‘The Green Prince’
How A Son of Hamas Leader Came To Work For Shin Bet
In the new documentary, “The Green Price”, Mosab Yousef tells how he, the son of a prominent Hamas leader becomes a Shin Bet spy. Gonen Ben Yitzhak explains his role in luring Mosab over to the Shin Bet and their operations carried out over the course of a decade from 1997 to 2007. Director Nadav Schirman allows each man to explain his motivations with no intruding or directing questions.
Mosab tells us that he is motivated by disillusion with Hamas desires to bring peace to the region, although it is clear that he finds the subterfuge to be exciting. We do see his loyalties become tangled as the movie progresses. He does become the link between Hamas and Shin Bet plays one against the other. He ultimately turns on his father when he realizes that he would be safer in jail than in Ramallah. It is interesting that the Israelis suspect that Hassan, Mosab’s father, knows what his son is doing.
Alarmed by what he hears, Mosab sells his father , Sheikh Hassan Yousef, down the river in a last-ditch attempt to keep him out of harm’s way, reasoning that he will be safer in jail than on the streets of Ramallah. The Israelis, for their part, suspect that Hassan secretly knows what his son has been up to all along.
The film is as tense as any Hollywood thriller and is a real psychological adventure. The title, “The Green Prince”, is for Mosab’s Israeli codename and the film brings together archival footage and reconstructed scenes as we await the arrival on screen of Mosab and wily Gonen Ben Yitzhak. When Ben Yitzhak first recruits Mosab he tells him to continue studying and become an important person in his community. Mosab tells us that this is exactly the same advice he got from his father. It is here that we realize that the film is a shifting triangle between a young man and two father figures. What is lacking is an interview with Sheikh Hassan but then if he had appeared that would make the story so nice and clean and tied up with a bow. It is the tension at the core of the film that makes it so interesting. We do see that Mosab loves his father but he hates his father’s actions. He does respect Ben Yitzhak but we get the feeling that the Israeli is not playing fair.
All three, Mosab, Ben Yitzhak and Hassan are corrupt and each tries to make the best out of a situation that has good side. All three know that they are bound together and one goes down so do the others. That going down is pictures with grace here and that is very special.
It seems that the film’s strongest narrative points involve Mosab’s relationship with his father and Mosab’s explanation that his allegiances remained with his imprisoned father all along. In fact, the reason that Mosab joined the Shin Bet was to prevent the murders of Hamas leaders such as his father. He agreed to assist the Israelis as long as Palestinians would be imprisoned rather than executed for their crimes, and he says this loud and clear when he says to those who still believe him to be a traitor that “you are not assassinated today because of this arrangement.” Mosab’s father, however, still believes him a traitor and has disowned him much like the majority of Palestinians. This is over emphasized at the end of the film when Mosab makes a speech and chokes back and wipes away tears. While this is quite moving what it does is reinforce the idea that the film is more interested in what we can really see than ambiguities and complicated detail.
The film is something of a shadow play with the actors hiding in twilight and as the film goes forward the line between light and dark blurs more and more. It depends on the identity of the characters. Mosab tells us how he came to be imprisoned by the Israelis after brokering an arms deal, how his experience of Hamas in prison shook him to the core of his being, how he began spying for Shin Bet and how they pushed his position into intelligence and how Mosab used it to protect his family.
There are two important relationships here—that of Mosab and his father and that of Mosab and Ben Yitzhak. It may sound strange but this is a family drama almost like a Greek tragedy as we see the struggle between Mosab’s loyalties to his father and to Yitzhak, to say nothing of his loyalties to the Palestinians or the Israelis and this is balanced by Mosab’s growing moral evolution.