While it is probably
true, as everyone says, that Hamas won the recent Palestinian
elections not because it promised to wipe out Israel, but because
it promised to pick up the garbage in Gaza City (all politics
is local, etc.), it is also true that the prospect of increased
violence did not deter the average Palestinian from voting for
Hamas. History has seen this sort of thing before and it is not
very comforting. The rule -- the only rule -- is to take zealots
at their word.
speaks on this matter. If you would have asked a random German
in, say, 1932 if he was voting for the murder of Jews and a destructive
European war of unimaginable scope and horror, he would have said,
``Nein!'' What he really wanted was an end to the brawling
in the streets, a robust foreign policy and a big thumbs up to
traditional German culture -- no more of this smutty modern art
and filthy plays: ``Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome.''
Not any more. The cabaret is closed!
I saved for this
paragraph any reference to Hitler himself so as to postpone the
reflexive outburst of ``Nothing can be compared to the Nazis!''
Normally, I agree and I usually shy from such comparisons. But
I am not likening Hamas or Islamist militancy to Nazism, I am
only likening the mind of one sort of zealot to another. All too
often they mean what they say.
men who were supposed to implement that program were determined
to implement others as well. They had made no bones about it;
it was all in their bible, ``Mein Kampf,'' and in their rallies
and speeches. It took some effort to overlook it, but a considerable
number of people managed to do so and later professed shock at
what happened. They looked into the abyss, saw nothing that concerned
them personally -- and went back to sleep.
In due course we
will be told that what Hamas has been insisting on for years --
the utter destruction of Israel -- is not really a serious goal.
Hamas should not be taken literally and, anyway, it will be forced
to moderate both its platform and its policies by the reality
of governing. When, for instance, it repeats the words of its
charter -- ``The solution of the problem (Israel) will only take
place by holy war" -- we will be assured that it is only
throwing red meat to what in America is called ``the base.'' As
for its truculent anti-Semitism -- not to be confused in this
case with anti-Zionism -- it, too, will be dismissed as without
consequence. Hamas will have to deal with reality -- and Israel,
in the region, is the mightiest reality of them all. Yasser Arafat
came to understand that.
But Arafat's Fatah
movement was secular and nationalistic. In this sense it was modern
-- another secular nationalistic movement, much like Zionism.
Hamas, on the other hand, can be traced back to the Muslim Brotherhood
and its 1928 declaration: ``The Koran Is Our Constitution.'' It
is not modern; it is medieval. It gleefully sends people off to
their death as suicide bombers, spackling the walls of Tel Aviv
restaurants with the flesh of the innocent while assuring the
bombers a place in paradise. This is loathsome. This is terrifying.
That is the whole idea.
The continual mistake
of the Bush administration is to think, based on not much thinking
to begin with, that people are people -- pretty much the same
the world over. This is why the president extols democracy. (Lenin,
more of a cynic, purportedly observed: ``Democracy counts heads
without regard to what's in them.'') It must be what everyone
wants because it is what everyone here wants. To denigrate this
kind of talk suggests racism -- You mean we are not all the same?
-- or a musty neocolonialism. But the hard truth is that culture
and religion matter, and we should not expect moderation (as we
did garlands and ecstatic maidens when U.S. troops entered Baghdad)
just because that's how we would react. Toto knows the truth.
The Middle East is not Kansas.
The leaders of Hamas
brim with the word of God and the certainty of their cause. From
here on they will lie about their ultimate aim and smilingly assure
us that what they have always said they no longer mean. Their
intention is clean government, efficient garbage service, good
schools and level soccer fields. All over the world, people will
believe them and urge the U.S. and Israel to do the same. Take
my word for this. Anyone can see the future. It's all in the past.
2006, Washington Post Writers Group