For years "Mein Kampf" stood as proof of the blindness and complacency of the world. For in its pages Hitler announced -- long before he came to power -- a program of blood and terror in a self-revelation of such overwhelming frankness that few among its readers had the courage to believe it.
-- Konrad Heiden, Introduction to "Mein Kampf"
It's impossible to read these chilling words without drawing analogies to Hamas. The organization says loud and clear that it wants to rub Israel from the map, and voices across the political spectrum tell us to relax, take it easy, we shouldn't necessarily believe they really intend to do what they say they will. Besides, even if they meant it, now that an election has put them in power, they will finally behave themselves.
Like Hitler and those who followed him, Hamas thrives on humiliation and blames others for its failures. Hamas understands that Muslims in the rest of the world have done almost nothing to alleviate their situation, but they blame the Jews, anyway. They keep it simple.
Hitler and his followers knew well the vulnerabilities of the Weimar Republic, and exploited its weakness. Hamas understands the weakness of Fatah. With all of the big talk about taking care of domestic issues -- better schools, better health care, better public services -- Hamas wouldn't give up the guns before the election, and Fatah couldn't, or wouldn't, take them. The rest of the world cheerfully agreed that everyone could wait until after the election to see to that.
Outsiders have advantages. Of the major non-Marxist parties in Germany in the 1930s, only the Nazis had never held power, so they couldn't be blamed for the inflation, the shortages, the unemployment, the misery in Germany. The Nazis were free to promise everything because, being out of power, they didn't have to deliver anything. Hatred was enough -- hatred of the Jews, the communists and above all the Weimar Republic.
Hitler's good friend Dietrich Eckart, who der fuehrer called "the spiritual founder of the National Socialist Party," had already written the book about the Bolsheviks. Hitler wanted to top that. He wanted to call his book "A Four and One-Half Year Struggle against Lies, Stupidity, and Cowardice: Settling Accounts with the Destroyers of the National Socialist Movement." He decided to settle for "Mein Kampf." By focusing on the Jews, he could sharpen grievances with appeals to anti-Semitism. Civilized people couldn't believe that Hitler and his Nazis actually meant to do anything about the mean things they were saying about the Jews.
A lot of the civilized people comfort themselves now with the thought that Hamas won its landslide with promises of better social services. Such civilized people among the Palestinian voters are willing executioners in Hamas violence, many duping themselves into believing that democratic values will inevitably triumph over evil. You don't have to believe in "the clash of civilizations" to understand that a militant Hamas is a force greater than its numbers. Democracies that show weakness when confronted by contempt for their freedoms will pay dearly.
The fires of fanaticism feed on unexpected fuel. The controversy over the publication in several European newspapers of cartoons of Mohammed was unexpected fuel. The portrayal of the prophet from benign old man to a man with a bomb in his turban set off demonstrations from the Middle East to Indonesia. Since the first newspaper to publish the cartoons was in Copenhagen, there was soon a boycott of Danish butter and cream across Arabia and beyond. That was not the worst of it; soon Muslim gunmen were going through villages in Gaza looking in hotels and apartments for European guests to capture and hold hostage until suitable apologies were rendered.
A French newspaper sacked its managing editor when it published the caricatures. The editor-in-chief of the offending paper in Denmark capitulated, offering an apology couched in the mushy language of such apologies offered more in fear than sorrow: The cartoons were not intended to be offensive to Muslims everywhere, and the newspaper "takes exception to symbolic acts suited to demonize specific nationalists, religions and ethnic groups."
Free speech, even offensive free speech, is prized in the West. Tyrants understand that until free speech is successfully suppressed, they cannot get on with suppressing everything else. The Islamic fanatics understand this as tyrants in the recent past understood it. "The resistance to Hitler and his kind," observed Johannes Gross, a German television commentator, "will only grow the farther the Third Reich recedes into the past."