The Green Prince
My best friend and I were discussing the depressing state of militant Islam in the Middle East.
My friend shared his theory that from its very inception – in the time of Mohammed – Islam has been a religion of violence and intolerance toward infidels.
But that simply isn’t true.
The real history of the Middle East is one of Muslims ruling over but living side by side with Christians and Jews in relative peace.
As recently as 1900, Istanbul was still more than half Christian. Now Turkey is practically 100% Muslim. In 1920, Syria was about 1/3 Christian. Now it’s 10% and heading to zero if ISIS takes over the rest of the country. As recently as the Saddam Hussein regime, Christians were a respected minority in Iraq. Hussein’s own foreign minister and right hand man – Tariq Aziz – was Catholic. Now, every Christian who can afford to has fled.
Those statistics reveal the monstrousness of militant Islam. They also demonstrate that there were centuries of tolerance and co-existence. For most of human history, a Christian was more welcome in the Middle East than a Muslim in England or France.
“The Green Prince” is a tense, action-packed documentary about two brave men who proved that cooperation between Muslims and non-Muslims isn’t just a history lesson.
It was the year 1997, and 19-year-old Palestinian Mosab Hassan Yousef was arrested. While in Israeli custody, Yousef met Gonen Ben Yitzhak. Yitzhak tried to convince Yousef to turn on his people and work as an informant for Israel.
Yousef wasn’t just some Muslim kid. He was the eldest son of the leader of the terrorist group Hamas. And Yitzhak wasn’t just a cop; he was an officer in the Israeli internal security service Shin Bet. There hasn’t been a friendship this unlikely since the Fox and the Hound.
Mosab Hassan Yousef is as brave an interviewee as he was a spy. He explains with perfect clarity (and perfect English) what led him down the path from a would-be terrorist to an Israeli sympathizer.
First, he witnessed his Hamas brothers planning suicide bombings and then witnessed the ghastly aftermath. It became clear that working for Israel would save innocent lives.
Second, Yousef witnessed the brutality with which Hamas treated its own supporters. Behind bars, terrorist leaders would clear the prison yard to routinely torture and murder suspected turncoats.
In contrast, Yousef was amazed to discover that Gonen Ben Yitzhak didn’t try to recruit him with violence or threats; the Israeli simply urged the young Palestinian to join his anti-terrorism cause man to man.
In “The Green Prince,” Yousef calmly tells the story of how he infiltrated the highest levels of Hamas and thwarted countless terrorist attacks. He doesn’t boast about it, but it’s clear that young Yousef exhibited superhuman bravery. Even Donald Trump wouldn’t deny that he is a hero.
When it looked like his cover might be blown, Mosab Hassan Yousef fled to San Diego and wrote a book about his spy experience to make ends meet.
Upsettingly, the United States was about to deport him back to Palestine and certain death in 2010. In direct opposition to Shin Bet code and Israeli law, Gonen Ben Yitzhak traveled to San Diego to testify that Yousef is anything but a terrorist and must remain safely in America. Now both men had truly risked their lives for the other.
The film ends with Yousef and Yitzhak embracing each other outside the courtroom. They had become true friends. “The Green Prince” is a cold spy movie with a truly heartwarming happy ending.
If a Palestinian and an Israeli can be loyal partners and friends, anything is possible. I don’t know when Muslims and non-Muslims will be able to co-exist again in the Middle East, but I’m sure it will happen someday.