Cliff May

Let’s be fair to Jimmy Carter. Let’s suppose he isn’t indulging in egotistical grandstanding, that he doesn’t harbor a deep-seated bias against Israel, and that he’s not been influenced by the millions of dollars Islamists have provided to his Carter Center. Let’s suppose his freelance diplomacy is sincerely in pursuit of the elusive path to peace in the Middle East.

Even so, why in the world would he pay a courtesy call on Khaled Mashaal, an admitted terrorist master? Meshaal has claimed responsibility for organizing numerous suicide bombings, slaughtering mostly Israeli civilians but Americans too. The head of Hamas’ politburo, Mashaal lives not in Hamas-ruled Gaza, from which missiles rain down on Israeli villages daily. Nor does he live in the West Bank, which is controlled, more or less, by Fatah, Hamas’ rival. He resides instead in Syria, a guest of dictator Bashar al-Assad, Iran’s client, who for the past five years has facilitated the flow of al-Qaeda combatants into Iraq.

Those who attempt to appease tyrants are generally suspected of cowardice. More often, I suspect, lack of imagination is the cause. When Neville Chamberlain met with Hitler in Munich, he no doubt believed he could reason with him because he also no doubt believed that the Führer -- whatever his grievances or ambitions -- was a reasonable man like himself. Offer Hitler a good deal – land, power, prestige – and surely he’d take it rather than plunge his nation into a terrible war.

What this leaves out is ideology. Hitler’s ideas – odious as they may now seem to you, me and Carter (though certainly not to Meshaal) – inspired millions to fight and die for the glory of the Third Reich. And Marxist/Leninist/Stalinist/Maoist ideology inspired millions to fight and die for the illusion of a Communist utopia.

The ideology of Hamas derives from something more enduring than Mein Kampf, Das Kapital and the sayings of Chairman Mao. It is rooted in a 1,400-year-old religion. Hamas proudly proclaims that “the Koran is our constitution, Jihad is our way, and death for the sake of God is our highest aspiration." Hamas leaders promise their followers not just rewards here on Earth but in the next world as well – a selling point neither Nazism nor Communism could offer.

Hamas’ Charter asserts that it is “one of the wings of the Moslem Brotherhood,” a transnational organization “characterized by its deep understanding, accurate comprehension and its complete embrace of all Islamic concepts of all aspects of life, culture, creed, politics, economics, education, society, justice and judgment, the spreading of Islam, education, art, information, science of the occult and conversion to Islam.”

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.