WASHINGTON ““ When Mosab Hasan Yousef left a San Diego courthouse with the news that he would not be deported from the United States, he telephoned Sarah Stern in her Washington, D.C., office.
“Sarah, we won!” he told Stern, president of EMET: Endowment for Middle East Truth, June 30. “They’re going to give me political asylum and are dropping the case…. [Y]ou’re the first person I’m calling.”
“I let out a scream I was so happy,” Stern said.
The news climaxed Yousef’s three-year legal effort to settle in the United States, which he nearly sabotaged inadvertently with the March publication of “Son of Hamas,” a book that described his undercover work for Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency.
|Sarah Stern, president of EMET: Endowment for Middle East Truth, and former Shin Bet handler Gonen Ben-Yitzhak, left, lobbie’d to prevent the United States from deporting a former Hamas member, Mosab Hasan Yousef, who helped Israel. Bob Stein|
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security had moved to deport Yousef on the basis of passages that it said indicated he aided Hamas, which the United States lists as a terrorist group.
The reversal was the culmination of a short campaign waged by EMET, a small, four-year-old American Jewish organization, on behalf of a Palestinian Muslim-turned-Christian who had subverted the terrorist organization co-founded by his father.
Stern had worked in Washington since the 1990s for the Zionist Organization of America and the American Jewish Congress. In 2006 she alerted the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare to anti-Israel statements by a man nominated to the panel.
The task force’s co-chair, then-Rep. James Saxton (R-N.J.), recruited Stern to help identify moderate American Muslims as potential nominees.
She would found EMET as a platform for highlighting the courage of those who exposed the dangers of radical Islam. The organization also works to sensitize members of Congress to threats to Israel’s security.
Stern used her network of previous EMET honorees to locate Yousef to present him with the organization’s Speaker of the Truth Award at its June 23 dinner. Concerned for his safety, Stern began assisting him in fighting deportation.
In June, Stern secured three letters that Yousef’s lawyer, Steven Seick, said “made all the difference” once they were entered as evidence:
“¢ The chairman of Israel’s Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee thanked Yousef for acting with “resolute determination … personal courage, reliability, and dedication” to save lives.
“¢ U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), one of Yousef’s co-honorees on June 23, wrote a letter with 21 House of Representatives colleagues that urged Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to “take into account all the evidence,” particularly Yousef’s “cooperation with Shin Bet at significant risk to his own safety and life.”
“¢ Former CIA director James Woolsey, a member of EMET’s advisory board, urged the U.S. to drop deportation proceedings, which if successful would be “an incredible travesty” and an “inhumane act” that would harm America’s recruitment of anti-terrorism agents and “set us back years in the war on terrorism.”
Another key factor, Seick said, was an affidavit signed by Gonen Ben-Yitzhak, Yousef’s former Shin Bet handler, attesting to Yousef’s character and to his pivotal role in preventing terrorist attacks, including against Israeli President Shimon Peres and ex-Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef.
Seick was about to call Ben-Yitzhak as his first witness when the Homeland Security attorney announced that she was dropping the case. Yousef’s lawyer expects the official letter granting asylum to be issued by mid-August.