Piers Morgan vs Bassem Youssef Round 2 | Two-Hour Special Interview | Transcript

Following his eye-opening interview on the Israel-Hamas conflict, Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef makes a second appearance on Piers Morgan Uncensored. This time, he sits down for a face-to-face discussion with Piers Morgan to delve deeper into the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East.
Piers Morgan vs Bassem Youssef Round 2 | Two-Hour Special Interview

Channel: Piers Morgan Uncensored
Publish date: November 1, 2023
Length: 1 hour, 46 minutes, and 47 seconds
Description: In this two-hour special interview, Piers Morgan sits down with Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef to discuss his life, his work, and his views on the Middle East. The interview is wide-ranging and covers a variety of topics, including Youssef’s time as host of the popular Egyptian satirical news show “The Show,” his exile from Egypt after the 2013 coup, and his current work as a human rights activist. Morgan and Youssef also discuss the challenges facing the Middle East today, including the rise of authoritarianism, the threat of terrorism, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The interview is a must-watch for anyone interested in the Middle East or in the power of satire to challenge authority.

Read more transcripts of Piers Morgan Uncensored here

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Piers Morgan: Well, Bassem..

Bassem Youssef: Piers..

Piers: It’s good to see you.

Bassem: It’s good to see you too.

Piers: Last time, obviously, we did it remotely.

Bassem: Yes.

Piers: You were here, I was in London, and you complained that it was an unfair situation. You couldn’t see me, your earpiece kept falling out.

Bassem: Yes.

Piers: So I thought, okay, fair enough, I hear you. I got on a plane, I flew 6 and a half thousand miles, and not only that, we’re doing it in somewhere that is very familiar to you. It’s The Comedy Store in Los Angeles where you performed many times as a stand-up. So, I’ve done my bit.

Bassem: You did, you did. But actually, this is not the first time we meet in person.

Piers: No, no,

Bassem: We did

Piers Morgan: ..Originally in London last year.

Bassem Youssef: And I know that many people are watching this for the first time. I know this, but like, I would really love to tell the story of that moment because..

Piers Morgan: Yes.

Bassem Youssef: I was having a tour in the UK, in Europe, and I was doing my English stand up and one of my, you know, advertising promotion plans was to come on your show. So, my agent was like, ‘Bassem, you’re going to be on Piers Morgan.’ I said, ‘Damn.’ He was like, ‘What’s wrong?’ It’s like, ‘Well, uh, Piers Morgan blocked me on Twitter.’

Piers: I did.

Bassem: And he said like, ‘What did you do?’ I said, ‘Well, during January 6th, you know, the insurrection, you know, uh, you tweeted something about it and I was so angry at what’s happening. And I remember you having you and Donald Trump in a picture and I said, ‘Said the guy who had Donald Trump with him, whatever.’ And then I used like very harsh words and of course, you blocked me. So, I, and then I said like, ‘Does he know?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Does he know?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Does he know?’ ‘I don’t know.’ So, I walked into the studio and the moment I was being seated and they were preparing before we went on air and you said, ‘Oh, hi Bassem, it seems that you have more followers than me, but it seems that I blocked you. Why?’(laughter)  And I told you, and then we, we said the story on air and it was funny because I made a joke; You have always been standing against cancel culture and you just canceled me on Twitter. But we agreed that this is not canceling because this is your own space and you’re free. But now you’ve unblocked me and we are…

Piers Morgan: ..And we’re here.

Bassem Youssef: ..And we here.

Piers Morgan: And it was yeah. And actually, we agreed about January the 6th by the way, just for the record. Maybe you weren’t surprised. I was completely staggered by the response globally to our interview several weeks ago. Were you taken back by the scale of it?

Bassem:  Yes of course, but I understand why. For many years, the media covering the Middle East has been showing a certain point of view. I’m not going to say bias, but I would say it did not allow certain voices, certain voices from the other side to be heard. And that is why you see the frustration. You all, whenever you speak to people in the Middle East, they tell you the same thing. They are not very happy with the coverage because our voices are not heard. Now I am the least qualified person ever to talk about this conflict and yet just because I relate some of the talking points that we say and we hear the whole time, people felt hurt. And when you, when people have this feeling, they’re happy. They are, they have this response. They said, ‘Oh my God, for the first time the West are actually hearing our point of view.’ Some of the point of view might not be go well with other people, but at least we have a conversation. And I think that is the reason why people reacted that way. Yeah.

Piers Morgan: It’s such an incendiary subject matter. I’ve never seen social media so ablaze with hostility on both sides. Did you actually, as well as enormous praise from the Arab world, did you also get criticized by some parts of the Arab world for not going perhaps hard enough?

Bassem Youssef: ‘Oh, you didn’t do that, you didn’t do that.’ Thing is, this is like you’re damn if you do, you’re damn if you not. Right? If you don’t speak up, ‘Why don’t you speak up?’ If you speak up, ‘You didn’t speak up.’ If you’re done, ‘Why are you?’ If you speak up too much, ‘Oh, you’re taking all the attention on you.’ And I love that fact because people always who accuse people of being the center of attention, they are actually not very happy that the attention is not on them. This is actually like a rule on social media. But yeah, there was a backlash, but there’s also a backlash from the other side which  I mean here and other comedy clubs, I worked with people from all kind of different backgrounds:  Jewish, Christians, Muslims, Arabs, atheists, all kinds of people. And there are a lot of people who went to my show like, ‘Oh, so you’re a terrorist sympathizer now.’ You know.’ And I think it is important to have a nuanced, deep, interesting, intelligent conversation. A lot of people waiting for this are kind of like; ‘Yeah Bassem, bury Pierce, show him.’ And this is the problem with the news today. The problem is, the news today, it’s not about the news anymore, it’s about the people giving you the news. So it becomes a show, a circus, two gladiators in the Coliseum, two pigs fighting in the mud. And this is why people don’t get anything out of it, it’s a circus.

Piers: You know, one of the things I heard a lot was, ‘Who is this guy?’ And they weren’t talking about me…

Bassem: Sometimes, sometimes I want.

Piers: Now obviously, you’re very, very well known in the Arab. You’re known as the kind of, they called you the Arab Jon Stewart. And you’re well known in America, but you weren’t that well known for example in the UK.

Bassem: Hmm

Piers: Uh, and I think what this interview did, it made a lot of people think, ‘Wow, all right, this is incredible. But tell me more about Bassam Youssef. And I, I did a bit of research into your life and is a fascinating journey that you’ve gone on to get here to Los Angeles. And I think it’s worth just taking a little beat here to talk about this because you began in Cairo as a heart surgeon. that was your career path.

Bassem:  Yes, yes.

Piers: And you were a heart surgeon.

Bassem: I was a heart surgeon until, yeah, I spent 19 years in that career, 7 years in medical school, 12 years as a practicing doctor. And 2011 happened and the revolution happened and I had my own show on YouTube. I did like small videos.

Piers: Well, I’m going to come to this because I was in, by coincidence, I had just joined CNN to replace the great Larry King and I hadn’t actually done any live show. I’d done a few weeks since I joined of taped interviews with big names, Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, things like that. And I was flying back to Los Angeles when I got a message that Egypt was going up, in the start of the Arab Spring. And I actually went to a studio very near here, about a mile down the road on Sunset, the CNN studio, the old Larry King studio. And I went live for the first time and it was about the Arab Spring, it was about what was happening in Egypt. And at the same time, you in Egypt were actually in Tahrir Square helping wounded protesters, actually medically treating them.

Bassem:  Yeah, yeah, I mean this was a kind of movement that inspired a lot of Egyptians. At the time, I was, you know, I was in the hospital and a lot of people just volunteered and the nurses were giving us like supplies, go, go, go and we were going there and we were basically tending to the wounded because it is, and it kind of gives you a different perspective when you see helpless, defenceless people who are not armed. They are being beaten by Security Forces, military forces, being shot, being, you know, being hurt. And all we can do is just like provide some medical attention. And it kind of gives you a perspective to see how Humanity sometimes can show its most ugly face.

Piers: And the suppression of free speech, freedom of expression.

Bassem:  Yeah,

Piers: The ability of people to say what they honestly feel about a situation.

Bassem: Yes,

Piers: And the suppression of people’s basic rights to Freedom.

Bassem:  Absolutely, yeah. And that kind of taught me a lot and and inspired me to do the show. But you know…

Piers: Well, you start, it’s a crazy story this and I want to tell it because you just decided to do five-minute stuff on YouTube.

Bassem: Yeah,

Piers: And you are expecting a few people to watch it..

Bassem: Yeah

Piers: And then literally it just flies and suddenly you’re getting millions of people watching this. And very quickly one of the big networks comes in and then you’re suddenly doing this stuff for 30 to 40 million people. Like a third of the entire population of Egypt is tuning in to watch it. You’re the biggest star of Egyptian television.

Bassem: Oh please,

Piers: You are,

Bassem:  Don’t stop

(both laughter)

Piers: I mean, what an extraordinary thing though for a heart surgeon to go from helping protesters medically in Tahrir Square, the start of the Arab Spring, to within a year, you’re the biggest star on Egyptian television. It’s a crazy thing.

Bassem: It doesn’t sound as glamorous as this. It felt horrible.

Piers: Did it? Why?

Bassem:  Oh yeah, overnight Fame, this size, it’s toxic, terrible, terrible. It corrupts, it goes into your soul and it’s not good. It’s not, I actually didn’t enjoy it and the worst part about is that like you’re trying to do comedy in a very controversial Climate about very controversial issues. So you’ll never, never satisfy people. And the problem is that people have these expectations. Oh, if you are successful in this, you must be successful at solving this. And when things are not solved because Politics, as you know, very difficult to solve, that expectation, this love turns into hate. And this is one of many, many reasons that I had to leave. And I  came here eventually.

Piers: Well, Let’s just take people through what happened because they probably don’t know a lot of people. So during the presidency of Muhammad Morsi, who was a democratically elected Islamist, you had relative freedom to start, but then the more you went after government propaganda, the more you stood up for the people against the government, then the trouble started. Morsi wanted to shut you up. You eventually get dragged through the courts.

Bassem:  I was arrested. I was arrested for one day. It was a warrant for my arrest and then I turned myself in and I was interrogated. And it was the funniest interrogation ever. And in my stand up shows, I talk about that scene…

Piers: ..Because the guards were reading the stuff out and laughing, right?

Bassem:  Well the guards were taking selfies with me which is funny. (laughter) and the exchange between me and the persecutor jail persecutor was extremely funny. I mean, I don’t like to victimize myself. I don’t like, ‘Oh, look at that.’ I actually like to find humour.

Piers: Why were you arrested? What was the criteria?

Bassem: Oh yeah, I think the list was insulting Islam, insulting the president, spreading false rumours, and disrupting the fabric of society. And it was, I think the people in the room didn’t know what to do with me because they ended up discussing my jokes. So it turned into a writer’s room. And I was kind of like, ‘How do you think we make this funnier?’ And it was the funniest exchange ever. And after six hours, I was let go…and..

Piers: Was it scary though at the same time that suddenly the machinery was getting a grip of you because it was to get a lot scarier. But was it in that moment when you first got arrested, you thought, ‘I’m being arrested for breaching my freedom of speech, right?

Bassem:  For some reason, I just like went with the flow. I went to the interrogation wearing the big hat. I went to the show. I just wanted this to be a farce because I, I just like, ‘You’re really coming after the comedian.’ And I just tried to enjoy myself. But deep inside, I was dying.

Piers: Well, actually, it gets serious enough where you may have died because actually, Morsi gets of course deposed, incomes General LCC in a coup, a military coup and he doesn’t find satire a laughing matter, particularly when the jokes are about him. You get blocked. They literally block your show from airing.

Bassem:  I aired one episode..and it’s interesting. This is a very interesting story because the first episode that was aired after the removal in the Muslim Brotherhood, everybody was waiting to see what I will say. Because by that time, all of the Islamic channels that were me and Islamic Channel it’s like they had five channels and they were like me and them going like that. They, they had like five Channels. and I have only one hour a week. And then they were removed. And then a lot of the other dissent voices were also being shut down. Now people are waiting, ‘What will Bassem say?’ And on the day that the show aired, the next day I went  out and everybody’s like, ‘Good, good, at least somebody is speaking.’ It was a very controversial episode. Nobody liked it and yet everybody liked it because people said like, ‘You’re supporting the coup.’ ‘No, you’re the Muslim Brotherhood.’ Everybody accused me of something. All I did in that episode was just being a mirror of what is happening in the street and showing them how ridiculous it is.

Piers: You didn’t take your fixed position.

Bassem:  Well, depending on where, ‘What’s your position?

Piers: What did you intend your position?’

Bassem:  My position was to show the ridiculousness of how the people now was like, ‘Oh, we got rid of Islamic fascism but we are heading towards another fascism.’ There was a song that I did that was very controversial. And it’s very funny. The, Pro Muslim Brotherhood thought that this is a disrespect to the people who died. And on the other side, the people said that this is a disrespect to the Army. And when you manage to offend everybody, you know you’re right.”

Piers: “Yes!

Bassem: And in the people in the middle, it’s like, ‘Oh, you weren’t tough enough.’ And I was told, ‘I like why didn’t you go after the ceiling of Freedom just went down and I was just was very difficult. It is very difficult to go against an authority that was very popular at the time.

Piers: And especially a military authority with all of experience. Oh yeah, of weaponizing these situations. You had death threats.

Bassem: People would always choose, most of the time, they always choose the military form rather than the religious form because they kind of like, at least they are not infringing on my personal freedom, not yet.

Piers: But you had threats on your life, didn’t you?

Bassem: Oh, all the time. I don’t talk about that because like I have been having death threats, like, did never stop since 2011, never stopped.

Piers: Have they continued since our last interview?

Bassem: Oh yeah, they never stopped.

Piers: People threatening to kill you?

Bassem: All the time.

Piers: Why? For what reason?

Bassem: Oh, for just saying something that they don’t like. Oh, because you, you are against Egypt, you’re against Islam, you’re against our president, you’re against God. It, it never stops, it never stops.

Piers: It doesn’t, doesn’t bother you? I mean, if you die, you die. You know, if you die, you die. I mean, since when, whatever, like no bodyguards deflected a bullet. You know, maybe the guy who with Ronald Reagan, but I think it’s like, whatever. Even like at a certain point, I actually had like private security and then I told them, ‘I can’t, I cannot live like that. If that’s my destiny, if I die, I just die.’

Piers: You end up with your lawyer, send you, ‘Got to get out of here. You got to get out of Egypt.

Bassem: Yeah

Piers: It’s getting too dangerous.

Bassem: Yeah,

Piers: Something bad is going to happen. You’re going to get arrested again and probably sent in jail or you’re going to…they’ll try to kill you.’ And you flee to Dubai and then you end up here in America.

Bassem:  Yes…

Piers: Was that always the plan to eventually come to America or was it expediency because of what happened? Bassem: Well, it’s funny that you said that because I visited the United States after the first year of my show and a doctor that’s there, Egyptian doctor has been there for a while. Listen Bassem, you are very visible in the media and I think you can use that to apply for a green card as a special talent. And I did, and I said like, ‘I have like a huge show.

Piers: It is actually the criteria because I have the same: It is, ‘Alien of exceptional ability’ is what they call you charmingly.

Bassem:  Yes, we’re very exceptional.

Piers: Exceptionally able aliens.

Bassem: We are. But we are still aliens.

Piers: Yeah, I know, it always makes me laugh. ‘You can come here, but you are an alien!

Bassem:  Alien! But you’re exceptional. And, I just applied for it and I got it. I got the TIME100 that helped both from my application. I said, ‘Ah, maybe I’m not going to use it.’ And then when that happens, ‘Oh, that green card came handy.’ So a lot of people think that I’m here on asylum. I’m not. I just, it was just a strike of good luck.

Piers: You now do stand up and you’ve done it for 5 years and fascinatingly, you do some of it for an Arab audience,

Bassem:  I have whole in Arabic.

Piers: And an English-speaking version. And they’re probably very different, right?

Bassem:  Totally different

Piers: Different sensibilities, different humour, different crowds, different expectation.

Bassem:  Mm, yes. Well, well, the Arab audience come to my show, they expect that it’s going to be another version of my show that I did in Egypt and I said, ‘No, it’s my personal story.’ And that when the Arabs come to my English shows, like they think this like an English version of there, of the show. It’s like, ‘No, it’s a different story.’ Even then, this weekend, right before I met you, because of our interview, I sold out Arizona.

Piers: Really?

Bassem:  Yes, and I stood and the first thing I said like, ‘Who here came because of the Piers Morgan show?’” I was like, ‘Boy, you’re going to be disappointed because this is not about that.’

Piers: But isn’t that amazing? I mean, that shows the power of that interview, even in Arizona here.

Bassem: Yeah, because I don’t want to be, I don’t want to succeed just because of a trending moment of time. It is the same show that I’ve been working and perfecting and like any stand-up comedian in the United States, your dream is what? Is to sell your special to platforms like HBO? And you want to get there because for me, that was like a rebirth because I thought like everything was lost. I came here, I had nothing. First three, four years, it was terrible. The first two years I was doing stand-up, oh, I bombed hard. I bombed hard and I went home crying. I said like, ‘I’m not going to make it.’ And then suddenly, I have already a tour. I mean, even before our show, I already had a set tour and now I’m having this ability of talking to people with different languages, talking to all these different languages. The show that I did in Arizona had an incredible mix of Arabs and Americans and they came here and they completely…and there a lot of them came, they were Palestinians and they came with the Palestinian flags and the keffiyeh and they thought it’s like, ‘Guys, it’s like the way laughter, being good at your job is in its way a way of resistance.’ Because when you laugh, when you tell, when you show people that, ‘Hey, they have Arab people here and they are,’ by the Arabs and Palestinians population, Arizona, one of the most established population in the United States. Arabs, not just in general, they are like professionals, doctors, engineers, professors. Even the Uber drivers, they are probably were like an engineer or someone very established there but he had to take a step down in order to come here and survive. I mean,  we hardly come find like illegal aliens here from or people like came here that were not qualified. So this is the problem of… this is why the reason people were very happy of our interview because part of the hate on both sides is that we see the news from a different perspective and people here see the news from another perspective and everybody’s like, ‘Why are those people reacting like this?’ Because they don’t see what the other person sees. And I hope in that interview that we can bridge that gap.

Piers: Yes…

Bassem:  Before, We can I? Okay, so this is a gift from me and my wife. This is olive oil from the West Bank.

Piers: Ah.

Bassem:  Whenever you go to…I go to Jordan a lot but my wife also asks for the oil from the West Bank.

Piers: It’s very good?

Bassem:  It is the best oil ever. And the thing is, olive trees, they know, they survive up to 600 years. And they are passed from one generation to the other and it is like a family heritage. And the way that you do it, so this is za’atar. Za’atar is basically thyme and you add to it sesame and a bunch of herbs. And the way that you eat that, you take like a piece of bread. We don’t have to do it now, maybe at the end of the interview…

Piers: The end, yeah.

Bassem:  And you basically, you soak it a little bit in the oil and then you take the za’atar. And I’ll demonstrate here and then, and then here. I love it.

Piers: Well, I love Arabic food.

Bassem: So the end of the interview, you’re leaving with this oil.

Piers: Oh, I will take that. Well, thank you and it’s very kind of your wife. Thank you, thank you very much for me.

Bassem:  Well, I’m done with this bottle but it’s okay.


Piers: Obviously, you started the last interview with, I mean, I would argue savagely dark humour involving your wife. How you’ve been trying to kill her and she was using your kids as human shields and stuff. And I, I’ll be honest with you..

Bassem:  I’m still trying to. But I, but you know what, when I failed, you know what I did? I went out to the house and I just like randomly slapped other neighbours. You know…

Piers: it’s interesting.

Bassem: By mistake…

Piers: Now this time I’m ready for you, Okay,? This time I’m ready for the humour.

Bassem: Oh, you’re ready.

Piers: Okay, but it’s interesting because last time I was very taken aback and I remember thinking as you were doing this at right off the top. I remember feeling very uncomfortable, unusually uncomfortable, and thinking I didn’t know how to react to that. I didn’t know whether I was supposed to laugh or be silent or, and I sort of ended up sort of slightly grimacing, half laugh and listening. And then I realized it was very powerful what you were doing. It was satirical, but it was savagely satirical and extremely effective. And that’s why I think the interview did so well. But I’m not going to pretend that I found it easy to listen to it or to react to it because I didn’t.

Bassem:  You know why? Because all I did was just take the talking points that’s been in the media, not just for after October 7th, all through the conflict. It’s always like, ‘We need to kill it.’ ‘All right, you need to kill five.’ ‘No, kill 10.’ ‘You need to kill some.’ ‘No, kill all.’ This is what satire does. You take reality, flipped on his head, exaggerated, and then you can see how sometimes very uncomfortable and even sometimes stupid that sounds. Because I was just reacting to whatever the media is telling me. It’s like, ‘Oh yeah, okay, do it. Come, there’s no push back.’ So suddenly the person who’s proposing the most extreme measures like, ‘Oh, take it.’ ‘Oh, that’s too much.’ So that was like a very simple technique. I just took the talking point and just exaggerated it.

Piers: It was, it was devastatingly effective. First, before we go any further, how is your wife’s family? Because she is a Palestinian.

Bassem: Yeah.

Piers: Are they okay?

Bassem:  No, they’re good. They’re good. They are safe for now. Yeah and as like that last week, there was no internet as you have. Yes, you know, I saw you tweet at the IDF. It’s like, ‘How can they know?

Piers: You know, how many views that tweets at nearly 40 million?’

Bassem: Yeah,

Piers: Me just saying, ‘How are they going to see this message if you’ve cut the internet off?’

Bassem:  Yeah..I’m, I’m wondering if the IDF’s like, ‘Why aren’t the Palestinians liking my tweet? Because they don’t see it!!

Piers: Right? No, but I thought that was a perfectly correct assessment of it. Yeah but the reaction to that tweet I did was enormous as everything is in this, in this thing. And I had a lot of people say, ‘Finally, Piers, you get it, right? Finally, you get it.’ And, and I wanted to say, ‘Listen, I’m trying to reach a place where I get this.’ But it’s an incredibly complicated issue for someone who is not Arabic or Jewish to poke their head into. And I’ve had to cover it as a journalist for a long, long time. I think I said to you before that I was an editor of a Daily Mirror in England when we opposed the Iraq War for example. So, you know, I have taken stands on this thing. On this one, I find, and I’m going to be completely straight with you, I discussed this with Jordan Peterson this week.

Bassem: Hmmm…

Piers: And he did a pretty incendiary tweet in which he said, ‘Give him hell, Netanyahu. Enough is enough.’ And he was actually very self-reflective about that in the interview we did this week where he later issued a 20-minute video because he said, ‘Sometimes a one-line tweet can be unnecessarily inflammatory to people. Much better to take time to explain it.’ Here’s, here’s where I’ve got to with this conflict now. I viewed what happened on October the 7th as is an absolutely appalling atrocity, a terror attack of unimaginable horror. And I absolutely think that Israel has a right to defend itself from the people who committed it, Hamas. And I’ve questioned for the last three, four weeks, ‘What is a proportionate response?’ And I have said repeatedly, ‘I don’t know the answer.’ I want people who have a view to have a view about that and I’ll ask you again about where you think we are with this. I also acknowledge that  Hamas lived among civilian population in Gaza and therefore if you do what the Israelis are currently doing which is a ground offensive into Gaza, a lot of civilians are going to get killed, and at what point does that become disproportionate or even illegal? And I don’t know the answers to those questions. And I have a moral quandary because my instinct is to say that Israel has no choice but to respond to what happened in a very forceful manner. I understand why they want to eliminate Hamas altogether. I understand that if they feel they can, then perhaps we can move to a two-state solution or peace or whatever it may be. Although, I don’t think Netanyahu will ever be the person to do that. But the moral question for me is, at what point does this become disproportionate? And when you see thousands of children being killed in Gaza, it fills me with utter horror. And then people say, ‘Well, do you condemn it?’ And I find it very easy to condemn Israel turning off the water, Israel turning off the power. I think it’s ridiculous that Israel should have that power over millions of people who are not part of their country. I think it’s terrible what’s happening in the West Bank with the settlers. I think that the stuff there is completely easy to condemn. But can I, hand on heart, condemn Israel trying to destroy Hamas after what they did on October 7th? That is where I’m struggling to find myself saying I condemn it because I believe that they are right to try and destroy Hamas. Now, what do you feel about my moral quandary?

Bassem:  Well, there is, there’s a lot of points, very lot. And I think this was kind of like the ground rules for that interview. There is a whole thing about like, is the right to defend itself, the condemnation. First of all, let’s start with condemnation.

Piers: Yes.

Bassem:   You want my opinion?

Piers: Yes.

Bassem: Condemning Hamas? or condemning Israel?

Piers: Yes.

Bassem: Completely useless, completely useless.

Piers:  Why?

Bassem: I condemn Hamas, you condemn Israel, interviews over, what happened? Nothing. It is just checkpoint-like morality checkpoints.

Piers:  But I’ve interviewed a lot of pro-Palestinians, for example, some of whom will immediately say, ‘I unreservedly condemn the terror attacks of October the 7th,’ and then go on to criticize Israel. And I think that’s a very, well, it’s a position I can completely respect.

Bassem:  Yeah.

Piers: But I find it much harder to respect a pro-Palestinian guest on my show if they simply resolutely refuse to say that they can condemn the terror attacks. I find that less worthy of respect.

Bassem:  But you see, this is the problem with the news. We go into the circular motion of the same.  One thing that I have noticed, not just on the coverage of these events, the events before and before and before, every time this starts, people say, ‘We don’t know what’s happening. It’s a very complicated situation. What is happening now?’ And for me, as a viewer, if a conflict that’s been there for 75 years and the media, with all this technology, has been covering it and we hear the same exact words, ‘We don’t know what’s happening. It’s complicated. It’s a very complex…’ That is a failure of the media apparatus. That is the failure to themselves and for the audience because why every time this happens, it seems like it is happening from point zero. And I think to help understand that, I will get to October 7th, I will get to the condemnation, I will get to the self-defense. But I think maybe we can do, we have like all the time in the world, and we can discuss. This interview could be a bookmark, a landmark for maybe looking at that conflict in a deeper way that nobody had gone there before.

Piers: Yeah.

Bassem: We have the views, we have people waiting. You know, as I said, I’m the least qualified to discuss that, but it’s an opportunity to use.

Piers: Listen. I’m not massively well-qualified myself.

Bassem:  Yeah, both of us.

Piers: Like I’m an Irish Catholic.

Bassem: Look at us, two privileged people, one white, one white wannabe discussing the most complex conflict of our history. But I want to start in a totally different area. I want to start with anti-Semitism.

Piers: Yes.

Bassem:  I think it’s an important issue.

Piers: Yes.

Bassem: I think there is a rise of anti-Semitism in the world and I think this is very dangerous. And I, as a Muslim who has been through events where there were terrorist attacks somewhere and that reflects on us, I completely feel that. Since what happened, I had text messages from my Jewish friends, ‘Are you okay? Are you, are your family okay?’ And I was texting them, ‘Are you okay?’ And I think it is very important to agree on the language because the word anti-Semite has been used and abused and most of the time, not for the good interest of the Jewish people. Because the first two days of the coverage, I watched the news and there was a lot of protest that was led by Jewish Voice for Peace and they were read by people who opposed the Israeli attack on the civilians. And I remember quite well, many of the Republican representatives in Congress came out and they were calling these, the global Intifada, the global Jihad. I love it when they say Jihad, they sound like a horse, ‘Jihad.’ It’s very funny. Or they say like these are, and I quote, ‘Iranian-backed jihadists.’ And I said, ‘Wait a minute, but most of those people are Jewish. Those people who took over the capital, the same people who took over Central Station in New York, which is known as the biggest Civil Disobedience event in America in the last two decades, they were all Jewish.’ And then I find Nikki Haley saying, ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism.’ And then I remember, it’s like, ‘Oh, Jewish people in America are saddled by the fact that they are not citizens of America or citizens of the world, but they are citizens of Israel and they have to back Israel in whatever they do.’ And these are not my words, these are the words of Jon Stewart. He went out and he said, ‘It’s very, very important to divide these two.’ And what is very, very interesting…

Piers: Would you compare that, on that specific point, to the way that people try and say all Palestinians are responsible and accountable for what Hamas do?

Bassem: Yes, yeah.

Piers: I think you can be very critical of Israeli government and their policies and Benjamin Netanyahu and the politicians, but that doesn’t mean that you have to take that criticism to innocent Israelis who may have exactly the same criticism themselves.

Bassem: And this is why it is very important to have this kind of discussions because the funniest—not the funniest—the saddest thing that I saw is that people that were in so much support of Israel are anti-Semite themselves. MTG, Marjorie Taylor Greene, you know, she said like, ‘Oh, those are, I send my aids, and they took pictures of the protesters, basically she’s surveilling protesters. Marjorie Taylor Greene is very well known for a very famous post in 2018 where she blamed the Californian wildfires on a Jewish space laser gun. Do you remember that? Do you remember that? I said like, ‘Oh, they were burned because Jewish investors, Rothchild and Feinstein, anything that ends with Stein because that’s, of course, sounds of Jewish, they put a satellite and shooting laser beams to…’ And not just her, you have Steve Scalise. He is now the speaker of the House and he has been invited before in a– for an organization that was funded by David Duke, the founder of the KKK. You have Kevin McCarthy, who is the former minority leader of the Republican party in the House, and he accused Jewish billionaires of rigging the midterm. So how come those people are accusing us of anti-Semite? So here’s the thing, so go, let’s go to the equation that Niki Haley put on Twitter: ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism.’ No, it is true, people who hate Jews, they’re also anti-Zionist. It is true. And you could be someone who hates Zionist, who don’t like Zionist, and you are Semite. You could even be Jewish. And guess what, you could be a Zionist, like those people, uh, supporting Israel and at the same time, you hate the Jews because the chant, ‘Jews will not replace us,’ these echoed in Charlottesville. It did not echo in Gaza. I mean, in Gaza, they say war stuff in, in between the bombing, under downtime. And these are, are the same people who are seen with Nick Fuentes, with Steven Bannon. And you know what’s most interesting,

Piers: Donald Trump had him for dinner at Mar-a-Lago.

Bassem: And all of those people are buddies with Benjamin Netanyahu. So how does this work? How does this work? And you know, the people who speak against this, like Jon Stewart, like Bernie Sanders, like, Naomi Klein, what do they call these people? What do they call them? ”Self-hating Jews” And you know what else now, they call them, they call them kapos. Kapos, you know what’s kapos? Kapos, basically these were the Jewish inmates in Auschwitz that were forced by the Nazis to stand as guards on their own inmates. You see how degrading this is? And this is the way to shut down conversation, anti-Semite, Islamophobe, you hate America, you hate the military, you hate Egypt, war on Christmas. An environment that does not allow disagreement is an environment made for control.

Piers: Let me ask you this, say, Tampa’s student protests in American universities. I have no problem instinctively with students protesting. It’s actually part of the DNA of being a student, right? But I do have a problem with two things. One, the protest that happened almost immediately after October the 7th, within hours, which were clearly deeply, deliberately inflammatory and hurtful to Jewish people. Secondly, I have a real problem with the students who were beaming direct pro-Hamas slogans onto buildings on campuses in America. You know, I’m all for free speech and I really am, the whole show is predicated on that, but not to the point where you see Jewish students barricaded into libraries because a mob is descending on them. There is a distinction to me between people who are obviously overtly– I mean there was a professor at Cornell University who was literally seen in public shouting how exhilarated he felt by the attacks of October the 7th. He still hasn’t been fired, that guy. I think that crosses a line, do you?

Bassem: Yeah, I do not like this way. I mean, I can understand why, but I don’t condone it. I would never– because you have to understand these people—again, I’m not supporting the—I just want to make sure about two things. The reason that I started with anti-Semitism because I wanted to make sure to clear any confusion that when I speak about Israel, I’m speaking about Israel.

Piers: Yes.

Bassem: When I speak about Jewish people, I’m speaking about Jewish people. When I speak of Zionist, I’m speaking about Zionist. It’s very…

Piers: I think it was very powerful that you did that. I, that’s the first thing you did because I think it’s really important.

Bassem: Yeah, but at the same time, when I tell you why does that happen, it doesn’t mean that I condone it. There’s a difference between explanation and justification. Those people who are exhilarated, the way that they, this is the, the same reason why people were so happy about the interview. What do they see? They see Israel as a criminal state who is killing their people and in the same time, they are supported by the International Community and the America. They have no guns, they have no superpower backing them. All they have is just feeling of happiness like, ‘Yes, our enemies that we cannot touch them has been hurt.’ All they can think about that these are their enemies that have been hurt. Right, I’m not condoning this, but again, lwhen people were celebrating terrorist attacks, you know, against Western, Western targets, of course, I don’t condone that. But why? Because those people have been from a very young age, what have seen, they’re not being heard by the media. The plight and the suffering of their brothers in Palestine, in the Arab world are not being heard. People in Iraq, you know, like when America and Britain invaded Iraq, right? What the Arabs saw, it’s like two superpowers are coming in on just regular people. So whenever there was like a bomb or like an attack on American troops, people would celebrate. Yeah, there are enemies. Emotions are very inflammatory and it is not right, but those people have nothing else. All they had just like shout. All they say is like to rejoice. It is not right. Again, I’m explaining why is this happening because it’s like, ‘Yeah, if I cannot get you, I’m just going to scratch your eyes. I’m going to scratch your eyes because you’ve been beating me all the time and you have the whole International Community backing you up and all I can do is scream.’ Is it right? No, but it is understandable. Again, not the right thing, but I, it’s not like understandable, it’s like, ‘Oh, I.’ No, but again, it is an explanation. Now, hate—and again, this is another way why this has been magnified in the media so much. What does the Western audience see? They see people rejoicing for the death of innocent civilians in Israel. This is what have the Arabs seen for years on the Arab board. For example, if you look up Sderot Cinema, this is in 2014 when, when Israel was bombing Gaza as usual and the Israelis in the Sderot, the kibbutz or the settlement, they went on a hill and they had popcorn and they had drinks and they were like watching the show and they were cheering with every rocket coming down. This is what we see. Western people didn’t see that.

Piers: Well, somebody found a tweet actually of mine from 2014 in which I said, ‘At what point does what Israel is currently doing to the Palestinian people will become terrorism?’ And because I’ve always said, you know, I’ve spoken about this a lot over the years and I’ve always tried to be extremely fair-minded, albeit nobody really wants you to be fair-minded, they want you to take a side. But that was clear that my thinking back then was that they were absolutely overstepping.

Bassem: Absolutely, absolutely. But I’m again to the point of rejoicing.

Piers: No, I know what you mean.

Bassem: But like if you, for example, Google ‘the wedding of hate,’ this is like a Jewish wedding in Israel where they were celebrating the arsons of Palestinians.

Piers: To be clear, I’ve seen lots of videos.

Bassem: But I’m not talking to you, Piers. I’m talking to the Western audience because I want to say, like, ‘This is what they see.’ I mean, for example, there is a very famous video for Samuel Abuhsani [?], who was a young kid that he was shot point-blank by an Israeli soldier and he was not allowed to have any medical attention. And as his dead body was being put into the ambulance, the Jewish settlers were cheering. So for an Arab audience, this is what we see every day. So when they see, ‘Oh, we heard them back. We heard their people like they heard back,’ it is not right. But this is what hate does. It escalates, it feeds each other. Radicalism feeds it. It is terrible and it is just like a vicious circle. So I would like to do something that is very interesting tonight. I want– when I invited Jon Stewart to my show, as much of like a reception that you, if you see the YouTube, people just like…. we had to cut the 5-minute standing ovation for broadcast. People were on their feet for 5 minutes. They could not believe it. I remember Jon Stewart telling me, ‘I could never imagine that a Jewish guy from New Jersey would have that kind of reception in Cairo. And yet on the internet, people who would, ‘What, you brought a Jew on your show? Why you are with a Jew?’ Yes, hate is there. Yes. So, and the thing is why we do not see each other, people in the Middle East, people in the West, that we do not put ourselves in each other’s shoes. And I want to do something very interesting today. I like telling stories and I’m going to tell you a very nice story. And this is the story, surprise surprise, of the suffering and the plight of the Jewish people. And I want to say that because it is very interesting when you see the trauma and the suffering that the people on the other side went through, you might understand why they’re coming. So, this is– see this? It’s a map of all of the history of the expulsion of the Jews in Europe. They have been like– I have never seen a minority being kicked around this much, right? And of course, this comes back to, you know, the whole idea about the original sin that you have betrayed Jesus Christ, the blood of Jesus is on your hands. And then comes the 11th century. At that time, Jewish people were not allowed to own land. They were just peasants. Even some of the professions were not even allowed to participate in. But they were allowed to do one thing, usury, money lending, because it was prohibited by the Catholic Church to engage into that. So what happens when you work in money? You get richer, right? And those Jews were left in ghettos. Now, ghettos were not just like isolated neighborhoods in cities. Sometimes, ghettos were outside the cities. This is like how isolated they were. And in those ghettos, they have to pay gold to the mayor, or the governor, or the prince, or the noble. So they would see, ‘You’re getting richer. I need more taxes.’ So they pay tax. What happens when you have a business and they increase your rent? You increase your service, increase the taxes, increase. So what happened? The Christians started to default and suddenly the image of the greedy Jew was created. Shylock, Merchant of Venice, ‘If it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge.’ You know, like, ‘Never did I known a creature that looked like a man so keen and greedy… Confound, so confound of a man. You know, I messed it up anyways. But this was the image, greedy Jew, the greedy Jew. This was created because of their conditions. And it became more for in 1095 when Pope Urban II called for the First Crusade to go and save the birth of Jesus from the unbelievers, Muslim. And you know, this crusade did not kill a single Muslim. You know how many people they killed? 2,000 Jews because it’s like, ‘Wait, the nonbelievers are all over there, why?’ So they went to the, it’s called The Crusades of the Rhineland, they went to the Jewish Community because, ‘Hey, we own them money, so let’s kill them, better than paying them.’ And then came the plague and then all of the things like, ‘Oh, they’re killing babies. Babies, who would do that to a baby, you know?’ And they accused them of poisoning the well. This was the kind of oppression that the Jewish people went through. Fast forward 19th century, there was like the Eastern Jew in Ukraine and Russia and there was the Western Jews in Europe. Those people in the East, the Eastern Jews had to immigrate because of pogroms and they were like, you know, kicked out. And at a certain point, the people in the west, especially in England, it’s like, ‘uhm, there are too many Jews, we need a solution.’ A solution for what? For the Jewish problem. So it’s like, ‘We need to get rid of them.’ And you know what, Palestine was not even in the A list. Palestine was in the B list because England proposed 6,000 square miles in Uganda for the Jews in 1903. And the reason why Palestine was not on the list, that it was objected by a lot of rabbis that said like, ‘It’s a Promised Land, but only when the Messiah comes.’ But there were other options: Argentina, South Africa, Uganda, Madagascar. And eventually, they said, ‘All right, let’s do Palestine.’ So they went to Palestine. In 1914, there were 700,000 people living in Palestine, 3% were Jewish. In 1917, Belfort declaration, Arthur Belfort, he called the Jewish people in England that they are alien and hostile race. And the thing is, the only Jewish member of the parliament of the English Parliament, Lord Montagu, he objects like, ‘These are British citizens, we should not kick them out.’ So they pushed them, they pushed them, but it was not going fast enough. Came the Nazis and then it was not about the solution anymore, it was the end losing, the Final Solution by Hitler because he needed an answer for the Jewish question: ‘der Judenfrage’ and then, as you see, the Holocaust happened, the most orchestrated, industrialized, horrible genocide in our modern time. 6 million Jews died. So it accelerated– and they went, first of all, they left Eastern Europe and they went to West Europe and went to America and they were turned down and were pushed towards Palestine. So by 1948, right before the Declaration of the State of Israel, there were 2 million people living there, only 30% of them was Jews. So the whole idea of ‘a land without a people to a people without a land’ was a marketing thing. They were already Palestinians. So suddenly, from our perspective, the Jewish problem is not a Jewish problem, is not a Middle Eastern problem, is not an Arab problem, it is a European problem. It was pushed on us together with the guilt because now we are the anti-Semite, we now we are the Jewish haters. And not just that, they took land. So people look at this like, ‘Why are we even, we had a lot of refugees coming in.’ And during that, there was a lot of, as you know, Zionist militia, the Irgun, the Haganah, all of these people were killing Palestinians, the famous massacre of  Deir Yassin. You’re talking about the atrocities of October 7 is horrible, but in the Arab mind, there is Deir Yassin where there is an incredible movie called ‘ T A N T U R A’  where the Israeli members of those militias, they talk about the atrocities that they did including opening up the pregnant woman bellies and having bets if the boy inside is a boy or a girl. It is one of the most horrific things and they talk about it. Some talk about with regret and some talk about with pleasure: ”We did that.” Right? So you have even King David.. I think your prime minister, Mr. Sunak, was there and if I was British, I would question this because as you know, King David was bombed by the Aragon militias. 91 British soldiers died. I don’t know if I was British, how come my prime minister would have the nerve to stay in that hotel? I mean, you know, the ghost of the 91 British soldiers, that must be haunting for them. You see, so when you see all of that and you see that suddenly overnight, 1948, there were 1.5 million Palestinians. Seven-half of them, three-fourths of them were overnight pushed into refugees and this is why it’s called the NBA, the ‘Catastrophe’. So now we have all of this building up into the minds and suddenly this was like a conflict, a hate, a problem that we didn’t have to do anything with. This was basically pushed on us by the Europeans. You see, see this is why it is important to say that and I’m not saying that just like, ‘Oh, let’s wipe out the state of Israel, let’s like push them in the sea.’ No, but it’s important when you talk about the conflict that you talk about the root causes, right? No, there was like a vibrant Palestinian culture happening over there and right now they are erasing this culture. Suddenly, I’m seeing of like Israeli feta cheese, Israeli hummus. Oh, that’s an insult, Israeli hummus. Come on, I mean, take the land but leave the humus, man. I mean, come on, I mean, that’s, that’s not fair. You are someone who’s always spoken against culture, cancelled culture. Right now, a whole culture is cancelled.

Piers: Let, let me ask you this. Jonathan Freedland is a top Jewish journalist for the Guardian newspaper. He wrote a very interesting column last week in which he said ‘at the root of all this, you could argue, you have two sets of people with just cause and they believe passionately in their just cause.’ And he was sort of advising people not to take sides unless you really understand the history. Do you, would you agree with that? Would you agree that both sides have legitimate just cause? Not with the methodology that’s taken place and you’ve given an extremely detailed analysis of the build-up to what happened in 48. To me, it’s pretty clear, 700, 800,000 Palestinians were displaced from their land..

Bassem:  In one night.

Piers: And it should never have happened and that has been absolutely, I think, the root cause for so much resentment. But can you, at the heart of this debate, agree with Jonathan that you could argue there’s just cause on both sides?

Bassem: There’s a, there is a cause on both sides but I’m working on a tightrope here because I’m not a Palestinian. Yeah, but from the Palestinian point of view, there’s a lot of people, I mean, there are 2.2 million people living in Gaza. There are 3.5 million people living in the West Bank. There is 350,000 people lifting in East Jerusalem and there’s six or seven million people living outside. Those people, the Palestinian that were pushed out, they do not have the right to go back. Right now, if you meet Palestinians, you’ll see them wearing a necklace with a key. That key is their house’s that they were kicked out from  in Yafa, Haifa. And my wife’s family comes from Ramallah which is 50 miles from Gaza and and according to the law, those people have absolutely no right to go back. Even if you are a Palestinian with an American passport, they give you hell in order to go in. And yet, a Jewish person born anywhere in the world, born in Poland, born in Ukraine, no question asked, he can jump on a plane, land in Israel, and get the Israeli citizen and take a house that most probably belonged to a Palestinian. So it is not just like now… It is an ongoing injustice that has been happening now.“I mean..

Piers: Where would you criticize? If you’re being fair-minded, where would you criticize from ’48 onwards the behaviour of the Arab side?

Bassem:  Well, put yourself in the Arab side. At 1948, you constituted 70% of the population. So, the UN is giving you 48% of the land, right? Not just that, I mean the Arab regimes, because they did terribly. And see, this is the thing. Arab nationalism, at the height of these people, feed on each other. You know, because it’s very, very important to have a problem. ‘Oh, it’s Israel,’ and then, ‘And for Israel, oh, it’s the Palestinian.’ It’s a very good distraction. I mean, sometimes I feel that like the Palestinian cause is very useful for both sides to stay there as attention because it’s all a way to reflect. And this is a very important question because in the mind of the western audience, they have always thought of the Palestinian resistance or the Palestinian side as like Islamic, as militant. No, as a matter of fact, some of the early suicide bombers were female Christian Palestinians because they were like the IRA, you know, they were fighting for a land. The whole idea of Islamization of the whole cause came very later. As a matter of fact, you will find this very interesting because when I saw this, I did not believe it. This, you know, the Fatah movement, which is the PLO, the Fatah, this was their,  slogan. Can you see? You see, there’s a crescent, a cross, and a menorah, and they say, ‘Unitary, Democratic, Non-Sectarian.’ So basically, in the 1960s, Fatah were basically marijuana-smoking, tree-hugger hippies. And yet, that didn’t work, right? And the thing is, I always hear that like Arabs were giving two, four, so many chances for peace. That is not true. As a matter of fact, all along history, Israel didn’t give an inch of land by peace. 1973 War, they gave back Sinai because Egypt like initiated the war. 2006, they went out of  south of Lebanon because of the resistance. They have even the disengagement of Gaza. They didn’t do it out of the goodness of their heart because they had too much casualties. And even, even, even the Oslo Accords, the peace treaty, the one that Yitzhak Rabin got the Nobel Prize, they did it because of the Intifada. So what is the message that Israel is giving to the Arabs? ‘I will never give you anything with peaceful resolution. You will always have to fight for it.’

Piers: Do you not think that, for example  Bill Clinton feels this very strongly, that there was a great deal to be done and Arafat just, in the end, having indicated the whole time that if we got to this place, there would be a deal, just walked away? So that was the closest that everybody came. And but actually, I mean, could Clinton have done any more than he tried to do then?

Bassem:  I am not, again, that’s why it’s very important to have people who are much more qualified than me to talk about this. But two things I can say about that. Number one, the whole thing about the Oslo Accord, there was a video for Netanyahu who was talking to the  ? offer 2001, and he was bragging about sabotaging he was talking to like, ‘I sabotaged it. Like there was going to be no peace.’

Piers: Yeah.

Bassem:  You seen that, right?

Piers: Yeah.

Bassem: And in that video, if you remember, when he was saying like, ‘You have to hit them hard. 2001, no Hamas at the time. We have, they were talking about the Palestinian Authority. We have to hit them. We have to kill them. We have to make them feel the pain.’ And then one of the says like, ‘Like, Bibi but wouldn’t America kind of, J like, so what? The American public is easily manipulated. 80% are with us.’ It is absurd, and as a new American where I can have the privilege of being retrospectively angry as I like, this guy is mocking the government and the people who have been with him all the time.” It’s like, ‘Oh, they can be easily manipulated. They can do.’ And even by the way, even Yitzhak Rabin, Yitzhak Rabin, the one who actually did the Peace ?, he was known famously said, ‘The way to actually beat those children is to break their bones with the broken bones policy.’ They were like, ‘Get those kids and break their bones on the pavement.’ So this has the whole idea about like Israel wanted peace and Arabs only wanted to fight is a very, very bad representation.

Piers: I actually think it is going on, the will, the genuine will on both sides for peace has not existed.

Bassem: No,

Piers: I think it’s been a deceit to the world. And to the relative groups of people on both sides, the official and actually a betrayal of…

Bassem:  The official stand of the Palestinian Authority. And again, I cannot speak. It is very difficult to do this. The official send of the Palestinian authority is that we are just happy with 22% of the land. Just give us like the yes, there are people that this. But the thing is, you cannot just say, ‘Okay, let’s talk about peace,’ and then you take away my land. ‘Let’s talk about peace,’ and there’s, there’s a kind of passive aggressiveness happening. ‘Oh, let’s talk about, but I’m going to build settlements. I’m going to suffocate your cities and your villages.’

Piers: See, I think that has been incredibly inflammatory.

Bassem: Yes.

Piers: Worsening the situation. I think putting back the chance of peace. I mean, Netanyahu…I interviewed Netanyahu earlier this year in the middle of the big social protests in his own country and I couldn’t understand what he thought he was doing except that it seemed to me political expediency that he had to, to get power. You know, again, he had put a bunch of right-wing headbangers into his cabinet who had incredibly bad records, speak in an incredibly incendiary way about, Palestinians for example. And that he did this for power and then he launched a, because they were pushing him to do it, a ridiculous assault on the integrity of the Supreme Court, independent Supreme Court. And many Israelis rose up. So Netanyahu is, has become to me, a big problem. And the people that all the polling shows that Israeli people are very unhappy with Netanyahu. I don’t think he’s ever going to actually want to forge peace. And in fact, I think he was instrumental with Hamas in wanting to keep them in power because he felt that that would create the split with the Palestinian with two political groups and that would be good for Israel.

Bassem:  And it was leaked in a LeakHood conference in 2019 that he was bragging about giving Hamas money because this is a way that we can keep Palestinian divided. And yet, so we’ll never have on. So this is a guy who was…

Piers: Look..we can agree about Netanyahu.

Bassem: I think no, but not just Netanyahu. There, there’s a book…

Piers: And would say most of his cabinet.

Bassem: There’s a book called ‘The Fear of Peace.’ It’s called by Moshe Zimmerman and he’s an Israeli historian and he said, ‘The average Israeli citizen does not have a vision of Peace because for 70 years, this is a country that military war has been going on for. They have been expanding because of war. The military is taking over. So the whole idea of peace is not even there.’ It’s not just Netanyahu. Like, like you have, I remember you have interviewed Naftali Bennett. Yes, and I think you tweeted that like that was like a very…kind of reasonable take. Yeah, is it reasonable? Yeah, yeah, but like I, in that he went after Queen Rania and he called a shame on Queen Rania.

Piers: I didn’t say reasonable. I just said this. I did a, a fire emoji. Yeah, I just said that what he was saying. Yeah, I mean, I was going to ask you about Queen Rania and let’s ask about since you’ve raised it because Queen Rania accused the west of a glaring double standard. She said, ‘This is the first time in modern history there’s such human suffering and the world is not even calling for ceasefire. So the silence is deafening and to many in our region, it makes the Western World complicit. Now other people said, ‘Well, okay, if you feel that strongly, why aren’t you taking in any Palestinians? Why is Egypt not taking Palestinians? Why does the Arab world want to constantly attack Israel without actually offering any place to go for the Palestinians?’ And what do you say?

Bassem: That is exactly what Israel wants and that is exactly what might actually start a War III. This is the war solution. These are Palestinian. These are their lands and then, suddenly take them, why? So they’re being basically kicked around from their homes and now another country should take them? You see, what will happen? Imagine this now and because Israel official has been talking openly about this, it’s like, ‘Why don’t they just go in Sinai? Why don’t they go?’ You know, what would happen? Those people are going to be pushed in Sinai and with any population, 2 million people that are living in a refugee camp, what do you think will happen? Unrest! Chaos! and then after a few years, the Western media will come with their cameras like, ‘Oh, look at those Arabs. Oh, they’re killing each other. Oh, Israel is good that they got rid of them.’ And then they will go to the West Bank and so those 3.5 million people pushed into Jordan. This, the whole idea, why does Jordan take them? Why does Egypt take them? The same question, you, Europe has 44 countries, why don’t they take Israel? America has 50 states, why don’t they give them Florida? I mean, they seem to complain about Florida the whole time, why don’t they just like give Israel? The whole idea was like, ‘Oh, you’re Arabs, you’re all the same.’ No, no, no! because what will happen? That so Israel will move into Jordan, it’s like, ‘Oh, Saudi, why don’t you take the Jordanian?’ This is not a solution. This is not a solution.

Piers:  I hear you. I’m not taking a position out the way. Let me ask you direct.

Bassem:  I want to say something about what Queen Rania said. Okay, the whole idea about like the West, I think that in three weeks, Israel morally corrupted the West like no other. I think the West will have a lot of time to recover because for years, the West has been telling us, ‘Oh, look, we are liberal. We’re all about human rights. All are equal. Adopt our values.’ And then suddenly, but you don’t want to even to see, you don’t want to even tell Israel to stop. And suddenly, we woke up and we found McDonald’s are giving free meals to the Israeli because like nothing will make you feel better after killing a bunch of Palestinian kids than a Happy Meal. They have a toy!

Piers: So let me ask you, ok? So this brings me to Hamas. Okay, so what Israel will say, because they say it to me every time they come on the program, whoever from Meu Barack ? to Natalia Bennett, whoever it may be, they say, ‘Look, we suffered such a catastrophic terror attack on October the 7th that we have decided we are going to get rid of Hamas. There are 40,000 or so Hamas terrorists in their eyes who need to be got rid of and I do believe they’re terrorists. Only terrorist can commit the kind of Act of terrorism we saw. So can we, on that point, can we agree on that? Do you believe Hamas is a terror group?’

Bassem:  It is what it is, classified by America. I’m not a big fan of Hamas and they are a militant group. They do stuff like…

Piers: ‘Are they terrorists? Do you think?’

Bassem:  Yeah.

Piers: Okay, okay, so we agree on this. So you have 40,000 of them living in Gaza amongst the civilian population. If Israel has decided to eliminate a terror group, Hamas, as the world did with Isis for example, and I think there are a lot of parallels given the way they behave on October the 7th to Isis, how do you do it? How do you do it if you don’t do it the way Israel is currently trying to do it?

Bassem: Exactly, not the way that Israel does it because if you have the one of the most advanced military powers in the world and it takes you 3 weeks, 9,000 Palestinian civilian death, 21,000 injured. As we’re talking right now, Israel just bombed Jabalia which is a known refugee camp. This, it is a very… this is not self-defense. You know, like one of the most questions, like, ‘Does Israel have the right to defend itself?’ This is a no value question. This is a no value question.

Piers: Well, I would ask a different point. I would say, not only do they have a right to defend themselves, which every country would after a terror attack, right? But they actually have a duty and responsibility to their population to try and stop that happening again to them.

Bassem: They’ve been doing…

Piers: And I do, I do understand and I agree with that.

Bassem: Yeah, but, but here’s the thing. If it takes you all of that time, all of these civilians, to take out a few hundred gerilla fighters…

Piers: We don’t know how many of the people ..

Bassem: A few thousand…

Piers: We don’t know.

Bassem: It doesn’t matter,

Piers: But Bassem, you don’t know, and I don’t know.

Bassem: We don’t know.

Piers: But like, we don’t even know if the casualty numbers are correct because they’re all coming from Hamas and health authority…

Bassem: And we should believe Israel?

Piers: No, no, not necessarily. No, no. I don’t believe either side.

Bassem: But here’s my problem with this.

Piers: Here’s my point. I don’t think we should assume that we know these statistics are correct. I don’t think we should assume we know exactly how many children have been killed. We do know a lot have been killed, so the moral argument remains the same. But we don’t know how many Hamas terrorists have been killed in the last three weeks. We just don’t know, do we?

Bassem: So basically, we’re, we’re dealing with a very incompetent military force that has been sucking America dry for years and then they cannot do the job.

Piers: But how else do they get rid of Hamas?

Bassem: Not like that.

Piers: How do they do it?

Bassem: I don’t know, but not like that because they’ve been trying. They have, first of all, I’m not a military expert. Second of all, second of all, they’ve been trying the same thing for years. They go in, they, this is not an eye for an eye anymore. This is an eye, a limp, a life, a house, a neighborhood, a whole population for an eye.

Piers: They don’t say. I mean, your, your friend Ben Shapiro, that you particularly despise.

Bassem: Oh, I love Ben Shapiro. He’s very smart.

Piers: Yeah, but you, you’ve been very critical of him and that’s fair enough and I’m sure he would be of you. But when I asked him about proportion, he said there is, ‘I don’t care about a proportionate response.

Bassem: So let’s kill civilians as Hamas did this. So we are going to get rid of Hamas.’ It’s, it’s in his eyes, it wasn’t an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. It was, ‘This group of terrorists did this and we are now going to rid the world of these terrorists.’

Bassem: And this is very important to look at things in context. When you see how Israelis talk inside their community, there was a very famous post by [???] He is the speech writer of Netanyahu. He said, ‘What is so horrific about understanding that the whole Palestinians people are our enemies? All of them are enemy combatants. We should call them, kill their mother, destroy their homes, the homes that they raise those snakes. So no snakes would be raised in this house anymore.’ And this was reposted by [???], which is the Minister of, wait for it, justice. Those, it’s not about Hamas anymore. It is not about Hamas. They can tell you it’s about Hamas, but it’s not about. It is basically, it has, they have said it many times, Pierce. This is a way to kind of push them in, into Sinai. This is not about eradicating Hamas. This ship has sailed. I am sorry, but like, I, anybody who still believes that this is about Hamas is stupid because they…

Piers: I don’t agree with that.

Bassem: Really?

Piers: No, because I think,

Bassem: But why? So why are, why there?

Piers: I tell you, I don’t agree there.

Bassem: Like 100 people…

Piers: Any country, any country that suffered the kind of terror attack that Israel suffered with the kind of death toll that occurred that day, 1500 plus people, grandmothers, kids, young women being raped, kidnapped, beheaded, it’s been reported and so on… Well, you can raise an eyebrow. I mean, they found, they found a young woman’s skull. Some been…

Bassem: What about the babies that were beheaded?

Piers: Well, there was a report and you and I have this discussion on there. You falsely quoted me and I wanted to clarify that with you in person. You thought I’d said that 40 babies have been beheaded.

Bassem: So what did you say?

Piers: I never said that.

Bassem: What did you say?

Piers: I said it’s been reported that 40 babies were killed, some of whom had been beheaded.’ That’s what I said.

Bassem: Yeah, totally, totally different is a very different.

Piers: Well, it is different.

Bassem: Yes.

Piers: You accept it?

Bassem: English is a second language so things, they different things of course. Yes,

Piers: Between saying 40 babies have been beheaded and 40 babies have been reported to been killed, including…

Bassem: Where are those beheaded babies?

Piers: Well apparently journalists have being shown utterly horrific…

Bassem: Okay, this comes to a very important question about credibility. Again, I’m not condoning what happen in October 7th but I’m not a journalist but as a journalist, wouldn’t you take anything that an authority would say with a grain of thought?

Piers: Yes,

Bassem: Especially if this Authority have a loooooong history of lying and I’m just going to give a few examples:  1996, they bombed Qona. It’s a refugee camp. They killed 106 people and despite that they knew it’s a refuge Camp, they said, ‘Oh, maybe it’s a one time off.’ 2006, they bombed Qona again. 2014, they killed two teenagers at checkpoint. They denied as usual but CNN was there so they said we have to say it. 2018, they killed a medic, a Palestinian medic and they doctored, they fabricated a video showing that it’s someone else, that he was a human shield and then, can I just like finish?

Piers: I want respond…

Bassem: And then 2010, they killed Ahmed Erekat, denied it then said it’s okay, it’s us. 2021, they bomb the media office in, it’s not us but no, I’m sorry and then 11th May 2022, Shireen Abu Akleh, reporter, your colleague, she’s Palestinian American citizen, she was shot in the head and they provided forensic evidence and even a doctored video that it was not them, it was Islamic Jihad. How can I expect to believe this regime especially if the president of Israel comes down with this ridiculous, ridiculous thing? Have you seen in there, there?

Piers: No.

Bassem: Okay, this was reported by Sky News and it was the funniest thing I’ve seen.. This was a Colin Powell moment but like the cheap Edition. Mr  Herzog said like Isaac Herzog, it’s like ‘we have found evidence on one of the terrorists, a manual to create chemical bombs and then he showed this and he showed and I just want to say, why would a foot shoulder go in into enemy with like a manual to chemical bombing? It’s like, is that BYOB, bring your own beer or bomb? It’s crazy  and what you have like local ingredients to make that and then this is like, this is a manual of El Kaide of course [conven???] and let me read it to you in Arabic because this is funny (Arabic sentences..)which basically says (giggles)  this is basically like a catalog for self-improvement for Mucahidin. (laughter) I didn’t know that they have life coaches. So this and you know what Sky News said , ‘We cannot confirm any of this but we will show it anyways.’ This is a lying government.

Piers: So let me respond. I do think the Israeli government has lied.

Bassem: All the time.

Piers: Right? I do think they’ve lied. I’m not going to dispute that. I do think they’ve been caught lying. I do think they said things that turned out not to be true. I also think that two weeks ago a hospital was bombed.

Bassem: Yes,

Piers: And it was…….

Bassem: Who do you think it is?

Piers: Well I’m going to tell you what I think. Hamas immediately tell the world it was an Israeli air strike and that 500 people were killed and that the hospital had been destroyed and then as the next couple of days go by, the hospital is relatively undamaged, car park was obliterated. Many fewer people than 500 were killed.

Bassem: How many people died?

Piers: We don’t know because actually we’re relying on the Palestinian health authority, which is Hamas in Gaza, for the figures. So we don’t know the number, but a lot fewer people died, it would appear, than the 500.

Bassem: 100?

Piers: We don’ t know.

Bassem: 50?

Piers: Either way, it’s appalling, but it may not have been anywhere near as appalling as was first said by Hamas. But here’s the point, most independent studies of what happened have concluded that it was almost certainly a militant struck terror group inside Gaza and they fired a rocket which landed in the hospital car park. In other words, it wasn’t an Israeli air strike.

So I have an issue with that because for three days before the attack, the priest and the Patrick of the hospital, because it called the Baptist Hospital, said that they have received warning, multiple warnings from Israel that they’re going to hit the hospital. And then at the time of the hit of the hospital, one of the top aides of Netanyahu, he tweeted about like, ‘We hit the hospital,’ and then he deleted. And then basically,  Israel, gaslighted the world. Why?

Piers: I said most independent,…

Bassem: No that’s not true. New York Times actually just published something to prove that it was shot from Israel. And I think it’s,…

Piers: No they didn’t,

Bassem: Okay numbers,numbers

Piers: Bassem that’s not true.

Bassem: Okay.

Piers: The New York Times has not reported that it was Israel.

Bassem: No, they said that…

Piers: They haven’t.

Bassem: Okay

Piers: That’s not true.

Bassem: Over 10 years, Hamas launched 35,000 rockets into Israel. How many failed? They killed 69 people and 25% military, only part of them were civilians. So over 10 years of 35,000 rockets, they killed 69 people. But in one strike, you want to tell me that these glorified firecrackers caused that kind of damage?

Piers: Yes, it looks like they did. Yeah,

Bassem: Okay.

Piers: Yeah. And actually, it wasn’t the damage that was reported by Hamas who wanted people to believe it was an Israeli air strike. So my point would be, I’m happy to concede that Israel government has lied about stuff over the years, but I’m absolutely certain as well that Hamas lie all the time. I believe they lied about the last..

Bassem: Why are we holding the militant terrorist group to the same standards as the best and only democracy in the Middle East?

Piers: And because they happened to be the ruling party in Gaza. So they’re not just a terror group, they are a political group as well, political party.

Bassem: Okay,

Piers: Well they are. So the question again comes to this, and so far you’ve ducked it. So I want to ask you one more time, we can both agree that the scenes in Gaza right now are horrific because I do feel that. But I don’t know how else Israel can eradicate Hamas than the way that they’re currently trying to do it. Do you have an alternative for them?

Bassem: Well, again, we are locked in the same thing. What can we do now? But we don’t look at what was happening over that. The best recruiter for Hamas is Israel. I mean, you have talked a lot about the horrible condition in Gaza. I mean, let’s imagine like a little boy called Rami. He lives in Gaza. You know, he has a horrible life, but like, you know, it’s like, it’s not that bad. I know he has a cousin in the West Bank. He’s living a good life. He wakes up in the morning and he found out that he was kidnapped by three settlers. He was burned alive by kerosene and he was forced to drink the kerosene. His name was Muhammad Abu. That settlers did that to him in 2016. Said all right, you know what, I’m just going to leave. Is, I’m going to find a way to go to Europe. His aunt is an a published author and she won a prize in the Frankfurt book fair. Her name is Adne Shalem and now she was cancelled because of what’s happening. Just because of she is Palestinian, his other aunt in America, his name is…, she is a speech therapist and I, this is close to my heart because of my son, and she was fired because she did not want to sign the for government congress said that you cannot join BDS. Which I don’t understand, why do people choosing to protest peacefully by not buying goods from a certain country, why would the United States make that its own issue? So, and this guy, this Rami is being approached by like, ‘Join hamas, join us, let’s go kill.’ Is, no, no, no, no, I don’t want to kill. I just, I’m going to live in Gaza, it’s a life. But 97% of water is not good for human consumption, half of the population are anaemic. Even the shit not being treated and it goes into the shores of Israel. It’s like, ‘Oh, that was, it’s horrible.’ So, and then he, and he wakes up in the morning, he doesn’t think about killing Jews the first thing in the morning. He thinks about being there at 5:00 at the first 50 people in the line for bread because if he doesn’t, he will miss the food for his family. And he goes back and he finds a message saying that we are going to bomb your house. He comes back, he loses his all family. Now tell me, what is the proportionate response for that?

Piers: I don’t know, I don’t know.

Bassem: You cannot create terrorism and then you…

Piers: I don’t know,

Bassem: They have created this.

Piers: I don’t know the answer. But Bassem, let me ask you this. Hamas will have known when they perpetrated what they did in October the 7th, what the scale of response was likely to be. How does that help the Palestinian people they are supposed to serve?

Bassem: I don’t know, the wheels are already set in motion.

Piers: But it doesn’t, does it?

Bassem: I do not, you know, is thing. I feel sometimes that Hamas is with us in the room, that we are bringing Hamas. Who has the power in this equation? Who has the fourth largest and strongest military power? The whole idea about Israel, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, we are….the Arabs are going to destroy us. Look at the map… Hamas…

Piers: Hang on, let me, hang on. Hamas’s stated goal is the eradication of Israel and the Jewish people.

Bassem: Yes.

Piers: They make no pretence about it. They’ve made no attempt, unlike the Nazis who try to cover up their crimes. They made no attempt to try and deny what they, they brazenly boasted about it.

Bassem: Yes

Piers: They are proud of what they did, right? And they will have known again that the scale of what they did in October the 7th would have prompted this kind of response which would have led to thousands of innocent Palestinians getting killed. And my question for you…

Bassem: I wish the 7th of October never happened. Every time, every time, something happens..

Piers: You say Hamas is everywhere. Well, yeah, actually all roads, all roads on this particular part of the crisis and I accept it’s been going on for 75 years of conflict, but all roads in this crisis lead to Hamas and what they did.

Bassem: And not necessarily because, because all roads go to the condition that created Hamas. If the Jewish people were expelled from Europe and went to Argentina or South Africa and Uganda and went in and took the land, you would have Hamas in all these places.

Piers: You and I can agree that the conditions Palestinian people have had to endure in Gaza for a very long time, completely unacceptable. I think it’s completely unacceptable that Israel has wielded such control over the people of Gaza, working out who can come in and who can go out, turning on and off Water and Power on a whim, turning off the internet on and off at a whim, all that kind of stuff. I can completely agree with. But given that, I think we agree Hamas are a terror group.

Piers: Ok, Let’s say..let me finish my question. Given that we agree that Hamas is a terror organization who have a publicly stated position of annihilating not just Israel but Jewish people and as we saw on October the 7th, they mean it. If you are Israel, what do you do to get rid of those people who have shown the world that’s exactly what they will actually do if they get the chance?

Bassem: You know what I would do? I would give the Palestinians what they deserve. Terrorism is a virus.

Piers: Yes.

Bassem: It’s a virus.

Piers: I agree.

Bassem: If a patient with a flu came to you and you’re a doctor, how can you treat that patient? How do you treat as a doctor? How do you do? Well, you’re the doctor, you give them nutrition,  fluids,  and rest, so the immunity of the body gets rid of the virus on its own. If I received that patient with a flu and I took a sledgehammer, I was like, why are you not getting better? Do you think that patient will get better? No, you are weakening him, you are making him worse. Israel did not just weaken the body of Palestinians, making them unable to get rid of hate and radicalism, they have openly boasted about helping and giving money to the same terrorist organization. So…

Piers: I agree, I think Netanyahu is complicit in keeping Hamas in power because it suited him politically,

Bassem: Yes.

Piers: And I think you can’t get away from that,

Bassem: Yes.

Piers: There’s no question of that, but there’s also no question that the Israeli government, led currently by him, has to stop Hamas from perpetrating another terror attack. And again, it comes down to this question, what do they do to get rid of Hamas if it’s not what they’re doing?  

Bassem: I don’t know, but like, as an Israeli citizen listening to this, how come that my prime minister is bragging about giving money to the terrorist group that he is using right now to eradicate a whole group of people, and yet using them as an excuse? Isn’t that weird? This is like Tony Blair being found giving money to Al-Qaeda or ISIS and then going to fight them. How does this work? How does this work?

Piers: I agree.

Bassem: How does this work?

Piers: I agree with you.

Bassem: It’s a terrorist attack and Israel is funding them. I mean, this is in the words of Benjamin, he is, this is the thing about Benjamin Netanyahu, he brags about that stuff. So, this is a circular question, Hamas is to blame, who created Hamas, who’s helping them, and who is allowing for an environment for that kind of hate and destruction of Jewish people to aspire? And I think there’s something very important to the Western audience here, they think that Israel is a small, tiny country between hostile Arab countries. The biggest military power in the Arab world is Egypt, they have a peace treaty, their neighbours Jordan, they have a peace treaty, Saudi Arabia, Emirates, either have full relationship or are on the way of normalization. The only people that even Syria, Syria is not like even like did launch a single bullet. The only two crutches that are like Hezbollah and Hamas, a few militant thousands of militants. Is that really formed an existential threat, especially if I know that over 13 years only 69 Israelis were killed?

Piers: I would say…

Bassem: Is that an existential threat? Would that really wipe out Israel? Is Israel that weak?

Piers: I think if you have two groups of people who are ideologically wedded to your destruction as a state and as a populace and you’re constantly firing rockets as Hamas have done for over a decade now, then that cannot be acceptable, you have to stop that, right? These are terrorists who’ve now shown on October the 7th their true colours, they don’t just talk about wanting to kill all Jewish people, they are going to do it if they get the chance. So, I don’t believe Hamas can possibly stay in any position of authority in Gaza. I think that would be ruinous for not just the people of Gaza but also for Israelis. So, if you’re going to get rid of them, which many people think on both sides is inevitable and should happen as a consequence of what they did, the big question is, how do you do that? And I don’t know any other way other than the way Israel is currently doing, hence my personal moral quandary about this.

Bassem: So, if a terrorist takes over the Empire State, instead of taking him out, we bomb the whole Empire State?

Piers: Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? Proportion.

Bassem: That is not even a question, that was not even a question because that would be ridiculous.

Piers: You talk about the normalization of the region. I mean, the theory that I most buy into, supported by recent, I think, Wall Street Journal reporting, the hundreds of Hamas terrorists had gone to Iran for training before this attack. It obviously has been very carefully organized and so that is, I think, highly likely. But if you’re Iran and you’re looking at all this normalization and you’re looking at Saudi Arabia being next, this is your worst nightmare. So, a perfect time to commit an atrocity like this through your proxy of Hamas.

Bassem: Again, I’m not a political expert to know what is the background, but let me tell you…

Piers: It is a likely theory…

Bassem: Does Hamas justify all of the horrible conditions that Palestinians are living in.? Is that a justification for Hamas doing what they did in October 7th?

Piers: No

Bassem: Good.

Piers: Do you think so?

Bassem: Of course not.

Piers: Right. So, we’re agreed.

Bassem: No, of course. So, let me ask you the question a different way. There is no justification, what Israel is doing now. No Hamas, no terrorist attack justifies this because you have been there, you have been there, you have stood against the Iraq war. That is too much, you are killing a whole population.

Piers: Here’s the difference, I didn’t stand against them for that reason. I stood against the Iraq War because I did not believe we had seen evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. So, we were fighting a war against a country and a despotic leader which had nothing to do with 9/11 as they were trying to claim. It was actually a lie perpetrated on the world and the consequences were disaster. A million people died, I mean, over 150 British troops died, my brother served in Iraq and could have been one of them. You know, the whole thing was a fiasco, a deadly fiasco, led to the rise of Isis and all the hell that came with that. So, you know, I, yes, absolutely, I fought that campaign against that war and I wish I’d been successful. But the singular difference here is no one is disputing, least of all the Hamas themselves, that they perpetrated this attack. And I believe Israel has a fundamental right, and a duty to defend its people from them doing it again. So, if we can agree on that as a principle of a country that’s had that kind of attack and how you deal with it, the question then becomes, how do you eradicate the people who did it? And I just think, given the intense nature of the way the population exists in Gaza, very, very large numbers of people in confined places, and that is in itself unacceptable, and I will agree with you about all of that, and that has to be fixed longer term. But actually, if Hamas are everywhere, there amongst these people, I just don’t see any alternative to what they’re doing. And I’m very happy to consider one, but I don’t think you have one either.

Bassem: So, if the Iraqis were actually, there was evidence that they were behind 9/11, would that still be okay?

Piers: To, we have a parallel which is Afghanistan and in fact, I would say, but that raises a different question. So, was the Afghanistan war just? I believe it was, in a way that Iraq wasn’t. I believe that Afghanistan was harbouring terrorists, Al-Qaeda, we know that they were training there, we know the Taliban were there, and we went in, we launched this war. It goes on and on and on, huge bloodshed on both sides. And in the end, after a ridiculous overnight pull out by America and President Biden, the Taliban are back in charge and waging the same kind of medieval rule they waged before all this.  So, you got two things. Was it justified to strike back at Afghanistan for harbouring Al-Qaeda? I would say yes. Was the means in the end justified the war? You could argue no, actually, because you ended up with the Taliban back in charge. So, they’re two different things and it may well be here, by the way, as I’ve said, that if Israel pursues this ground invasion, it backfires horribly. It leads to a much wider conflict involving many other people, possibly including Iran directly, and it could be a horrendous escalation and a massive war raging through the whole region. And that is my fear about it. But I come back to the central point of justification and I’m really struggling to see what else Israel is supposed to do to get rid of Hamas. And if you’ve got an alternative, let’s hear it.

Bassem: I do, Piers, this is never about Hamas, believe me, it is never about Hamas. If somebody tells you who they are, listen. Israel has been telling the world all the time they need to clear the Gaza Strip into Egypt.

Piers: You think that’s always been the plan?

Bassem: Always there. I mean, they have said it, they have said it many times. Why doesn’t Egypt take them and do you think when Egypt takes them, do you think they go back? No, never. And then when they’re done with Gaza, they will go back to the West Bank. They will kind of like build the settlements around them and then until they push them into Jordan because that is the plan. They have talked, not just Netanyahu, now everybody. So, like there’s no state, two states, it is one state and is for the Jews.

Piers: I don’t think he believes in the two-state solution.

Bassem: Nobody believes in a two-state solution. It is one state.

Piers: But nor do Hamas, obviously, and they’re the ruling authority in Gaza. They don’t.

Bassem: You see what you’re comparing? It’s a militant group, it’s a small militant group, Israel as a nation…

Piers: They are the elected political leadership.

Bassem: They were elected in 2006 and 50% of the people in Gaza right now are under the age of 16. They were not even born.

Piers: I understand, all right. Bassem. So, let’s agree about that,

Bassem: But that’s the circle.

Piers: It’s circular.

Bassem: Hamas! Hamas! Hamas! Hamas! Hamas! Hamas! Hamas!

Piers: I know, but okay, let’s move forward. Let’s assume somehow we get to a place, possibly at the instigation of countries like Saudi Arabia and others getting directly involved, where you get to a place where Hamas are removed. And I don’t quite see how that happens without enormous further bloodshed. But let’s assume they get removed. Let’s assume that Netanyahu is removed from office, which I think is highly likely, just from the fury of his own people about what they see as the defensive and security failings, plus his attack on the Supreme Court already causing huge polarization. Let’s assume we get new leadership in both places. Could there still be peace?

Bassem: No.

Piers: Could there still be a two-state solution?

Bassem: NO.

Piers: It can never happen?

Bassem: No, because Israel has already shown… it’s not about Netanyahu. It is the policy of Israel not to give the Palestinian their seat. It has always been there.

Piers: But what if you find leadership that understands?

Bassem: You will not.

Piers: But why? Why are you so sure you will not? Why do you think so?

Bassem: Because Israel has been telling you.

Piers: But then, I would say the same about the other side. And I remember, ..

Bassem: Who has the power? Obama in his book…

Piers: Let me, okay, let me give you a parallel.  let me give you a parallel, let me give you a parallel. Northern Ireland, okay, Northern Ireland appeared to be completely intractable with the IRA and the loyalist paramilitaries trying to kill each other. In the IRA’s case, trying to kill British people as well, because they did not want this to go the way that people wanted it to go. And ultimately, we got to peace because we found leaders who actually had the courage, the moral courage, to get in the room with the people that were trying to kill them and to do a deal. I don’t think you can do that with Hamas. I think they’re on a different scale to go to the IRA. But we did have a seemingly intractable place, riddled with violence on both sides, and eventually, we got peace. Do you not see there’s any chance of doing that here?

Bassem: No, not with Israel. Obama, after he left office, he wrote in his book, ‘The problem with the Palestinian Israeli conflict is that one side is extremely powerful and one side is extremely weak. There is absolutely nothing to oblige that strong side to give anything.’ All over the years, Israel showed you many times that they are not interested in peace. Leave Gaza, forget Hamas for a second. the West Bank, what have they been doing in the West Bank? The illegal settlements did not stop a single day. They are completely… yeah,  but the thing, but you see what they’re doing in the West Bank right now? They are creating little Gazas. They are creating little Gazas, yeah, and until they squeeze them, there was there.

Piers: It’s completely wrong.

Bassem: There is a hilarious documentary called ‘The Wanted 18’. It is like an Israeli Palestinian co-production and it tells about the incredible story about the residents of Beit Sahour. It’s a Palestinian town next to the Na… and they said they don’t want to depend on the milk coming from the Kibbutz. So they bought 18 cows, 18 cows, and they didn’t know how to milk the cows or have a cow farm. So they were like engineers and doctors. They sent people to kind of like to learn how to do the farm. So they bought the cows and they started to produce milk and they started to sell the milk to the villages. The Israeli authorities were not very comfortable. So one day, the military government came in and said, ‘Those cows,’ and I quote, ‘constitute an existential threat to the national security of the state of Israel. You need to get rid of them.’ And the movie goes about the hilarious attempts of hiding those cows between the butchers and the houses. And in one scene, a cow is actually running and the Israeli soldiers are running behind it. And they corner it, and they corner it, and they’re about to kill it. You know what did the cow say? (both silent.) You didn’t fall for this. Cows don’t speak, yeah,(both laughter) but you know, it actually said something. You know what did it say? ‘Hammuuuuuus!!’  (both laughter.) It said, ‘But anyways.’ But you see, this is the ideology of the Israeli ruling party. They are not interested. They’re not even allowing you to get your own cows. I mean, this, I want to discuss something that is very important because we have been talking about Israel being a democratic state, a secular state for all of its citizens, including its Arab residents, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. In 2018, there was a resolution that was offered in the Knesset that said that Israel should be a state for all of its citizens. That seems basic, right? That resolution was not even allowed to be discussed. Like, why? And the rebuttal was, ‘Israel being the state of all of its citizens would threaten the character of the Jewish state.’ There is, I have a friend of mine, his name is Andrew. He’s a Palestinian Christian. They do exist. And his family comes from a town called Tarshihah. As many Palestinian towns, these were like, you know, being had another Israel town called Kaffar Rin. It is a left-leaning town. They voted against Netanyahu by 70% and they announced an auction to sell houses. And then they noticed that most of the applicants were Palestinians. They cancelled the auction. Why? Because in each Jewish town, there is something called an admission committee that can decide who can live in this town. Sounds like Jim Crow for me. And then they cancel, and you know, you know what they say in the reason? They say Kaffar Radim welcomes all citizens of Israel despite the race, gender, or colour. However, the majority of the town would like to preserve the character of the town as being Jewish, Zionist, and secular. How does this go together, secular and Jewish aside, you know? And this brings me to this picture. This is a very famous picture. You know, remember this picture? I’m sure you’ve seen it. Yeah, this, for the people who don’t know, this from St. Augustine, Florida, 18th of June, 1964. This was a white-only motel, and these are black activists who wanted to defy the law and jump into the hotel. This guy, he’s the hotel owner, his name is James Brock, and he was pouring acid to scare them out of the hotel. His neighbour said that James Brock was a victim because he was just following the law. And you know what James Brock said? He said, ‘It’s not like I don’t like black people. I just don’t like them in my swimming pools.’ Now, if an official said that, wouldn’t you say that this town has kind of a systemic racism?

Piers: Yes.

Bassem: This quote was not said by James Brock. It was said by Deton, the head of the Galilean municipality when he said, ‘I don’t like Arabs. I don’t just like them in my swimming pools.’ The town of Nazareth Elite, 2010, the Arab Christians in the town, they requested to set up the Christmas tree next to Nadar. This is the birth right birthplace of Jesus, and you know what they say? We cannot have it because non-religious Jewish symbolists would offend Jewish residents.

Piers: But this comes back to what you were saying at the start, which is about the hate on both sides.

Bassem: No, no, no, I’m not talking about the hate. I’m talking about this shining example that Israel wants to tell the world that we are like the Western or we are secular. I don’t know if you know this, but they’re not just secular, like racist against their own Arab. I’m talking about Arabs with Palestinian with Israeli identity. I’m talking about them being even racist against their own people. 1950, Yemeni immigrants that came from Yemen, and they were in the transition camp waiting to be transformed into Israel. Their kids were taken away from them and given to White Ashkenazi Jews because they were not white enough.

Piers: But what would happen if a Jewish person went to Gaza?

Bassem: How can, why would they go to Gaza?

Piers: Exactly.

Bassem: Even I wouldn’t go to Gaza.

Piers: Exactly, that’s my point.

Bassem: Yeah, it’s a dystopia. Who, but like…

Piers: It’s not just raising points about Israel, making out that somehow there is bad or worse. But what’s going on, Hamas has ruled over the Palestinians in the most oppressive way imaginable.

Bassem: Absolutely, but you know what? Hamas never claimed that they are the only democracy in the region. They never claimed that they are secular. They never said that they adopt Western culture, and they definitely, they did not use that lie in order to carpet bomb a whole country. Now here, I want to say one example, and I’m going to leave you.

Piers: All right.

Bassem: Israel, you think that Israel will , by the way, the whole thing about the Yemeni children, you can find it in the New York Times. It’s called like ‘The Lost Children of Israel’, ‘The Forgotten’. But even when Ethiopian people were immigrated to Israel, Ethiopian Jews, women, then report 2013, that’s not like 50 years ago, they reported that they were given, against their consent and without their knowledge, contraceptive shots so they wouldn’t reproduce because they are the wrong colour. Israel is a racist apartheid country that is projecting this shiny example of secularism and democracy for the people so people can accept whatever they do because they look at Palestinians as lesser people. This is the whole point, this is the whole point, and I would like to quote Winston Churchill. He had a quote that said, ‘I don’t believe that we have made a great wrong to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia because they were replaced by a higher race, a stronger race, a more world wisely race.’ This is why Queen Rania is criticizing the West. This is why we here said, ‘Where are your values?’ Because this is the crux of the problem. It’s not Hamas, it’s not Palestine, it is people looking at us as lesser human beings.

Piers: Bassem, I don’t dispute the characterization that a lot of the Israel Administration look upon Palestinians as lesser people. Otherwise, they wouldn’t even…

Bassem: They even look at Ethiopian Jews and Yemeni Jews like less.

Piers: I wouldn’t dispute that. I want to quote you to end this.

Bassem: No, why would you end this? Don’t end this.

Piers: We’ll be talking for two hours.

Bassem: Why not?

Piers: At some point…

Bassem: We are having amazing time…(laughs)

 Piers: We do another interview. Well, this one goes big. I think this is a neat way to end it. He said, ‘I actually believe there is a middle ground between everybody and they can meet. I direct my criticism for the extreme of each one of them.’ That was you, Bassem. You, me, I agree with that, but I don’t share your view. There can never be peace in this region. I think they can’t be with the current leadership structures in both countries or both places, but I definitely think you’ve got to be optimistic about peace. You just need to find people for it.

Bassem: I Hope, I hope so, but the reason, listen, I refuse to come on your show when your producer first called me for the first interview because I was scared. I was afraid for me, that was a career suicide. Because, and I have, I’m talking… this is even important because you are someone who’s always talked about like against cancel, about like talking, speaking your mind out.

Piers: Yes.

Bassem: I left Egypt and I came to America, the land of the free, the home of the brave, but I didn’t know that there was a fine print that said that you cannot speak about Israel. I have an issue with that. Israel is a foreign country, their allies, good,

Piers: But you can speak about Israel.

Bassem: How many people lost their jobs? Even Bella Hadid, Bella Hadid!!she, by the way..

Piers: She hasn’t lost her job.

Bassem: No, no, but she talked about death threats. She’s talking about like being silenced by the way Bella Hadid… She’s Palestinian, and you know who else? Gigi Hadid. Sisters. 

Piers: I love them,

Bassem: They are with us. Anyway, so..

Piers: I know them both, they are very nice.

Bassem: Yeah, but the thing is, if you are that high and you cannot speak about it, and it’s not about it,

Piers: Well, you can …You just have to. Yeah, you can. I mean, I’ve spoken out about these issues and you get shot at, not literally but metaphorically, all day long on social media. That shouldn’t stop people from doing it.

Bassem: I’m just like wondering, as an American,

Piers: You do.

Bassem: Yeah, but like I, I’m doing now because like the first interview went well. I’m doing that because I want people to see that you can really speak up and not just get cancelled but get rewarded. My career is going fine. Yeah, it’s great because I want people to have the courage. Why are there… There should be no limits! I’m, I’m kind of like so confused as an American citizen. Why every American president and a presidential candidate have to go and kiss the hand and bend the knees to AIPAC? This is a lobby that works for a foreign country interest. Why don’t we have like a lobby for Saudi Arabia? Cause they are giving us more money.

Piers: You know the great thing, you can say that here.

Bassem: Yes.

Piers: You couldn’t say in Egypt, that’s why you’re living here.

Bassem: Yes, but again, a lot of people feel the burn, the heat, whenever…

Piers: But if I was an American I’d be going, ‘All right, Bassem, all right, we’ll take the criticism because you can do that in this country.’

Bassem: And I’m happy.

Piers: When you criticize the government in your own country  they throw you out.

Bassem: Yes, and that’s why I came to America, to play the white man’s game, to actually pass this acquired white privilege to my children. But the problem is…

Piers: Not just a country of white people and the white man’s game. The game in America is not a white man’s game, it’s a game that actually has a democracy and believes in freedom of speech.

Bassem: But tere are ‘dog whistles’ everywhere.

Piers: You’re not going to be put in jail for this interview.

Bassem: Or I can lose my career, and I can lose jobs, and you know that.

Piers: You could in Egypt, you could.

Bassem: No, here you can, too.

Piers: In Egypt, they arrested you and they threatened you, and you would have probably ended up in prison or dead.

Bassem: Here, a lot of people lost their jobs because they spoke up.

Piers: It depends on what they say.

Bassem: Of course.

Piers: But again..

Piers: If you’re Kanye West and you spew anti-Semitic garbage, you are going to lose what you have.

Bassem: I will never adopt that kind of point of view. But the thing is, there are dog whistles everywhere. As I told you at the beginning, you cannot just say it’s like anti-Semite… I mean, now… How come that the Palestinian flag is outlawed? By the way, it’s outlawed in Israel. If you raise Palestine flag, you go to jail. And now they’re saying like the Palestinian flag is a pro-Hamas. No, it’s not a Hamas flag. You know, I was in, I was doing a comedy show in Arizona, and a guy was like wearing like a keffiyeh, like a scarf, and I took it. And I’m not like in hyper bully and like wearing symbols, but I just wore it because, why are we going to outlaw colours and flags? That is, that is absurd, that is not right.

Piers: I don’t, I agree, I don’t think you should. But you should certainly outlaw Hamas. Regardless,

Bassem: They’re already outlawed. I mean, I’m not supporting,

Piers: Cause they are a terror group.

Bassem: Okay, okay. But the people with the power, the people who supposedly have the…

Piers: And you should, by the way, I will say this, you should be able to criticize the Israeli government without being accused of being anti-Semitic. I have, in this interview, repeatedly, and I’m not anti-Semitic. I just have a problem with all of what the Israeli government’s been doing.

Bassem: And I have a problem with how any criticism to Israel by some circles here are considered anti-Semite. This is not fair.

Piers: But a lot of the people doing it are actually anti-Semitic.

Bassem: Yes, but also a lot of Zionists are against Israel, that they hate the Jews. You know…

Piers: We’ve discussed that. I want to put…

Bassem:, But before, I want to just say two words about the media, which is please,

Piers: Sure.

Bassem: Mr. Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador that you have, this guy lost six members of his family in an Israeli strike. And when he went on like some British news thing, he sat down, and the lady told him, ‘We are very sorry for your personal loss. I’m sure you don’t condemn the killing of Israeli civilians.’ What, in the same moment, there’s another girl called Diara Aid??. She was like on Sky News, and the girl was like crying, ‘Like I lost 30 members of my family, 17 of them are children. I lost my best friend.’ And then, what do you think would happen? I forget about empathy, what about manners?

Piers: Well, I think you have to start, I’ve said this repeatedly, you have to start from a place of humanity. You have to look at what happened on October the 7th and feel utterly outraged and disgusted for the loss of human life. And you also have to feel that for what’s happening in Gaza to innocent people. And if you don’t, if you can’t feel both, for both sets of people, both sets of innocent people being killed, if you can’t feel a sense of despair and horror over their death, you don’t have any humanity.

Bassem: Believe me, Piers, believe me, Piers, it’s not really about that. There’s a deep sentiment in the Middle East, in Arabs, that the West do not look at us as equals. Well, you know what, so what? I did, I went to the machines, yeah, and I asked ChatGBT, simple questions. ‘Do Israelis deserve to be free? ‘And you know what they tell me? Yes, Israelis deserve the right, like any other people. And then I asked the same question, ‘Do Palestinians deserve to be free? ‘And you know what they tell me? It is complex, it is a sensitive issue.

Piers: Well, it’s not complex, it’s not sensitive. The Palestinian people should be free.

Bassem: Yeah, but even the machines..

Piers: Let me finish. And they should have exactly the same rights to freedom and freedom of expression and a way to lead their lives and to water and to power and to internet that Israelis have. And we have here in America and we have back in my home country of the UK. And I want that for the Palestinian people. We’ve got to end it there,

Bassem: Okay.

Piers: Mainly because I’ve worked up a hell of a… in 2 hours of interview. And you have brought your wife’s oil , so tell me again how I do this.

Bassem: Okay,

Piers: So basically take a piece of this, put it in the olive oil,

Bassem: Yes,

Piers: Which is from the West Bank,

Bassem: yeah, from the West Bank.

Piers: And then a little bit of this and that..

Bassem: Yes, yes. This is like amazing oil coming from the Olive Tree. This comes from the West Bank. Since 1967, Israel have actually uprooted 800,000 Olive Trees.

Piers: That is absolutely delicious. Please thank your wife for me, thank. Wish her all the best and her family, particularly those who are obviously in Gaza. It’s been great to see you in America.

Bassem: Thank you so much.

Piers:  Let’s do it again.

Bassem: Let’s do it again.

Piers: Let’s keep talking. I honestly think the way through this is people keep talking.

Bassem: Yes,

Piers: Good to see you.

Bassem: Thank you so much.





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