You may not know Mosab Hassan Yousef, but he is a hero. Mr. Yousef grew up in a culture of violence and hatred, and rejected it for faith in peace and a belief in humanity. He chose to place himself in mortal danger by working against one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world.
For his heroism, the United States immigration authorities may today choose to send him to certain death.
Yousef is the renowned "Son of Hamas": the eldest son of Hamas founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef. Hamas itself is well known, for all the wrong reasons. The Islamist group is infamous for its practices, of which suicide bombings of buses, weddings, and cafés are only the tip of the iceberg. For all Hamas's terror against Israelis -- of whom I am one, native-born and raised -- its most numerous victims are the Palestinians who suffer under its tyrannical rule in Gaza.
To live under Hamas as a Palestinian in Gaza is to suffer oppression and privation in equal measure. The Economist, among other sources, has documented its repression of the people it purports to liberate: If you form a rival political party, Hamas's killers will storm your mosque and shoot you down at prayer. If you protest its taxes, you'll be thrown in some of the worst jails in the Middle East. If you fail to abide by its extortionate permitting processes, Hamas will bulldoze your home. (Interestingly, foreigners only show up to protest when Israelis do this.) If you attempt to purchase basic goods, you are subjected to Soviet-style shortages as a result of Hamas's unyielding belligerent actions. If you are one of the dwindling number of Palestinian Christians, forget about living as anything but a dhimmi -- a second-class citizen without basic freedoms. And God help you if you are a woman or a gay man.
Overlaying all of this is the awful realization that what Hamas does to Palestinians is only a preview of what it would do to Israelis, given the chance. Those of us from Israel know this all too well. Even I, from a super left-wing Israeli family -- we're Labor voters, and even Labor is sometimes too conservative for us -- have had to confront that grim reality. I remember that awful day in 1995, when I was woken up by the words, "A bus has exploded two blocks from home." Twenty-one Israelis and one Dutch citizen were killed in that attack. A radical Islamist fanatic detonated his suicide vest. He slaughtered 22 innocent people who wanted nothing more than to get to work, to go shopping, or to get home.
One of the dead could have been me. And the murderer could have been Mosab Hassan Yousef.
I wasn't among the dead through plain luck -- and Mosab Hassan Yousef never became a killer through the power and uprightness of his conscience and character. A year after that attack, Yousef was arrested by the Israeli security services. That's when he began working for Israel to stop Hamas's terrorism, as one of its most trusted and valuable secret agents.
When we are raised with a certain doctrine, any doctrine, we tend to relate to it as absolute reality and it is often impossible to make your own judgment on what you are being told is "the truth." Not Mosab Hassan Yousef. He grew up, thought about what he was being indoctrinated, and came up with the following conclusion: "People become enslaved to radical Islamic beliefs that promote hate and violence." Imagine that: having never known any other life, having been taught an ideology of death from the cradle, and having a founder of Hamas as his own father, the young Yousef was ready to reject all that. Once in an Israeli prison, he was, paradoxically, free: free for the first time to examine his scruples and follow his conscience.
I believe that there is good in every heart, and that hate judgment and racism are taught. No evil is innate, and no child is born bad. Yet how many of us would have the strength to do what Yousef did? I'm not sure I would, and I am sorry to say few could.
What came next was a decade of precious information. Yousef became a double agent for Israeli security. Remarkably, he saved lives on both sides: he prevented Hamas attacks on Israelis, and he insisted that the Israeli forces never kill those on whom he informed. On top of all that, he had a change of faith. Yousef turned against Hamas in 1996, and three years later, he began exploring Christianity -- a process culminating in his 2005 baptism. The radical break with his past, from Islamist purveyor of violence to Christian advocate for peace, was complete.
Yousef could not stay in Israel or any of the Palestinian territories after that. As an apostate from Islam and (by 2007) a known agent for Israel, he was marked for death on two counts. There was no safe haven for him -- no spot outside the reach of Hamas or the Palestinian and Islamist movements. So he came to America.
Now, three years later, he may have to return -- and not by choice. Yousef has spent his three years in this country speaking out against terrorism, against Radical Islam, and against hate. He has written a bestselling book about his experiences. He has been a model immigrant: productive, upright, and fully embracing the American ideals of toleration and individual liberty. Yet because his application for refugee status is denied, a federal immigration judge in San Diego may today elect to force him to return to Israel or the Palestinian territories, where he will be a marked man.
This is, to be blunt, insane. I too am an immigrant in this great country but my situation is hardly like Yousef's. If Mosab Hassan Yousef is sent home, the hunt begins, and he counts down the days until the most accomplished murderers on earth exact their revenge. It is a cruel injustice, and a terrible repayment for a man who has truly walked in righteousness where most of us would surely fail.
Yet in a larger sense, it's not just Yousef's fate that is in the hands of the immigration judge today. The question is whether America's justice system is worthy of the American people. Americans are better than a great people -- they are a good people. They understand that Yousef, in his actions - rejecting violence and standing up for peace, embodies the longed for hope for the troubled Middle East.
That's an ideal, and a sort of man, that America has attracted from its very founding. From the Jewish refugees from European pogroms, to European refugees from fascism, to Asian refugees from Communism, to Mosab Hassan Yousef runs a direct line. The "huddled masses yearning to be free" have always found refuge on these shores. If the immigration judge today sends Yousef to the deadly welcome of Hamas, he'll do more than condemn one good man -- he'll betray the ideals that bring America the world's best.
Noa Tishby is an actress and producer living in Los Angeles, California. Her acting credits include The Island, Big Love, and NCIS. Her producing credits include HBO's In Treatment. She is a native of Israel.