Shortly after Hamas scored its electoral triumph in Palestinian elections in January, its official Web site carried a video message from a pair of suicide terrorists. Palestinian Media Watch offers a transcription:
"My message to the loathed Jews is that there is no god but Allah, we will chase you everywhere! We are a nation that drinks blood, and we know that there is no blood better than the blood of Jews. We will not leave you alone until we have quenched our thirst with your blood, and our children's thirst with your blood. We will not leave until you leave the Muslim countries.
"In the name of Allah, we will destroy you, blow you up, take revenge against you, purify the land of you, pigs that have defiled our country."
Last month, a terrorist from Islamic Jihad made good on the threat. Brave soldier that he was, he took the fight against the Zionist occupation to Tel Aviv, where he detonated his bomb among a group of families waiting in line at a fast-food stand. Nine people died; scores more were injured.
Hamas, of course, approved of the attack on falafel- and shwarma-eating civilians. A spokesman called the bloodshed a legitimate act of self-defense.
Among Israel's initial responses was the decision to revoke the residency cards of three Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament who live in East Jerusalem. The English language daily Arab News carried a charming story that displays the political and moral asymmetries between Israel and its neighbors striving to destroy it.
"The Hamas MPs," the Arab News reported, "plan to appeal to Israel's Supreme Court against Israel's decision to revoke their residency rights, the Palestinian justice minister said."
That's a delicious irony. The justice minister of a government committed to the destruction of Israel appealing to Israel's high court to protect its representatives from the legal consequences of a lethal attack his government endorsed.
Hamas may have won elections. And those elections may have been legitimate.
But it does not follow that Hamas represents responsible, legitimate leadership. And it certainly does not follow that the international community is somehow obligated to finance a Hamas government when that government has reneged on the most basic pledges of its predecessors.
To overvalue those pledges signed by Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn does a disservice to Hamas in one respect. Arafat, from the very beginning of the so-called peace process with Israel, said two different things to two different audiences.
Speaking to the West, Arafat employed words of pragmatism and peace. But speaking in Arabic to the Arab world, he employed words of terror and unremitting violence.
Hamas leaders, unlike Arafat, have the virtue of being multilingually honest.
The imperative of governing has not moderated Hamas' commitment to terrorism, contrary to the expectations of some wishful thinkers. Western donors are understandably turning off the aid spigot and, true to form, Islamists swimming in oil profits aren't picking up the tab for Hamas governance.
PLO militia members who face being cut from the government payroll are getting itchy trigger fingers. And, as usual, the Palestinian people are the losers.
"There are no words to adequately condemn the despicable attack in Tel Aviv," wrote Nazir Majali, an Arab commentator, in the Israeli daily Haaretz. "Not only because it is contrary to the interests of the Palestinian people and not only because it serves the interests of the many warmongers in our region. But rather, most importantly because of the philosophy that is behind it, a philosophy that is destroying the Palestinian people. It is a philosophy of death ... a mendacious philosophy, which is fulfilled as if in the name of G-d and Islam. A racist philosophy that is based on the cruel principle of killing Jews because they are Jews."
When a Hamas spokesman can utter words even remotely similar to those of Majali, the group will have earned the international legitimacy its leaders so desperately crave.