AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby in the United States, hosted a speaker on Sunday that a decade ago most Jews would have been abhorred to meet: Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of Hamas founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef.
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The younger Yousef was an informant for the Shin Bet security service from 1997 to 2007 before seeking asylum in the United States. On Tuesday, the conference attendees greeted him with enthusiastic applause.
"Sometimes I try to rationalize what a son of a Hamas leader is doing in a big Jewish event like this. And the only way to see it, I came up with a theory. I think maybe I was in a previous life a very bad Jew," Yousef said, sending the audience into laughter. "Then I was reincarnated in the house of a Hamas leader to work out my karmas."
Yousef explained the atmosphere he grew up in, and the challenge of transforming the attitude that was ingrained in him.
"I grew up believing in the conspiracy theory, believing that Israel, America, the West hate Muslims," he recalled. "They're plotting day and night to destroy Islam, to destroy the Muslim world and keep people in ignorance."
He stressed, "We believed in this lie."
Yousef noted in his opening, "It took lots of effort to break through the barriers and make it all the way from Ramallah, not to Washington DC, but from Ramallah mentality to a higher truth, where I am able to see things more clearly."