Though many people were shocked when Hamas - considered a terrorist organization by Israel and by the United States - won last week's Palestinian legislative elections, Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America, said he wasn't surprised at all.
"We've made a serious mistake by thinking that if you have elections, things will be fine," Klein told an audience of about 50 adults at Tiferet Bet Israel in Blue Bell at a breakfast event the weekend following the elections. "If you have a corrupt, immoral, outrageous society promoting horrific values, you will elect people who espouse those values."
In Klein's view, the election results - which gave Hamas a majority in the Palestinian parliament - show that the Palestinians want to prolong the conflict with Israel, not promote peace.
"They're the ones who have been continuing this war," he said. "Israel would do almost anything to get peace, and has proven it."
Still, Klein said he hopes that the elections don't give Hamas' pursuit of terror an element of validity.
"The charter of Hamas and Islamic Jihad calls not only for Israel's destruction - it calls for the murder of every Jew. They're Nazi-like," he said. "Such organizations have to be destroyed, not legitimized."
Klein asserted that the Palestinian hatred of Israel and Jews stems from propaganda in their schools and media.
"The newspapers have headlines almost daily saying, 'Israel Conspires to Poison Arabs,' 'Israel Causes Cancer Among Arab Women and Children,' 'Israel Causes Mad-Cow Disease,' " he rattled off. He then held up a Palestinian poster glorifying a suicide bomber - replete with the bomber's face, a bus on fire, and a broken Jewish star cracked and seeping blood. Klein said that, in Arabic, the poster says "something like 'Our Hero, Our Leader, Our Martyr.' "
"They name schools and streets and sports teams after the suicide bombers - lots of them," he continued. "It's as if we would have the Charlie Manson Phillies."
For any real change to be made, Klein said that the hateful rhetoric has got to go: "America should say, 'We're giving not another penny until you end this promotion of hate and murder in all your institutions.' "
The speaker also criticized Israel's unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip last August.
"What has Israel gotten for it? They've got nothing," stated Klein. "They used to get promises. Promises, promises. Now they didn't even ask for a promise."
To Klein, the Palestinians will never be happy just receiving land; their ultimate goal is to destroy the State of Israel.
"The issue is not about land. It's not about settlements," he said. "It's about racism, hatred, barbarism, ethnic cleansing and destroying the Jewish state."
When an audience member asked him to predict the outcome of the upcoming Israeli elections for the Knesset and prime ministership in March, Klein said that in light of recent events, the Israelis may select a more hard-line leader.
"With the Hamas election, I think now there is a better chance than before that [Benjamin] Netanyahu could win," predicted Klein. "I think in the next few weeks, you'll see Netanyahu going up in the polls."
Another audience member asked about Iran's plans to build nuclear weapons, and if Israel is planning a military response.
"Israel already has a plan in place with America of hitting every site they know about where nuclear weapons are," said Klein, who went on to stress that with some facilities embedded deep in the ground, the Israelis may not know the location of every one.
"We must act, we must speak out with courage," he insisted. "Never be the Jews of silence.
"Our cause is moral; our cause is just - the defense of Zionism is moral and just," he summed up. "We dare not rest until we are safe and secure in our holy land."