Sgt. Gilad Shalit returned to Israel after he was kidnapped by Hamas in a border raid that killed two of his comrades. For more than five years his captors dangled him before his family and the Israeli public as bait for a swap. Israel finally gave in, freeing 1,027 terrorists and collaborators. Israel, unlike Pyrrhus, will not be undone by this victory, nor yet by several of them, but the release of so many murderers ensures more murder to come. Shalit is a soldier whose life was, by definition, at risk. How many innocents will die as a result of his return? The United States had an interest in the deal, since one of the freed prisoners was reportedly involved in the 2002 bombing of a cafeteria at Hebrew University in Jerusalem that killed nine, including five Americans. Palestinian society will be further coarsened, if possible, by the return of hardened thugs and the enhanced prestige of their liberators.
About 3 million in number, the Basques are strongly nationalist, and have a hard-core terrorist component known as ETA, much as the Irish have the IRA. ETA has long fought for independence, in the process committing atrocities that led to the death of 829 people. ETA leaders have been in the habit of directing their operations in Spain from safe houses in France, parts of which they claim for the Basque homeland. French security services have at last been cracking down on these terrorists. Seven hundred are in prison in France and Spain, and no more than 50 are estimated to be still operative. These surviving ETA leaders declare that they are ceasing armed struggle and instead appeal for dialogue to reach a democratic solution of the political impasse. ETA has issued several previous ceasefire declarations, however, and makes no mention now of decommissioning its arms. Good news is so rare in Spain these days that ETA is widely being given the benefit of the doubt.
A heroine died in Cuba on October 14. She was Laura Pollán, founder of the Ladies in White, a human-rights group. The ladies are the loved ones of political prisoners or former political prisoners. They march silently through the streets, hold candlelight vigils, and so on. These activities are considered greatly threatening to the Communist dictatorship. The ladies have been physically attacked by state security and the mobs it unleashes. These women, clutching their flowers, have been incredibly brave. On September 24, Laura Pollán and others were attacked when they left Pollán’s home for Mass. Pollán’s subsequent death has democrats thinking that the dictatorship had a role in that death. Was she poisoned in some fashion? She died mysteriously, and the state immediately cremated her body. The democrats’ suspicions, unfortunately, are not unreasonable. In any event, there may well be a monument to Pollán in a free Cuba. Her tormenters, and those of an entire people, will be remembered with contempt and horror.
Ten Tibetans have immolated themselves this year in China to protest the government’s restriction of Buddhist practices. Five have died. One cannot but sympathize; one must not condone suicide. A thousand or so years ago, the Tibetan yogi-poet Milarepa wrote: “I do not experience the initial suffering of partiality, of thinking that ‘this is my land and that place isn’t.’ I do not experience the intermediate suffering of yearning for my land. And I do not experience the final suffering of having to protect my land.” Exiled from his land, in Dharamsala, India, the Dalai Lama announced new procedures for choosing his successor, if there is to be one; he also has said the line may end with him. Their import is that the successor need not be a child. This change helps provide for strong Tibetan leadership after the current Dalai’s death. It also makes it harder for Beijing to indoctrinate and enthrone a rival. If that happens, it may not even matter, since the Communist attempt to destroy Tibetan religion has internationalized it instead.