I have no idea whatsoever, how many Americans took any time last week to learn about and reflect upon what took place seventy years ago in Normandy. I have great concern however, that of those who did, precious few if any, were able to extrapolate from the events of June 6, 1944, otherwise known as D Day, to gain a deeper appreciation of what the Israel Defense Forces must face on an ongoing basis.
The success of D Day was because of a united front. Even before the amphibious landing took place, 24,000 American, British and Canadian troops had already landed on the shores of Normandy to await the largest seaborne invasion in history. In contradistinction to what took place back then, whatever campaign the Israel Defense Forces embark upon, whether it be defensive or prophylactic, the IDF goes it alone. There is neither backup nor reinforcement from any other country upon which the IDF can depend. When the heathen Balaam observed that Israel is a people that dwell alone (Numbers XXIII: 6), he got it only half right. Israel is a country that fights for its daily existence alone.
Despite our tendency, as well as our need to romanticize history, D Day was anything but a resounding success, considering all that wrong on June 6, 1944. It took the allied forces close to a week until all five beachheads were connected. Caen, a major objective, was not captured until six weeks later. Even more demoralizing is that, while the German casualties reached 1,000, allied casualties were 12,000!
The Israel Defense Force does not have such luxury of error, either in time or in manpower. If history has taught us anything, the IDF achieves victory by hitting hard, fast and precise. Yet, the Israel army must deal with one other factor – its own regard for human life… of the enemy. It would not be an understatement to say that whenever Israeli soldiers go into enemy territory, they fight with one hand tied behind their backs. Their regard for women, children and innocent civilians is such, that many a time, the place their own lives in harm’s way.
Historical scholars be damned! D Day was an overwhelming “success”! What better proof, than the euphoric atmosphere on the part of the citizens back in Canada, England and the United States? The free world couldn’t have been more supportive and proud!
Israeli soldiers are not allied soldiers. Because of this sad reality, Israeli diplomats have long since come to terms with a harsh fact of life involving any military campaign undertaken by the Israeli army – you win, you lose; you lose, you lose. Typical reaction from Israel’s staunchest allies to any incursion on the part of the Israel Defense Forces is: As a sovereign nation, you have every right to defend yourself. Your response however was disproportionate to whatever casualties inflicted on you by the enemy.
While I am neither a scholar nor a historian, I shudder to think how World War II would have played out if the United States had to go it alone, without Britain or Canada paving the way for over two years. Similarly, I shudder to think what the outcome of World War II would have been, had the United States exercised the same restraint over Dresden that Israel exercises when it goes into Palestinian strongholds such as Khan Yunis.
Finally, it is inconceivable to imagine President Roosevelt being lectured to by say, Sweden, how he is giving a bad name to his country, because of his disproportionate response to Nazi Germany. At present, all those who fought Hitler can look back with nostalgia at the Normandy invasion. At present, given the neighborhood in which Israel finds itself, looking back with nostalgia is a rare luxury as it finds itself being constantly alert and vigilant as to its very survival.