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 just 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 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. 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 just because that's how we would react. Toto knows the truth. The Middle East is not Kansas.