"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
It is a well known and often used quote, but one that is rarely heeded.
- George Santayana
The failure of most Israelis and many in the international community to take Santayana's advice to heart vis-a-vis the Israeli-Arab conflict was again highlighted this week.
Israel's Channel One News Wednesday evening broadcast members of the Israel Student Union demonstrating against the government's decision to grant university status to the College of Judea and Samaria in Ariel.
One young man stated emphatically before the cameras, "This is occupied territory. Ariel is not and never will be a part of Israel. We have paid a high price for the occupation."
His comments underlined serious discrepancies in the memories of both Israelis and the nation's international critics.
First, Israel did not come to be master of Judea, Samaria and Gaza by means of aggressive conquest. Rather, it was defensive action against an Arab foe bent on the annihilation of the Jewish state that liberated those ancient biblical lands from their Muslim overlords.
Had the Arab world not mobilized with the intent of destroying Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973, the Jews would today control no more of the Middle East than those territories on which they declared independence some 57 years ago.
Second, Israeli leftists and their ideological partners around the world claim it is this "occupation" that spawns the terrible scourge of anti-Jewish terrorism, while ignoring the fact that Arabs have been murdering Jews en masse since their return to the region well over a century ago - long before they controlled anything.
Whether today's modern progressive liberals wants to admit it or not, the battle remains a religious one. Disputed sovereignty over this or that piece of land is merely the latest justification for murdering Jews.
Last but not least, these people forget that the Arab world's series of efforts to eradicate the "Zionist entity" came dangerously close to success because of Israel's lack of strategic depth.
Israel is today far more capable of repelling the existential threat facing it precisely because it controls the Golan Heights, Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
Most leftists will argue that today's Middle East is different, a region where Israel's immediate neighbors are no longer interested in driving the Jews into the sea.
This again demonstrates failure to remember the past.
Middle East regimes can fall overnight, and have done so on numerous occasions, giving sudden unexpected rise to cruel, destructive and unpredictable tyrants.
Hosni Mubarak, Bashar Assad and King Abdullah may have no interest in engaging Israel in open conflict, but what of those who come after them?
Israel's "peace" camp sits comfortably in Tel Aviv and its environs believing the strategic value of Israel's control over Yesha to be obsolete, forgetting that the next Gammal Abdel Nasser, Hafez al-Assad or Saddam Hussein could be just around the corner.
Far from extracting a "heavy price" from Israel, the so-called "occupation" has probably saved the nation from having to fight another full-scale war.
As for terrorism - certainly today's attacks are no worse than the daily infiltrations by Arab "fedayeen" during Israel's first 20 years, or the horrible massacres that characterized the British Mandate period. "Occupation" or no, the Arabs seek to kill Israel's Jews.
Fortunately, there are those in Israel who, clinging to both historical and biblical rights, sacrifice their blood, sweat and tears to ensure the past remains just that.
These brave souls not only maintain control over strategic areas, but also cause them to flourish as they did thousands of years ago under Jewish sovereignty.
The settlers, who are in the vanguard of fulfilling biblical prophecy and on the front lines of Israel's defense, deserve respect, prayers and support. The least their government can do is give them a university.