Date: Oct. 19/04
Host: MICHAEL COREN
DR. MOHAMMED ELMASRY (NATIONAL PRESIDENT, CANADIAN ISLAMIC CONGRESS): We'll go back again to the basic. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is an aggressor. This is Israelis. They are occupying the West Bank and Gaza for the last 37 years. It's a fact. It's an illegal occupation.
GUEST (UNIDENTIFIED): Well, I would disagree.
ELMASRY: So this means the settlement there - I'm quoting the United Nations - is illegal settlement. These are armed...
MICHAEL COREN (HOST): Let's go to pre-occupation of the West Bank.
ELMASRY: No, but let me give an example, one example from European history. If you look, actually, in the resistance of the French against the Germans, they did the same thing. They blow up bridges. They did kidnap people; they assassinate people.
ELMASRY: The French. They assassinated soldiers and their collaborators, and French. French civilians.
COREN: But Mohammed, I think that's a rather tenuous argument. I mean I know little about the war and the French resistance and the lack of it, sadly, but there is no... I can't remember of one case where the French resistance, the Maquis (?) or even their allies, communist or Gaulist or nationalist, would go into a school where German children were and kill them all.
ELMASRY: That's why we saying that totally innocent people...
ELMASRY: ... and totally innocent people, obviously, is the children. But they are not innocent if they are part of a population which is total population of Israel is part of the army... From 18 on, they are part of the soldiers, even if they have civilian clothes.
COREN: So if Israeli children are killed, that is a valid use of military force by Palestinians?
ELMASRY: No, they are not valid...
COREN: So what are you saying?
ELMASRY: I'm saying that it has to be totally innocent, OK? Totally innocent are the children, obviously, OK? But they are not innocent if the army [inaudible] in civilian clothes, OK?
COREN: What about women?
ELMASRY: The same, if they are women in the army...
COREN: Anyone over the age of 18 in Israel is a valid target.
ELMASRY: Anybody above 18 is a part of the Israeli army...
COREN: So everyone in Israel and anyone and everyone in Israel, irrespective of gender, over the age of 18 is a valid target?
ELMASRY: Yes, I would say.
COREN: We're back on the Michael Coren Show. I want to push you a bit on this, Dr. Elmasry, because you speak about the French resistance. Now the French resistance to the Nazis, first of all you have... the Nazi army occupies your country. It rounds up communists, Jews, gay men, any gypsies who are present, members of the Catholic clergy, some Protestant leaders. It takes them off to gas them. It takes away the entire elite of your nation. The French resistance forms; it does what it can. It... armed resistance against German soldiers - very few German civilians in occupied France anyway. It assassinates SS leaders. It does assassinate major collaborators who were helping the roundup of victims and so on. You're saying that that is the same as Palestinian military campaign - and some of it, I think, is understandable and valid - but you're saying it is the same as the Palestinian campaign. For example, a suicide bomber gets onto a bus and sees that there are people there - no one's in uniform - and just blows herself up and kills everybody. They're morally...
ELMASRY: But Michael, really, the definition of terrorism is really a means to an end, which is actually ending terrorism, either by a group or an individual or a state...
COREN: It sounds like sophistry to me, actually.
ELMASRY: No, no, it's true; it's true. I mean I would like to wake up one day and there is no terror either by state...
COREN: You mean you'd like to win?
ELMASRY: No, I would like actually for the conflict to stop, for the aggressor to stop the aggression, OK? So does this mean that, for example, when you look at any conflict, there is an aggressor and their victims...
COREN: Not as simplistic as that, I think.
ELMASRY: It is actually... if you look at the Chechenyan against the Russian, I know the history; I know the history of Iraqi... American occupation of Iraq. You don't have to have a Ph.D. in political science to identify that in the Israeli West Bank, occupied West Bank and Gaza, the Israelis, for the 37 years, are the occupying power. So the resistance is the same as the French resistance. Use low-tech. You don't have helicopter phantoms, and they do whatever they want. They make mistakes; they make mistakes, yes, and we have to condemn it.
COREN: 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 Israelis use 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.
IRFAN SYED (LAWYER): 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.
SYED: This is the thinking of... unfortunately, it was Israeli thinking and it's been adopted by the US and other governments, including Russia, whereas basically saying, "Alright, if we've got to stop the militants or the terrorists, then we've got to make the civilian population hurt so bad that they will stop the militants." So what are they doing? In fact, they're trying to influence the behaviour of the civilians by terrorizing them. Now isn't that what the terrorists who don't have the state doing the same thing? Aren't they trying to terrorize the civilian population of a state in order to force those civilians to react in a way to force their governments to do something? So it's the same thing, and again, going back to basics, like terrorism is a tactic. I think we're agreed on that, and it's a tactic that evolves when there's asymmetric warfare between vastly divergent parties in terms of their capabilities. Now at least the Canadian government showed some wisdom in not defining terrorism. They defined terrorist activity and also terrorist groups as saying terrorist groups are people who engage in terrorist activities and people who fall in these listed groups that we've put in by regulation.