Zvi Yehezkeli undercover as Sheikh Abu Hamza.
(photo credit: CHANNEL 10)
Zvi Yehezkeli is a fairly well known face around Israel. For more than 15 years, the journalist and religious father of five has appeared on Channel 10 News, reporting on the Arab world.
But for a couple months over the past two years, Yehezkeli became someone else entirely: Sheikh Abu Hamza. He used this identity – and a couple of others – to film an in-depth series on the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the streets of Europe and the United States. The five-part series, titled “False Identity,” began airing last week on Channel 10.
In the first installment, Yehezkeli – or Abu Hamza, wired with secret cameras and microphones – explored the mosques, schools and bookstores of the Muslim community in Paris.
“The Western world isn’t always reporting on these things because they don’t understand their significance,” Yehezkeli said in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post
. “I think the job of a journalist is to report on the things we don’t understand.”
Yehezkeli set out to show the infrastructure and the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Paris.
“I think people should see their doublespeak, their approach to mosques and schools,” and attempts to control the Muslim community in France and elsewhere in Europe, he said.
The upcoming episodes, said Yehezkeli, will show additional footage from France as well as his journey posing as a Syrian refugee traveling from Turkey to Germany. The final two episodes, which the journalist said basically make up a free-standing documentary, focus on the United States.
“The biggest revelations in this series are in the United States,” said Yehezkeli. “It’s stronger than anything else in the program.”
To go undercover, Yehezkeli changed his look and dress, received lessons from locals on how to pose as a Muslim and bought fake documents with his new name and photo.
But even with his instruction and his fluent Arabic, there were moments Yehezkeli said he feared for his life while filming.
“You saw, in the first episode, that moment in the mosque in France,” he said. Yehezkeli said he thought that some people nearby had discovered his identity, “and I was given an order to get out of there.” In a future episode, Yehezkeli said, he was actually stopped and detained in Turkey along with his crew after arousing suspicion. He was eventually let go with a warning, but was left shaken.
While Yehezkeli’s family might be used to some of his more unusual and treacherous travels, this time around he was more tight-lipped.
“I would tell them at the end of each trip that everything is OK,” he said.
The journalist has received some criticism that the show serves just to fearmonger and portray everyday events as sinister.
Indeed, the fact that state-funded schools are teaching Islam and the Koran is far from alarming.
The popularity in stores of the books and recordings of Yusuf al-Qaradawi is a different story, however. An extremist cleric whose works are banned in Saudi Arabia, he has an arrest warrant out for him in Egypt and is not allowed to enter the US, UK or France.
“Islam is a legitimate faith like any other faith in the world,” said Yehezkeli, “until the moment when its politics and organizations try to force an extremist version of Islam on other Muslims. This is one of the problems of the Muslim Brotherhood... There’s a reason they’ve been thrown out of Arab countries; there’s a reason they’re operating now in the West.”