to international law, the use of human shields constitutes war crimes, making
Hamas the only war criminals in the latest round of Gaza fighting. Mosab Hassan
Yousef probably was not shocked to see the terrorist organization sacrificing
women and children. After all, it was not his Israeli handler who turned him
into an extraordinarily well placed source, but the brutality of Hamas that he
witnessed with his own eyes. Yousef and his Shin Bet contact Gonen Ben Yitzhak
tell their unlikely story of espionage and ultimately friendship in Nadav
Schirman’s The Green Prince (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
the son of a top-ranking Hamas cleric, Yousef was practically born into
terrorism. Taught anti-Semitic hatred from an early age, Yousef rashly embarked
on his own terrorist operation as payback for one of his father’s many arrests.
Fortunately, the Shin Bet saw him coming and they knew who he was.
was Yitzhak’s job to recruit Yousef, not to befriend him. Initially, Yousef
pretended to go along with the plan, hoping to murder his handler at a later
date. However, his cover-establishing time in prison changed everything. There
he heard the shrieks as his Hamas comrades tortured and executed fellow
terrorists falsely accused of working with the Israelis. Upon his release, the
widespread suicide bombings sponsored by Hamas also deeply troubled his
conscience. Before long, Yousef was working with Yitzhak in great earnest, at
enormous personal risk.
on Yousef’s expose-memoir Son of Hamas,
Schirman’s documentary is far more even-handed and level-headed than you might
expect. Yousef’s testimony leaves little doubt regarding the violent extremism
of Hamas’s ideology and methods. He also personally witnessed Arafat, the Nobel
Peace Prize recipient, secretly coordinating the Second Intifada with his
Prince is obviously not intended as pro-Israeli
propaganda. Yousef explicitly blames everyone at the Shin Bet except Yitzhak
for the difficult straights he eventually landed in as a U.S. asylum seeker
facing certain deportation and certain assassination. Of course, he would
hardly be the first intelligence asset cut loose by his spymasters, whereas
every suicide bomber recruited by Hamas is fatally used and discarded.
are scenes in Prince of Hamas at work
that are genuinely scary. Without question, the stakes Yousef faced were as real
as it gets. While it would be difficult to miss the drama of Yousef’s chronicle,
both he and Yitzhak also happen to be compelling story tellers, as well as
sympathetic figures that are sure to challenge audience preconceptions.
Schirman bolsters the suspense and intrigue with moody noir lighting for his
two talking heads and some PBS-quality re-enactments. There techniques can be a
little hokey, but their effectiveness must be conceded nonetheless.
There are more than a few jaw-dropping moments
in Prince and the revealing look it
offers inside the inner workings of Hamas is only too tragically timely. At
times, Yousef and Schirman seem to be struggling to find less than edifying
Israeli anecdotes to balance the ledger (“welcome to the slaughterhouse” a
prison guard once said to him). Yet, the film and its participants strive to
end on a hopeful note, emphasizing the unlikely bond forged between Yousef and
Yitzhak. Again, it might be manipulative, but it works. In fact, the film is
consistently engrossing and eye-opening. Recommended to a surprising extent, The Green Prince opens this Friday
(9/12) in New York at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema.
Labels: Documentary, Israeli Cinema, Mosab Hassan Yousef