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CNN'S AMANPOUR

An Israeli-Hamas Double Agent Speaks Out; Experts Debate his Story's Veracity and Ramifications

Aired March 7, 2010 - 14:03:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:03:15]

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: This week, espionage, exile, and 10 years as an Israeli agent. Our controversial conversation with the son of a Hamas founder.

I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to our program. A Palestinian man, Mosab Hassan Yousef, has written a book called "Son of Hamas" in which he describes being an agent for the Israeli intelligence service, Shin Bet. This man is his father. He's Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founding leader of Hamas.

In his book, Yousef, Jr., talks about what turned him against Hamas. He talks about his conversion from Islam to Christianity and whether he can ever return to the Middle East.

And after the interview, we tried to make sense of this story with a top Hamas official in Damascus, Syria, Osama Hamdan, an Israeli intelligence specialist and journalist, Yossi Melman in Tel Aviv, and we get perspective from Middle East expert Fawaz Gerges in London.

First, all the intrigue in our exclusive interview with Mosab Hassan Yousef.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: Thank you for being here with us in the studio.

YOUSEF: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Musab, your book is titled, as we said, "Son of Hamas." Your father is Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founder of Hamas. In the book, though, you said that you collaborated with Shin Bet, the Israeli intelligence agency. How did that happen? Why did that happen?

[14:05:00]

MOSAB HASSAN YOUSEF, AUTHOR OF "SON OF HAMAS": That happened when they offered me to work for them, when I was arrested in 1996. And I accepted their offer. My goal was to be a double agent and attack them from inside.

AMANPOUR: So you started off saying that this is the enemy, they've arrested me, they're against the Palestinians, I'm going to -- I'm going to attack them by pretending to work for them?

YOUSEF: Yes.

AMANPOUR: But then you turned and you did start to work for them; that's what you say.

YOUSEF: Yes.

AMANPOUR: How? Why?

YOUSEF: After I was tortured by the Shin Bet themselves, who became my friends later on, I was transferred to a prison -- to prison, and Hamas leaders were torturing Hamas members.

AMANPOUR: So you're in jail, and you're seeing things in jail that turn you off Hamas?

YOUSEF: Yes.

AMANPOUR: Your people?

YOUSEF: Yes. So I became confused about that, about who's really my enemy, and everybody is torturing everybody. Now, when I was released from jail, I decided I don't want to work for Shin Bet, I don't want to work for Hamas, either, but I wanted to finish my promise to the Shin Bet respectfully, so I accepted to meet them. And I was surprised with the first rules that they gave me.

AMANPOUR: What did -- what did you promise them?

YOUSEF: I promised to work for them. They didn't know that I wanted to be a double agent, so I didn't want just to turn my back. I wanted to meet them at least for once or a couple of times and say, "I'm sorry, I cannot work for you."

AMANPOUR: And what did you want to do for them?

YOUSEF: I was asked to collect information about suicide bombers and terrorists.

AMANPOUR: Were you doing this for money?

YOUSEF: My goal wasn't to do it for money. It was to do it for my people, to attack Shin Bet, my enemies, who tortured me, who arrested my father, who killed our people. So, of course, it wasn't for money.

AMANPOUR: But the question is -- you sound confused. You say that you wanted to be a double agent, you wanted to attack Shin Bet, that's why you were pretending to work for them, but then you decided really to work for them. That's what you say in your book.

YOUSEF: Yes.

AMANPOUR: Why? What was your agenda?

YOUSEF: Later on, I became a Christian, during that time, the first few months, and I was convinced by the principle of loving your enemies. And I saw that my enemy, who I thought that they were my enemies, they had morality, they had their responsibilities more than my own people.

AMANPOUR: So you're saying that you found that the Israeli intelligence agency had more morality than your own people, than your own Palestinians? That's what you say?

YOUSEF: Yes, I did. And it was a moral issue for me.

AMANPOUR: What was?

YOUSEF: My people -- my people don't understand this, because they didn't have the same experience. At least the Shin Bet is an organization that is committed to the constitution. They have their own rules. And they respect the rules.

Yes, there are mistakes, and they are responsible for killing civilians, and I admit that, and I'm witnessing for things like this, but this doesn't make them thirsty to kill Palestinians.

Now, what Hamas is having something absolutely different. Hamas targeted -- targets civilians. It's their goal to target civilians. And there is a difference if -- if -- if you're targeting a terrorist and there is a civilian casualty.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: And we'll have more of Yousef's dramatic life in a moment, growing up under Israeli occupation. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:10:50]

AMANPOUR: We have more now from our exclusive interview with Mosab Hassan Yousef, including extraordinary insight into his childhood, his family, and his conversion to Christianity. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: Let's talk a little bit about you when you were a child in the West Bank growing up. The first intifada happened in 1987. How old were you then?

YOUSEF: I was nine years old.

AMANPOUR: How did you take part in that? Were you one of the small children who threw rocks at Israeli soldiers?

YOUSEF: The model for every Palestinian child is a mujahid (ph) or a fidahi (ph) or a fighter. So, of course, I wanted to be one at that point of my life. It wasn't -- it's not my only dream. It's every child's dream in that territory.

AMANPOUR: So what were you doing there during the first intifada?

YOUSEF: We participate in throwing stones. Even when I was a child, I was arrested when I was 10 years old. I was beaten by settlers and kidnapped, in fact, for throwing stones on settlers.

AMANPOUR: Those are the Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

YOUSEF: Yes.

AMANPOUR: It is almost fantastical. How can this Palestinian young man whose father is the founder of Hamas completely switch sides with such passion as you're describing now? Many people are saying, how can this be true? Is this Israeli propaganda?

Your own father has written from prison, where he still is, a statement: "I, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, dauh dal khalil (ph), and my entire family, my wife, sons and daughters, declare that we fully, inclusively and exhaustively denounce our eldest son, Mosab."

He said that you were a collaborator, collaborating with the enemy. He said that you're betraying the Palestinians, betraying Islam. How do you respond to that? I mean, is your father telling the truth?

YOUSEF: My father is not saying -- telling his heart. My father is under lots of pressure, and he's committed to his god. This is not my father's will. This is his god's will. And, unfortunately, his god unskins (ph) my father's humanity by doing this. My father in all his heart -- and I know that he loves me and I love him -- but this is his god's will, and he -- he didn't have an escape from that.

AMANPOUR: Hamas is saying also that this is a psychological war being waged against the Palestinian people.

YOUSEF: It is not. It is not. They're mistaken. It is not. I did what I did because I believed in it, and I am not working for the Israeli agenda or for the Israeli propaganda. I am doing...

AMANPOUR: Why does your brother say it was full of lies, your book, all lies?

YOUSEF: First of all, my brother didn't read my book yet. Second, it's for real, and we have witnessing from the Shin Bet, from outside, and you can go yourself and check every fact that we described in the book.

AMANPOUR: So let's -- let's say what you're saying is what happened. Why did you do it? You talk with great passion about it. What were you hoping to achieve? You say peace, but how?

YOUSEF: At that time, what I could do to stop killing people, even terrorists.

AMANPOUR: How was working for Shin Bet stopping killings of Palestinians?

YOUSEF: First of all, as a Shin Bet agent, when I had information about someone, that helped arresting them. When the Shin Bet didn't have information who carried the attack, they had to hit randomly without -- it's not -- they didn't have specific targets.

But when I specified that this person is responsible for that thing, and I had a condition that you don't kill that person -- I remember once I had five suicide bombers in one place, and Ariel Sharon decided to drop a bomb on them, and I said, "I cannot kill them, first, as a Christian, second, as a Palestinian, those are my people, and those people don't understand what they're doing."

Nobody did this in the Shin Bet. And this will show you that I wasn't working for the Shin Bet agenda. In fact, Shin Bet worked for my agenda.

[14:15:00]

AMANPOUR: So you're saying the information you provided prevented Palestinians, even suicide bombers, from being killed?

YOUSEF: Yes.

AMANPOUR: It allowed the Shin Bet to arrest them?

YOUSEF: Ten years -- ten years working for the Shin Bet, I am not responsible for killing even one terrorist. So I was -- I cared about my people. And why? Because I -- I discovered that our problem is not with the terrorists. Our problem is not with the suicide bomber. Our problem was with their ideology, and they're absolutely victims of their ideology.

AMANPOUR: Is this for you a conflict between Islam, the religion of your birth, and Christianity, what you converted to you? You keep talking about our god, their god.

YOUSEF: Exactly. This is absolutely right. It's ideological conflict. It's ideological war. In other wars, it's a war between two gods, the god of the Koran and the god of Torah or the god of the Bible. So people are victims of this war.

AMANPOUR: We have some pictures of you with your father, Sheikh Hassan, and we're going to show you right now, you walking with your father. That appears to be your father.

YOUSEF: Yes.

AMANPOUR: And you were there with the glasses next to him in the leather jacket?

YOUSEF: Yes.

AMANPOUR: When was the last time you saw your father?

YOUSEF: It was five years ago when we were arrested together. I had to go to prison undercover because I was his assistant. And I had to go to prison for cover. So we were arrested the same -- at the same time. And he's still in prison to this moment.

AMANPOUR: And you were arrested trying to save him from being killed? Or what was the reason for that arrest?

YOUSEF: Absolutely. If I wasn't in the picture, my dad would be killed 10 times, not only my dad. If you go back to Ramallah history, you will find that Ramallah, between all the Palestinian territories, had the least amount of assassinations. And if you ask a question, why did -- how did this happen, I tell you, because -- because I was there.

AMANPOUR: So you keep coming back to this point that you believe you saved lives.

YOUSEF: I did save lives. That's not something I'm -- I'm telling you. That's for real. And you can read in the book, and you can read details. Many people -- many Palestinian people now who hate me owe me their lives.

AMANPOUR: When did you convert to Christianity?

YOUSEF: I don't know the exact date, but it took me six years of studying, and I was baptized in 2005 in the Mediterranean Sea.

AMANPOUR: So you were still in the Middle East...

YOUSEF: Yes.

AMANPOUR: Are you not afraid that one day they're going to come and get you for all of this, somebody is?

YOUSEF: To get me -- what do you mean? To kill me?

AMANPOUR: Somebody. Somebody.

YOUSEF: To kill me for example? Death is not the worst thing that can happen to a human being, physical death. The worst: spiritual and soul death. This is what really scare me.

AMANPOUR: Why did you leave Shin Bet? And when did you?

YOUSEF: After 10 years of working against terrorism, this is what I realized as a Christian, that our problem with terrorism is not with bunch of terrorists in Afghanistan mountains or in Gaza Strip or any other places. Our problem is with their ideology. Our problem is with their god, the god of the Koran.

I know this is very dangerous, and I know this is -- this can offend many people, and I -- I want them to understand that my problem is not with them. They are my family. Muslim people are my family. When I think about them, I think about my dad, I think about my mother. My problem is with their god.

So I end up, instead of hunting the street drug dealers, I'm telling governments, let's hunt the gangster, the main gangster, and I believe the main gangster is the god of Islam, and the motive -- the real motive is not by fanatic Muslims. It's in the Koran that moderate and fundamentalist Muslims read.

AMANPOUR: Mosab, you just said that the gangster of the world is the god of Islam, the god of the Koran. Do you really mean that?

YOUSEF: I really mean that. And I'm willing to die for this.

AMANPOUR: Because you're going to offend not just the Palestinians, but a billion Muslims all over the world, who are going to say, what are you talking about?

YOUSEF: Yes, but my goal is not to offend them. My goal: to wake them up. It's -- I say that the worst terrorist criminal Muslim has moralities, logics, responsibility more than their god.

I want Muslims to read their Koran and understand it. They don't understand their book. And I understand it. I memorialized half of the Koran, and I have the authority to say -- because I understand Islam religion.

(CROSSTALK)

YOUSEF: Most Muslims don't.

[14:20:00]

AMANPOUR: I'm not going to debate Islam with you, but as you know, many, many, many Muslims would say that that is not written in the book and it's a matter of interpretation by men and women.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: And next, we'll tell you about Yousef's surprising admission about suicide bombers. That's when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:22:25]

AMANPOUR: In the next part of our interview with Mosab Hassan Yousef, he explains how he went from admiring suicide bombings against Israel to wanting to stop them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: Did you ever want to become a suicide bomber?

YOUSEF: I didn't want to be a suicide bomber, because I was very young for a thing like this, but I praised suicide bombers.

AMANPOUR: You praised suicide bombers?

YOUSEF: And I celebrated attacks against Israeli civilians at some point of my life.

AMANPOUR: And how do you turn from praising suicide bombers and praising attacks on Israeli civilians to joining them, to joining the Israelis, rather, the intelligence?

YOUSEF: This is why I wrote "Son of Hamas." It's a long story. I cannot answer it in one second.

AMANPOUR: Tell me again the turning point and whether it was a person that you trusted, somebody who came to you. Who turned you to working for the Israelis?

YOUSEF: It's not about trusting somebody. It's about my own experience, figuring out who's my enemy. I grow up in a society that Israel was my enemy, and this is how I was learned. And when I was in prison, I found that there could be other enemies. Also, there are other enemies in the community. So I was confused. Personally, I was confused who was really my enemy.

AMANPOUR: How does it feel never to be able to go back? Or do you think you can one day go back to the Palestinian territory?

YOUSEF: Who told you that I can't go back?

AMANPOUR: Well, I'm -- it seems extraordinary if you could tell all this story and describe all these things that you say that you've done and then want to go back into Palestinian territory.

YOUSEF: I think, with my experience, I can live in my own town and nobody will know that I'm living there, if I want to.

AMANPOUR: Because you're so good at disguising and faking your experience?

YOUSEF: I don't want to say that I'm so good, but if I want to go back, I will go back.

AMANPOUR: We talked a little bit about it before, but I want to ask you again. It's one thing to turn your back on your own father.

YOUSEF: I didn't turn my back on my own father. I saved his life. Today he's disowning me while I saved his life. My dad would be killed. When the Israeli cabinets send the pictures and the names of people who would be assassinated, the Shin Bet tried to hide my dad's picture so they don't hurt my feelings to tell me that our prime minister wants your dad dead.

And I said, it doesn't matter. It's not about my dad. It's about everybody on the list. Let's arrest them. Let's put them in prison.

[14:25:00]

I was willing to put my dad in prison to get him away from trouble. I saved his life. He would be -- he was an easy target.

AMANPOUR: So Hamas says that they knew you were an informer and that you didn't actually have access...

YOUSEF: Not because they're smart.

AMANPOUR: ... to any significant information. What's your response?

YOUSEF: Not because -- not because they're smart they knew. Because when I was in prison, after I was -- after I gave my word to the Shin Bet, I went to the Hamas security wing, and I told them I gave my word to the Shin Bet to work for them to do double agent thing. Do you see any chance that you can help me to infiltrate and attack them from inside? That was something I thought of, not because I was suspicious.

And the funny thing, I told them this, and I was suspicious, and I could do what I could do for 10 years. Why they didn't do anything about it?

AMANPOUR: What was their response when you said, "Give me information. I can help you"?

YOUSEF: They didn't want to get involved. They were afraid, simply.

AMANPOUR: Did Shin Bet let you down somehow?

YOUSEF: To be honest with you, I maintained very strong position inside the Shin Bet. I mentioned something to you, I don't know if you take it seriously or not. I said that the Shin Bet worked for my agendas, and they really did.

AMANPOUR: Did they know they were doing that?

YOUSEF: In the -- directly they would think, "OK, this guy's genius, you know? He's like just doing whatever he wants to do," because I was working with lots of conditions. And I remember once they told me, "We don't work with anybody with conditions." I told them, "OK, then goodbye." And they didn't want to lose me. They had no other option.

I'm not telling you that there are lots of Hamas people who work with the Shin Bet or even Palestinians. But there are technologies, there are lots of sophisticated devices today that -- even the Mossad was discovered with every move they did in Dubai by police, not by intelligence. Today -- so think about organized governmental organization.

AMANPOUR: Was that Mossad who did that in Dubai?

YOUSEF: I -- I don't know for sure, but I can tell you that their fingerprints are everywhere.

AMANPOUR: Do you still have links to Shin Bet?

YOUSEF: They don't want to talk to me. They're actually mad at me.

AMANPOUR: Why are they mad at you?

YOUSEF: Simply, they didn't want me to go public with this and write a book. They're afraid that I wrote something that would hurt their operations.

AMANPOUR: Did they try to get you to not write this book, not publish it?

YOUSEF: They didn't know until the last moment. But for sure, they stopped -- my handler, my ex-handler, who doesn't work now for the Shin Bet, now they asked him not to talk to any type of media. He's not allowed to talk anything about it.

AMANPOUR: So now Shin Bet is against you, the Palestinians are against you. You're in a very dangerous position.

YOUSEF: Yeah, but God is with me. He's love.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: And we want to know what you think of Mosab Hassan Yousef's story, so join us on our Facebook page at amanpour.com/Facebook, where you can also get status updates from me and from our staff about the stories we're working on.

And up next, how to make sense of Yousef's extraordinary confession. Some say he's exaggerating; others say this is just how it is in the dark world of espionage and war. We talk with a top Hamas official, an Israeli intelligence specialist, and a foremost expert on the Middle East. So please stay with us for the verbal fireworks coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

[14:34:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, what was your role in Hamas when you say that you were working with Shin Bet? I mean, what did you know about it? Because Hamas is saying, well, he didn't know anything, we knew he was a double agent, we didn't let him in on anything.

YOUSEF: First of all, I wasn't required to be a member of Hamas or a member of its military wing. That wasn't good for our work as intelligence, because if I was in, I could carry one operation only.

I understood culture. I understood the movement. I understood the people, their motives, their ideology, and I didn't have even to be there to understand what they're doing. Some information was enough for me to put the puzzle together and solve it.

AMANPOUR: Are you conflicted about what you did inside?

YOUSEF: I am not. I never felt guilty about this. And do I look to you as somebody who really feel guilty or regrets what he did? If I regret what I did, and I feel guilty about it, I wouldn't be talking about it to the entire world here in your studio.

AMANPOUR: Why are you talking about it? Why are you writing the book?

[14:35:00]

YOUSEF: I am writing a book because I want everybody to go through this journey, to see the picture from every side, to -- to see that there is -- if they go through the experience that I had, there will be peace in the Middle East, I believe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: Our exclusive interview with Mosab Hassan Yousef, "Son of Hamas," turned into a global talking point. And to analyze his claims and his story, we assembled a remarkable group: Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan in Damascus; top Middle East expert Fawaz Gerges in London; and Israeli intelligence specialist and journalist Yossi Melman in Tel Aviv.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: Let me go first to you, Mr. Melman. Here is a Hamas, Palestinian gentleman who says that for 10 years he worked as an agent for the Israeli intelligence agency, Shin Bet. Is this something that happens often in Israel and in this Israeli-Palestinian war?

YOSSI MELMAN, HA'ARETZ: Oh, yes, yes, very much so. For the last 40 years and more since Israel is occupying the West Bank and until recently Gaza, Israeli security services -- mainly the domestic security service, the Shabak, Shin Bet, tried to penetrate Palestinian organization in order to get information.

AMANPOUR: So you believe his story and the claims as have been written in his book and also in articles in your own newspaper?

MELMAN: I believe his story, and I know that his story is generally speaking accurate, maybe slightly over inflating his own role and its importance. He was not the only agent that the Israeli security service had at the time inside Hamas.

AMANPOUR: OK. Let me play this part of an interview that I did with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: When was the last time you saw your father?

YOUSEF: It was five years ago when we were arrested together. I had to go to prison undercover because I was his assistant. And I had to go to prison for cover. So we were arrested the same -- at the same time. And he's still in prison to this moment. If I wasn't in the picture, my dad would be killed 10 times.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: So I want to bring in now Osama Hamdan, the Hamas spokesman who's joining us from Damascus, Syria. Mr. Hamdan, you heard there what Mosab Hassan Yousef said. His father is a well-known leader of Hamas. This must be very bad for you, that he's coming out and describing why he turned against you.

OSAMA HAMDAN, HAMAS SPOKESPERSON: Well, I have to say, it's not -- it is not very bad for Hamas.

They are talking about a story of, yes, one of the sons of Hassan Yousef, who is a senior leader in Hamas. His father declared clearly that his son, when he was at the age of 17 years old, discovered -- they discovered in Hamas -- our security people, they discovered that he has some problems. So he was far from any sensitive issues inside Hamas.

Israel is trying to create an issue that they can go everywhere, they can touch anyone inside Hamas. They are trying to reform their reputation after what had happened in Dubai.

We believe he -- this is something that was dictated to him to be said as a part of his job. His family knows that well. Hamas members, they understand that well, and they are -- they don't believe what the Israelis -- the Israelis are saying.

AMANPOUR: You seem to be saying it is possible that he worked for Shin Bet, only that he didn't know much, according to you. I would like to play another piece of the interview in which he describes why he turned against Hamas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YOUSEF: Shin Bet is an organization that's committed to the constitution. They have their own rules. And they respect the rules.

Yes, there are mistakes, and they are responsible for killing civilians, and I admit that, and I'm witnessing for things like this, but this doesn't make them thirsty to kill Palestinians.

Now, what Hamas is having something absolutely different. Hamas targeted -- targets civilians. It's their goal to target civilians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: I want to bring in Fawaz Gerges from London, a Middle East expert, an observer of this whole conflict, and to put some of this in perspective. He's basically saying that he made a decision that--

HAMDAN: I will not continue that if they turn back to the Israeli guy. Tell them.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Hamdan?

HAMDAN: They have to respect the people. They are not supposed to do that, even if you are Amanpour.

[14:40:00]

AMANPOUR: Mr. Hamdan? Mr. Hamdan, I'm going to ask you in that case.

HAMDAN: Yes, excuse me, I -- I -- I -- excuse me.

AMANPOUR: What's the problem?

HAMDAN: I've said initially I will not go on a program -- I -- I will not go on a program with any Israelis. I've said that at the beginning. Twenty-four hours before, I informed your people about this.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Hamdan--

HAMDAN: So after you finish with them, and then come back with me.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Hamdan, we did not get that message. I want you to stand by, because I still have questions for you.

For the moment, I would like to talk to Mr. Gerges about putting this in context. Is this normal that you have in the context of this war, of this conflict that's gone for decades, a Palestinian who could be so turned off his own side that he would go towards Shin Bet and feel that perhaps they were his friends? He says that he was first arrested, he was tortured by Shin Bet, but in prison, he made the switch.

FAWAZ GERGES, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Christiane, a point of clarification for your audience. We are dealing with an underground world, a universe of espionage, where it's very difficult to disentangle myth from reality. This is a very, very complex universe where lies are the norm, lies are the norms, not the exception.

Remember, Christiane, Hamas is a highly -- in particular, the military wing -- a very, very difficult and secretive organization. It's extremely difficult for a young man like Junior Yousef to penetrate or infiltrate the military wing of Hamas. Many Palestinians whom I have spoken to in the last two days say he's a wacko man, it's a pack of lies.

I think what -- I mean, was he an agent? Absolutely. What's really on the line is his credibility. He exaggerates greatly, and we need to be skeptical.

And let me answer your question directly now. Yes, Israel has succeeded over the years in infiltrating Palestinian society. Thousands of Palestinians serve as agents for the Israeli security forces. He is no exception except that he is the son of one of the top Hamas leader, but we need to be skeptical, we need to realize that his credibility on the line, and not to take everything that he feeds your audience or feeds you, because, of course, he has a story and a big tale to tell.

AMANPOUR: Well, of course, this is why we're doing this report, because putting it in context is important. And as you say, this is part of the norm of this kind of cynicism that develops during wartime, when each side tries to penetrate the other side. So--

GERGES: You know, Christiane, the big story really is that, why has Israel succeeded in basically recruiting thousands of Palestinians? And this tells you about the fragmentation of Palestinian society. It tells you about the resources and the means by which Israel infiltrates Palestinian society.

And you're absolutely correct. I mean, Palestinians have been engaged in a civil war as a result of this espionage because, as we know, many supposed or alleged agents have been killed by both the PLO and Hamas, because there's a war taking place, very bitter, very bloody, very cynical, indeed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: And we'll have more of this fascinating analysis from our guests in a moment. And the story has also sparked a global debate on Twitter, especially among viewers in Israel, in the Palestinian territories, and amongst the Christian evangelical community right here in the United States. And to read some of their messages, go to amanpour.com/twitter, and weigh in by tweeting us.

Next, Mosab Hassan Yousef's connection with Shimon Peres, who's now Israel's president.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:46:30]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: You talk about trying to save lives. You said that you thwarted a plot to blow up the current Israeli president, Shimon Peres, back when he was foreign minister. What was that about?

YOUSEF: One of the Hamas bomb-maker -- his name is Abdullah Barghouti -- he's a killing machine, very dangerous man. I discovered a few hours before he was planning to plant four bombs in cars and explode the prime minister's car.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: That was another excerpt and another stunning claim from my interview with Mosab Hassan Yousef. We spoke about that and more with our guests. First, I asked Israeli intelligence specialist Yossi Melman whether Yousef's book could be an Israeli attempt to discredit the Palestinians and divide them even further than they already are.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELMAN: First of all, I'm kind of puzzled by Mr. Hamdan, because Hamas leaders here in Gaza, in the West Bank are talking to us Israeli journalists.

Secondly, I would say that this book was not initiated by the Israeli security services, obviously, not to divert attention from Dubai, because the book was written weeks and months before that, I assume.

Actually, the book is kind of an embarrassment for the security services of Israel, because like any professional intelligence organization, they try to protect their sources.

And the fact that Mosab went public and surfaced and admitted that he was an agent is not liked by the security service of Israel.

The truth is that Israel has many, many agents, as the CIA has agents. This is the nature of the game. You have to penetrate these groups.

And the top agent you have, the better. You try to get to the top of the leadership of the other -- of your enemy or the other organization. And, therefore, it's not a lie. It's a well-known fact. Israeli -- Israeli prisons are filled with Hamas terrorists and -- and PLO activists. Some of them have been in the past agents for Israel. Some of them maybe are still agents while serving their jail terms.

Israel has managed to cover very widely in mapping the Palestinian organizations, including Hamas. And the fact is that Israel -- the results, the end result of it is that Israel has prevented many, many terrorist attacks.

AMANPOUR: Can I -- can I go to Mr. Hamdan, please, in Damascus, Syria? And to -- to ask you to react to this notion that it is a risk for Palestinians in prison to be recruited, Mr. Hamdan. Don't you find that many Palestinians, whether they're Hamas or Fatah, whoever they are, can be recruited in prison?

HAMDAN: Well, I have to say it's a war. And the Palestinian people are under the occupation for more than six decades. And in such a case, such things may happen. It's not a big success.

[14:50:00]

The Israelis are trying to say that it's a big success to do that, while, in fact, it's not. I have to say, the Israelis issued this book as a kind of propaganda.

When you say that someone was working for his enemies, it means that he lies for his own people, and we expect that there is big lies in this book. It doesn't mean that everything in this book is serious. There may be some facts which was used to make a kind of credibility for the book, while we believe most of this is lies.

AMANPOUR: I want to go now quickly to Mr. Fawaz Gerges and ask you, Mr. Gerges, were you impressed by the very passionate way that Mosab Hassan Yousef talks about his conversion from Islam to Christianity? That seems to have been such a motivating factor for what he did.

GERGES: You know, I mean, this is also an element in the tale that also must be taken into account when we discuss the credibility of what he says. And the reason why I say so is that Mr. Yousef, Jr., obviously has gone through tremendous upheaval, psychological, personal, on multiple levels. It's a human story for most of us who are living in the West.

AMANPOUR: Yes, indeed.

GERGES: For the Palestinians -- for the Palestinians, Christiane, it's a tragedy that reminds them of what Israel has done to their society, how it infiltrates their society.

AMANPOUR: Fawaz Gerges, thank you so much, and also to Osama Hamdan, spokesman for Hamas in Damascus, and Yossi Melman, Israeli intelligence specialists and journalist, who's joined us from Tel Aviv. Gentlemen, thank you all very much for helping to dissect this story.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: And to catch some behind-the-scenes photos from the interview that sparked this whole discussion, log on to amanpour.com/blog, where you can also give us your feedback.

And a reminder: You can watch the whole of this interview with Mosab Hassan Yousef on amanpour.com/podcast.

And up next, from the cynical side of this war to overcoming the hostility, a remarkable documentary shows that it can be possible.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:55:00]

AMANPOUR: And now our "Post-Script." The story we've been telling over the past hour shows the seamy side of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but there is, if you look hard enough also, a sunnier side. And we want to show you the possibility of both sides overcoming hostility.

And it starts with the young. An organization called Seeds of Peace is demonstrating how dialogue can overcome distrust. This documentary clip shows Palestinian and Israeli youngsters coming together for a second year of summer camp in the United States. They discuss what it was like trying to plant the seeds of peace back home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I came back, I was like totally different person. Here you get the tools. In Israel, you have to work with them. I just understood that I have to do something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After I came back from camp, it was hard. Most of my friends will tell me that what you're doing is kind of wrong. People are dying, and you're going and co-existing with them. At that time, I feel like, should I be a Seed or shouldn't I be? What way should I go? If I want to help my people, I think my way is the better way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: Seeds of Peace was founded during the Palestinian-Israeli peace process back in 1993. And it has now expanded to other conflict zones in the Balkans, India, Pakistan and now in Afghanistan, as well.

Now, we are one of the first TV programs to enter the new social media site Google Buzz. And now you can connect with our program using a Gmail account. You can find a link at amanpour.com.

That's it for our report. Thank you for joining us. And during the week, you can watch our program on CNN International and catch our daily podcast on amanpour.com/podcast.

Goodbye from New York.

END

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