story is unlikely to be true since only two or three people are normally put in contact with any given military operation. This, I venture to suggest, means that people like Musa'ab would have no opportunity to know what was going on inside the Izzidin al Qassam Brigades.
In the beginning of the Ha'aretz' article, written by Avi Issacharoff (who is notorious for his Shin Beth connections), Musa'ab is quoted:
"I wish I were in Gaza now. 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 be done."
Such a quote could only come from a person who is so badly disoriented and so thoroughly brainwashed, that he identifies himself with the enemies of his own family.
Such a coup is not uncommon in the history of bitter conflicts, as the Israelis know very well. The Jewish Virtual Library has the following information: "The German concentration camps depended on the cooperation of trustee inmates who supervised the prisoners. Known as Kapos, these trustees carried out the will of the Nazi camp commandants and guards, and were often as brutal as their SS counterparts. Some of these Kapos were Jewish, and even they inflicted harsh treatment on their fellow prisoners. For many, failure to perform their duties would have resulted in severe punishment and even death, but many historians view their actions as a form of complicity. After the war, the prosecution of Kapos as war criminals, particularly those who were Jewish, created an ethical dilemma which continues to this day."
Such an emotional-cognitive phenomenon is known as "identification with the criminal aggressor", a more than appropriate term for the relationship between Musa'ab Yousuf and his Israeli handlers.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.