The Michael Coren Show, October 19, 2004 - More complete and revealing transcript!!!!


Here is an eight page transcript of "The Michael Coren Show", October 19, 2004 where the Canadian Islamic Congress president Dr. Mohamed Elmasry was invited to be one of four panelists to discuss the topic of terrorism. This transcript is based on a video tape of the show.

The topic of the talk show was "What Is a Terrorist?"


BREAK: TV commercials

ABRIDGED: Part of transcript abridged

MC: Mr.Michael Coren

Elmasry: Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

Adam: Mr. Adam Aptowitzer

Peter: Mr. Peter Merrifield

Syed: Mr. Irfan Syed


MC: Well this came to the forefront [definition of what is terrorism] I suppose, because the National Post in particular was expunging the word guerrilla or militant from its articles and inserting terrorist. And Reuters and another news agency said you can’t do that, you don’t have to use our stuff, but if you do, maintain what we actually wrote. So they [National Post] said we think this act was a terrorist act. For what it is worth, my opinion and some are very easy to define a group of people who kidnap a man and cut his head off for a video camera and that you see an act of terrorism. But what about, whether we agree with them or not, Iraqi insurgents who fight the American occupation of their town; we may not agree with them, but is that terrorism?

Elmasry: Well I would like to take the question to the basics. And you have to put context to the whole definition. [Elmasry clears throat] Excuse me. I think that what we see around the world, there are political conflicts. There [are] aggressors and some are the victims. And we can differentiate who're the aggressors and who’re the victims. But clearly in the Iraqi situation, the Americans are the aggressors and the Iraqis are the victims. In the Israeli-Palestine conflict the Israelis are the aggressors and the Palestinians [are] the victims. Now given this basic context, you go to the definition. The definition in my mind is easy to define but it has been manipulated by the super power[s]. That is why since 1937, Peter [Mr. Merrifield] is right; we don’t have a formal definition [of terrorism]. So my definition for what it is worth is, any act committed by a group or individual or a state against totally innocent civilians. And totally we have to really have to put underneath that [the word "totally"] a big red line. So, [it is] use of violence against those totally innocent civilians. So this means these civilians should not be military, they should not be a spy, they should not be civilians helping a military [force].

MC: And the purposeful targeting, not the accidental hurting, of those people, but the direct targeting of those people.

Elmasry: Yes, Yes.


MC: Welcome back to the Michael Coren Show. We’re taking about defining terrorism and the term is thrown around. And I will be absolutely honest with you, it seems to me left and right are both using this for their own ends and the truth is suffering; surely the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Let’s talk about the Israel and Palestine issue; who is the terrorist? There are many Palestinians who will say that we have lost so many women and children when involved in this struggle, why do you call some of our people terrorist?

Adam: Well I think the use of the word terrorist has to be changed. I think the real purpose here of the word is to define the users of terror. Terror is a tool, terror is a means to an ends. And it depends on the moral reasoning of using that tool to define its acceptability. You look at a hammer, a hammer can be used to build a house, hammer in   a nail, or break someone’s skull. Clearly, one of those three examples is morally unacceptable. When Israel uses terror to go in and I say, it uses terror to destroy a home and convince people, you know, [to] be terrified of what the possible consequences are; I say that, that, is an acceptable use of [it], to terrify someone.

MC: Is it?

Adam: Well, I say so, because when the alternative is these people walk in there and will blow themselves up and blow up 20 other innocent civilians, I’d say that is a morally unacceptable use of terror.

MC: Well I would agree with you on the latter, but the Second World War, which I think most people would agree was a necessary war. There was a terrorist campaign and Germany cities which had no military use really were bombed to the ground and the attempt was to terrorize the German population. Of course it all backfired, it just razed them around the resistance of the German people, but in itself I would argue that was immoral. But you mentioned about knocking down the house of maybe a family, it could be their son was involved; they didn’t know. They might have known he was somewhere, they might have known he was part of the resistance movement, but they didn’t know he was going to do what he did. Their house is knocked down, they are left with nothing. Apart from the fact, I think, it only hurts the Israeli cause. Do you really think that it is an ethical use, and you have admitted its terror, but it’s an ethical use of terror?

Adam: I would say so. If, you have to look at the possible consequences of the continued uses of amoral or immoral terrorism. The, you know, the son and this house and the hypothetical example, I mean, what he is trying to do is kill himself; he’s trying to kill innocent civilians, perhaps at a pizza parlor, and he’s trying to instigate a war. Clearly a war will cause the death of countless other people. Why…that would actually be wrong.

Elmasry: But the suicide bomber doesn't live in that house anymore.  This is his wife, father, his mother. The use of collective punishment is against international law.  Today the [British newspaper] Independent has this headline "Israel destruction of Palestine homes violates international law."

MC: It is a British newspaper?

Elmasry: Yes, yes.

Syed: Actually, Human Rights Watch report is quite interesting. It talks about the destruction of homes. It deals, specifically, about Gaza. I think they said in the last 4 years about 2500 homes were destroyed, about 14,000 Palestinians left homeless. And they said most of that was unwarranted, unnecessary, there was no military necessity for it.

Adam: Well, I, you know, I  don’t know the facts of each specific case, obviously, and I am not going to suggest, I am not going to suggest in every case Israel's   use of the destruction of the homes was necessarily warranted. But I would say in the abstract to use a method such as, to terrify a population, instigating a war, is appropriate. In World War II. The United States warned Japan, said you know what, we got a weapon that could destroy your towns. We have the atomic bomb. And they, they tried to terrify Japan into not continuing the war.

MC:  That is not an argument, I mean, there are, there are arguments for both sides of that. We could argue that it saved the lives of tens or hundreds of thousands [of] allied soldiers, and Japan was fought off even after the first bomb was dropped. So maybe that justifies the use of the second one as well. On the other hand, maybe soldiers are meant to fight and, sadly, die and civilians shouldn’t be attacked; but, this is the sharp end of it we see, because we see a situation in Israel and Palestine where it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

Peter: And this is a point I wanted to touch on, if you take away some of the emotion [he looks at Elmasry], some of the history of the conflict, and look at it this [way] very coldly, tactically; from a tactical standpoint, someone who is trying in their perception to defend their county. If someone is prepared to commit a suicide attack and kill innocent civilians, we know that that  person has no fear of death, no fear of punishment, no fear of reprisal, by targeting their loved ones and their families, it is in essence a deterrent. I am not saying it is right, but I understand the concept behind it. It would be no different than if the roles were completely reversed and if pre-[19]48 U.N support of the establishment of the State of Israel. Had the roles been reversed and the Palestinians had Palestine and the Israelis were in occupied areas and they were [going to] blowing themselves up in buses and killing civilians. I mean in the [19]70s we had attacks on schools inside Israel, we had the unwarranted shelling and rocketing of civilian establishments. We’ve had recently ...

Elmasry: Peter, we go back to the basics. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there are the aggressors; these are the Israelis, they are occupying the West Bank and Gaza for the last 37 years. It is a fact. It is an illegal occupation. So it means a settlement there, the settlement according to the United Nations is an illegal settlement. These are armed settlement.

MC:  Let’s go to the pre-occupations of the West Bank.

Elmasry: [No] but let me give an example, one example from European history. If you actually [look] at the resistance of the French against the Germans, they did the same thing; they blew up bridges and kidnapped people, they assassinated people.

MC [Interrupting vigorously]: Who?

Elmasry: The French.

MC: Who? Who did they assassinate?

Elmasry: The French. They assassinated [German] soldiers and their [French] collaborators...

MC [Interrupting vigorously]: [Not understandable]

Elmasry: ... and the French.

MC [Interrupting vigorously]: Mohamed, Mohamed…

Elmasry: French civilians...

MC [Interrupting vigorously]: I think that is a rather tenuous argument. I know little about the war and the French resistance and the lack of it, sadly. But there is, I can’t remember of one case of French resistance, Maquis or even their allies, communist or Gaulist or nationalist, would go into a school were German children are and kill them all.

Elmasry: Were not; not. That is why we are saying totally innocent people and totally innocent people, obviously, are the children. But they are not innocent if they are part of a population, which is, [for example the] total population of Israel, is part of the Army…

MC: Okay…

Elmasry: From the age …

MC: Okay, Okay…

Elmasry: From the age…

MC: Okay, Okay...

Elmasry: From the age 18 on, they are part of the soldiers…

MC: So, if…

Elmasry: Even...

MC: So you’re saying…

Elmasry: Even if they have civilian clothes.

MC: So if Israeli children are killed, that is a valid use of military force by Palestinians.

Elmasry: No, that is not a valid use.

MC: So, what are you saying?

Elmasry: I am saying it has to be totally innocent. Okay. Totally innocent are the children, obviously. Okay. They are not innocent if they are military in civilian clothes. Okay…

MC: How about women?

Elmasry: Same if they are women in the army.

MC: So any one over 18 in Israel is a valid target.

Elmasry: Anybody above 18 [that] is a part of the Israeli army.

MC: So everyone in Israel, so anyone and everyone, irrespective of gender, over the age of 18, in Israel is a valid target?

Elmasry: Yes [if they are part of the army]


MC: Welcome back to the Michael Coren Show. I would like to push you a little bit on this, Dr. Elmasry, because you talk about the French resistance. Now the French resistance against the Nazis.  You have the Nazi army occupies your country; it rounds up Communists, Jews, and gay men, men who are members of the Catholic clergy, some Protestant leaders, and takes them off to gas them. It takes away the entire elite of your nation. The French resistance forms and it does what it can. It arms resistance against German soldiers. Very few German civilians in occupied France, anyway. It assassinates SS leaders.  It does assassinate major collaborators who are helping in the rounding up of victims somewhat. You're saying that is the same as the Palestinian military campaign, and some of it, I think, is understandable and valid, and you're saying it is the same as the Palestinian campaign; for example, a suicide bomber gets onto a bus and sees that people are there and no one is in uniform and blows himself up and kills everybody.

Elmasry: Michael, Michael, really the definition of terrorism is a means to an end. Which is actually [more important is] ending terrorism either by a group, individual or a state.

MC [Interrupting]: Talk straight to me.

Elmasry: No, No it’s true.  I would like to, you know, wake up one day and there is no terror. Either by state [or group or indi vidual].

MC [Interrupting]: You mean you would like to win?

Elmasry: No I would like actually [any] conflict to stop. For the aggressor to stop the aggression. Okay, this means, for example, when you look at any conflict there is an aggressor and a victim.

MC: Not as simplistic as that, I think.

Syed: I disagree with my colleague...

Elmasry: If you, if you look [for another example] at the Chechens against the Russians. Okay, I know that history. I know [also] the history of Iraqi, [I mean the] American occupation of Iraq. You don’t have to have a PhD in political science. Okay. [Another example is] to to identify Israel in the West Bank, [it] occupied West Bank and Gaza. for the [last] 37 years; [Israel is] the occupying power, so the resistance is the same as the French resistance. [It] uses low-tech. They don’t have helicopters [gunships], Phantom [fighters] and they do whatever they want. They [the Palestians] make mistakes, they make mistakes [in killing Israeli civilians]. Yes, and we have to condemn it.

MC: I've got to tell you I think you've just dug a very large hole for yourself there. I am not unsympathetic, and I do believe that Israel uses way too much force and I believe that Palestinians are blanketed with the term "terrorist," which is very unfair, but what you've said there, I believe, is very dangerous talk. There's a massive difference.

Syed: I wouldn't be so definitive as saying that everybody over 18 is a legitimate target. I mean obviously that goes too far. I mean even according to our faith belief, you have to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. That includes women, children, the elderly and all that.

Elmasry: Everybody above 18 is a combatant?


MC: I, in fact, don't know a Palestinian in this country who would agree with you that every Israeli over the age of 18 is a legitimate target. I've never met someone who has said that.

Elmasry: Let's explain the situation. For example the Taba (Egypt) suicide bombing the last two weeks now. OK. These people [the terrorists] actually targeting people who they don't know. The composition of these people they don't know. And this is a terror, a terrorist act.


MC: They do know. They're families on holiday . . . religious holiday.

Elmasry: No, no. They don't know.

MC [Interrupting]: Yes they do.

Elmasry: They know the composition in general. But they don't know actually if they are 100 per cent Israeli.  They are children there. [CROSSTALK] This is a terrorist act.

Adam: Because they might be Egyptian and not Israeli?

Elmasry: No, no, no. Because, because actually the composition of the situation is much different from going to a bus stop where Israelis in uniform and some [military] also in civilian clothes, but they are soldiers on leave. OK? Israel has a popular army. They have a draft.

MC: Why?

Elmasry: I don't know why [maybe] because they want to keep there [occupied territories]

MC: . . . and Syria and the entire Arab world keeps threatening them for goodness sake . . . . We're back in a few moments on the Michael Coren Show. Don't you dare go away. I don't think you will, actually. See you in a few moments.


Elmasry: We've been actually doing an anti-Islam in the Canadian media for the last seven years.

MC [ridiculing and provoking]: Yes, I know and often it's incredible nonsense.

Elmasry: Which we actually try to instruct Canadian Muslims. You give me the owner of a newspaper today in Canada and I tell you how many Muslim terrorist words were used frequently for the [unintelligible] a month. Canwest [Global Communications Corp.], it has its own league, OK, because of the ownership. The rest are different. Now when you have professional journalists, they have a duty, a social duty, to protect the readers from a negative stereotype. So you have between a word "terrorist" [on one hand] and you have also "freedom fighter." In between, there is a spectrum of words. You have gunmen, you have rebels, you have militants, you have etc. etc. Now, in my thinking I don't want you to actually put anything which is different from the facts you're presenting to your readers or your viewers. A terrorist act is a terrorist act. Taba has been a terrorist act. OK? Even if you don't know who has actually done it. And you said well in that case Hamas took the responsibility or Islamic Jihad took the responsibility because this is their name. Hamas or Hezbollah.

MC: Is a suicide bombing on a bus in Israel an attack of terrorism?

Elmasry: Yes. Yes. OK. And then after that, Hamas is an Islamic group. The only thing that we're actually objecting in the study is that when you put this [the word terrorist and the word Muslim] back to back. Because this is actually a political use of language. The National Post is actually consciously using the word terrorist, because they're putting a political spin.

MC: I don't necessarily disagree with you . . .


MC: When you fire into a building and you're not sure who will be there and people die, that's an act of terrorism.

Adam: It would depend on the specific facts... I'll agree with you and say Israel does make use of, I know I'll be misquoted, but the truth is that terror is an option to be used by states in order to prevent deaths of their own citizens and of others. Acts that take place in Gaza and West Bank, you might want to classify them as terrorists sponsored by the state. But when that is being done to prevent deaths, are we going to say that that is wrong?