Saturday, October 23, 2004

Adult Israelis seen as `targets' by Canadian Muslim leader

The president of the Canadian Islamic Congress is under fire for saying all Israelis above the age of 18 are legitimate targets of attack.

Mohamed Elmasry made the comments Tuesday on the Michael Coren Live TV show and was criticized yesterday by the Canadian Jewish Congress.

When asked whether 'anyone over the age of 18 in Israel is a valid target,' Elmasry replied: 'Anybody above 18 is part of the (Israeli) army.'

The show's moderator followed with another question: 'Anyone in Israel, irrespective of gender, over the age of 18 is a valid target?'

'Yes, I would say,' Elmasry responded.

Canadian Jewish Congress president Ed Morgan said his organization was outraged by Elmasry's comments.

'The very notion that anybody endorses the killing of civilians is beyond what we as Canadians are used to hearing,' he said.

'Anybody who makes a statement like that, to me, is not making an error. And if it is an error, then he should correct the record.'

Elmasry said on the show that since all adult Israelis are part of their country's army, they are not bystanders in the conflict.

'But they are not innocent if they are part of the total population which is part of the army. ... From 18 on, they are soldiers, even if they have civilian clothes,' Elmasry said.

Morgan disagreed.

'It is a ridiculous assertion. A civilian population is a civilian population. When people are sitting in a restaurant or at a bus stop, they are civilians. Simply because Israel has a draft doesn't mean any person is a target,' he said.

The CJC was not the only organization to protest Elmasry's statement.

Tarek Fatah, a founding member of the Muslim Canadian Congress, said Elmasry's comments were a thinly veiled attack on Jews and hurt the Palestinian cause.

'Palestinians have a moral and legal obligation to fight the Israeli occupation but to believe all Israelis are targets is ... the height of hypocrisy,' he said.

Elmasry could not be reached for comment yesterday.