Cross-posted from Gush Shalom
Hannibal? The man with the elephants?
The very same.
HANNIBAL, THE Carthaginian commander who is considered one of the military geniuses of all times, was a hero of my youth.
At the time, we were in dire need of national heroes. Anti-Semites all over the Western world were claiming that the Jews were cowards by nature, shirkers unable and unwilling to fight like men. They just collected the money while others died for them.
Looking for heroes, we found Hannibal. Carthage was founded by refugees from Tyre in South Lebanon, whose inhabitants were Canaanites who spoke a dialect very close to Hebrew. The name of Carthage is derived from the Hebrew Keret Hadasha (New City), and the name Hani-Ba'al means Ba'al, the Canaanite God, has given -- more or less the same name as Netanyahu -- Yahu, short for Jehovah, has given. Like Theodor as in Herzl and Dorothy as in de Rothschild.
Who could be closer to our heart then this great fighter, who led his army, with its dozens of elephants, across the Alps into North Italy, who gave his orders in Hebrew? Even the mighty Romans paled when they heard the shout: "Hannibal ad portas" ("Hannibal near the gates," often falsely quoted as "ante Portas")!
One of the greatest Zionist poets, Shaul Tchernichovsky, the translator of Homer's Odyssey, affirmed our closeness to the Carthaginians, telling us that they were the greatest maritime force in the ancient Mediterranean, even before the Greeks. We were proud of them.
IN A strange way, Hannibal came up in the recent Gaza war. Not that any of our commanders were modern-day geniuses. Far from it. But something called the "Hannibal procedure" was one of its most terrible phenomena.
Who coined the term? Some officer with an inclination for ancient history? Or just an insensitive computer, the same which called this war "Solid Cliff" -- while a human robot gave it the English name "Protective Edge"?
At the height of the fighting near the town of Rafah (Rafiah in Hebrew) on the Egyptian border, a squad of Israeli soldiers were trapped by Hamas soldiers and most of them were killed. One Israeli was dragged by the Palestinians into a tunnel. The first impression was that he was captured alive, perhaps wounded.
The Hannibal Procedure went into action.
THE HANNIBAL PROCEDURE is designed for just such an eventuality. Of all the nightmares (or rather daymares) of the Israeli army, this is one of the worst.
This needs some explaining. In war, soldiers fall into captivity. Often this is unavoidable. In combat situations, in which further resistance becomes senseless suicide, soldiers raise their hands.
In medieval times, prisoners-of-war were often held for ransom. For officers and political leaders that was a welcome source of income, a good reason for keeping prisoners alive and well. In more modern times, after the laws of war came into being, prisoners are exchanged when the war ends.