WorldWatch

From the September 2014 Trumpet Print Edition

Warring in Israel Resumes

The ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians grew violent and deadly once again following the parallel murders of three Jewish teenagers and one Palestinian teenager this summer.

The three Jewish teens were abducted on June 12 while hitchhiking home from religious schools in the West Bank. Israel blamed Hamas terrorists. Although Hamas denied culpability, it nonetheless cheered the abduction, blessing “the hands that captured them.” Israel responded with an incursion into the West Bank that included house searches, raids and arrests. The teens’ dead bodies were found on June 30 near the city of Hebron in the West Bank.

As the funerals for the teenagers took place on July 1, hundreds of Jews took to the streets. The protesters demanded retribution, chanting “Death to Arabs.” The next morning, a Palestinian teen was abducted in East Jerusalem while waiting outside his home for his friends. The charred remains of his body were found later that day in a forest in Jerusalem.

Hamas responded, “We send our message to the Zionist entity and its leaders, which hold direct responsibility, that our people will not let this crime pass, nor all the killings and destruction by your settlers. You will pay the price for these crimes.” Like Hamas, the Israeli government denied guilt, but unlike Hamas, Netanyahu condemned the crime, saying that “vigilantes have no place in our democracy.”

Hundreds of Palestinians protested the murder, flinging stones, hurling firebombs and rolling burning tires at Israeli security officials. They sprayed graffiti reading, “Death to Israel” and “Death to the Jews.” Demonstrators torched three small shelters for a light-rail line, overturned trash containers and smashed traffic lights.

Israel responded by deploying tanks, artillery and busloads of military personnel to quell the unrest. Hamas intensified the almost daily barrage of rockets that it had been launching since Israel’s Gaza incursion in June. As of July 22, Hamas had fired over 1,700 rockets into Israel, about 85 percent of them after the Palestinian teen’s murder. Israel launched rockets of its own into Gaza, and began a ground invasion to counter this offensive. One military official said that only “boots on the ground” could exterminate terrorism from Gaza. The conflict continued at the time of printing, with far more Palestinian than Israeli casualties. Netanyahu explained the cause for the skewed death toll: “We are using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they [Hamas] are using their civilians to protect their missiles.”

A relative of the murdered Palestinian remarked that the hatred has increased instantly. “I’ve never seen such racism, even in the first and second intifada,” he said. “We are entering a very dark time.” Talk is rife that this latest conflict may be the beginning of the third intifada.

Israel’s Outspoken New President

Former Speaker of the Israeli Knesset Reuven Rivlin was elected president of Israel on June 10. The 74-year-old Likud member won a runoff election inside the national legislature, and began his seven-year term July 24.

Israel’s president generally maintains a ceremonial role, meeting foreign dignitaries on behalf of the citizenry. He largely refrains from intruding into the nation’s domestic politics and expressing personal opinions that would divide the public. Before being elected, Rivlin promised not to intervene in the decisions of the country’s elected politicians. However, if his time in government is any indication, the right-wing Rivlin will have trouble staying quiet. A long-time politician, Rivlin is renowned for acting independently on national issues, even if he has to part ways with his party’s leadership. For example, the Likud member readily denounces the plan for a two-state solution, instead calling for one Israeli state where Arabs are given full and equal rights.

Also, in contrast to Israel’s former president, Shimon Peres, who visited the Vatican on June 1 for a prayer meeting with Pope Francis and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Rivlin has spoken out against the papacy’s peace exploits. In 2009, while speaker of the Knesset, Rivlin refused to welcome Pope Benedict xvi at the Ben Gurion Airport because he “needed to act according to his conscience.” In an interview with Spiegel Online at the time, Rivlin spoke out against the papacy for not doing enough to stop the spread of Holocaust denial. “In order to do away with Holocaust denial, not only for the sake of the Jewish people but for the sake of the world, we are asking the pope to show us the Vatican’s archive, which proves that the Shoah [Holocaust] happened and that, to our dismay, the Holy See under Pope Pius xii stood in silence—not only sweeping the facts underneath the carpet, but also to a great extent, through his silence, giving legitimacy to the Shoah,” he said.

As the Vatican involves itself more in the Middle East peace process, it’s easy to see how the outspoken Reuven Rivlin inhabiting the presidential palace might cause some sparks to fly.

Pope: No One Should Work on Sunday

Not working on Sunday is “true freedom,” Pope Francis said July 5 during an address about industry and labor in southern Italy.

“The issue of working Sundays … affects not only believers, but it affects everyone, as an ethical choice,” he said. “A work-free Sunday—with the exception of necessary services—says that our priority is not economics, but the human being …. [F]or believers it means a relationship with God and with the community. Perhaps it is time to ask whether it is a true freedom to work on Sundays.”

Catholic leaders have called repeatedly for universal Sunday observance in Europe, even for non-Catholics and those who do not attend church on Sundays. Francis’s predecessor, Benedict xvi, said that “without the Lord’s day, we cannot live.”

In recent months, the pope has promoted the Catholic economic system as a solution to Europe’s economic troubles and high unemployment. So it is unsurprising to see him promote Sunday observance as the solution to social and family problems.

The Trumpet has warned for years that Sunday observance will be forced on Europe’s citizens. For more information on the prophetic significance of this, read editor in chief Gerald Flurry’s November 2005 article “The Pope Trumpets Sunday.”

The Top Destination for German Weapons

Germany approved the export of over $1 billion worth of arms to Algeria in 2013, making that country the largest buyer of German weapons that year, a June 11 government report revealed.

Meanwhile, German newspaper Handelsblatt reported June 18 that Rheinmettal will sign a $3.7 billion contract to build a manufacturing plant for the Fuchs (Fox) armored personnel carrier in Algeria as part of an agreement Germany made in 2011 to sell $13.6 billion in arms to the country. ThyssenKrupp expects to sell at least two frigates and a number of Daimler off-road vehicles and trucks as part of the deal.

Overall, Germany approved almost $8 billion in arms deals to countries around the world in 2013, the highest value in 10 years. $1.12 billion of this went to Algeria. Qatar was in second place, with $917 million worth of export licenses.

Algeria’s rise up the league table of German arms exports has been explosive. Before 2011, arms trade between the two nations was minimal.

The decision to allow Algeria to build 980 Fuchs 2 vehicles is unprecedented. “For the first time Germany is delivering not only armored personnel carriers to an authoritarian state but also a complete vehicle factory,” Handelsblatt wrote.

“Radicalism is spilling out from Egypt and spreading over northern Africa,” Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in his April 2013 article “Watch Algeria!” “These radicals are now trying to take over Algeria, but they are beginning to face some opposition from Germany and the European Union. Algeria has a strong supporter in Germany. That is going to make a big difference for these terrorist groups.” This is exactly what we have seen. Germany is quietly confronting radical Islam through arms sales to friendly governments, with Algeria, Qatar and Saudi Arabia all high on its list of recipients.

Dutch Paratroopers Officially Join German Army

The Dutch 11th airmobile brigade officially joined the German Army on June 12 in a ceremony attended by Dutch and German defense ministers. Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert declared it a “historic moment” that lifts “German-Dutch cooperation … to a new level.”

Dutch soldiers will now serve as part of a German division of rapid-response troops under the command of a German major general, a Dutch deputy and a joint division staff. Both nations must agree before deploying the forces, and the Dutch troops will remain on their bases in the Netherlands. The division staff should be in place by 2016, with the unit fully operational in 2018.

This merger comes after the two nations signed an agreement in May 2013. The Dutch government freely admits its motivation is to pool equipment and training in order to cut costs. This sets a major precedent for how other European nations could integrate and cut costs without leaving their militaries weaker. As the economic crisis bites, more EU countries may “go Dutch.”

The trade-off here is the loss of sovereignty. The 11th is the Netherlands’ only airmobile brigade. Now, in order to rapidly deploy large numbers of troops, the Dutch need approval from the Germans.

“Germany is driving the integration of European defense,” Deutsche Welle wrote when the deal was agreed upon a year ago. By forming these kinds of agreements with its neighbors, Germany hopes to build an integrated European army piece by piece, since its grand designs to create one more rapidly have thus far been blocked. For more about Germany’s push for a European army, read “Under Construction.”

Why Britain Is Closer Than Ever to Quitting the EU

Jean-Claude Juncker is on his way to becoming president of the European Commission—which means Britain is on its way out. On June 27, the former Luxembourg prime minister won approval for the presidency from the vast majority of European Union leaders. But his rise to power has sparked a bitter, emotional argument between Britain and the rest of the EU. Juncker stands for everything Britain hates about the Union. Every major political party in Britain opposes his candidacy.

Why are Brits against him? This is a man who won’t let truth, democracy, principles or anything else get in the way of his dream to federalize Europe.

“I am for secret, dark debates,” Juncker said three years ago. He not only has been caught lying and confessed to it, but also has actually said of leadership, “When the going gets tough, you have to lie.”

“Monetary policy is a serious issue,” he said at an economic governance conference in 2011. “We should discuss this in secret.” He continued: “I’m ready to be insulted as being insufficiently democratic, but I want to be serious.”

In 2005, when the people of France and the Netherlands voted on whether to accept the European Constitution, Juncker was similarly undemocratic: “If it’s a yes, we will say ‘On we go,’” he said, “and if it’s a no, we will say, ‘We continue.’”

Even British supporters of the EU are concerned about Juncker’s presidency. Telegraph columnist Iain Martin concluded that if Juncker is appointed, it “will be a historic disaster on a grand scale, which makes Britain’s exit from the European Union very likely. And I speak as someone who has been for reform and staying in the EU if possible.”

Though the outrage died down in the weeks after Juncker was selected, Britain’s eventual departure has never looked so inevitable. It is clear that the EU and UK are simply heading down different paths.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi made it even more obvious as Italy took over the rotating presidency of the EU on July 1. Renzi’s goals include pushing for a “United States of Europe,” which he called “the only solution to solve the problems of our time.”

Juncker’s presidency also marks a power shift toward European federal institutions. In the past, the president was chosen by national leaders who negotiated for the position. This time, the European Parliament pushed hard to automatically appoint the leader of the pan-European party that got the most votes. Britain opposed this as another erosion of national power.

But it also demonstrates Germany’s role. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s support is what got Juncker the job. “One glare from Merkel, and the Swedish and Dutch prime ministers switched sides,” wrote Mats Persson, director of the think tank Open Europe, on the Telegraph’s blog site. “The great irony is obvious: While German commentators have been busy trying to drape ‘democracy’ in an EU flag, Europe has just become much more German. … If Germany is attempting to hide its power in Europe, it’s doing a terrible job” (June 30).

Many commentators now consider the “United States of Europe” a very possible and imminent reality. But one geopolitical forecaster reported it decades ago. With an understanding of Bible prophecy, Herbert W. Armstrong—who founded the Trumpet’s predecessor, the Plain Truth—predicted that a superstate would emerge in Europe. He specified that this power, “a sort of soon-coming ‘United States of Europe,’” would emerge from the European Common Market; that it would consist of 10 nations; be led by Germany; constitute a resurrection of the “Holy Roman Empire” influenced by the Vatican; and absolutely not include the United Kingdom. How correct he is proving to be. For more information, request a free copy of He Was Right.

Putin’s Soaring Popularity

A stunning 83 percent of Russians now approve of Putin’s leadership, according to the latest survey published by the Moscow-based Levada Center. That’s up 18 percent since the start of 2014, which shows that Putin’s stratospheric popularity is a direct result of his actions in Ukraine.

“I support him,” 27-year-old Olga Rogachova told the Trumpet on June 13. Rogachova has lived in Sevastopol, Crimea, for nearly her entire life. She has watched the Crimean Peninsula transition from being part of the Soviet Union to part of independent Ukraine, and then being grafted into Russia in March.

Like the majority of Russians, Rogachova welcomes Putin’s annexation of Crimea. “It’s where we belong,” she said. “Russia was in need of a strong leader. [Putin] made our people remember we were once a great nation. … He is truly the hope of the nation.”

Many in the West believe Putin’s behavior is fueled by a drive to garner more respect for Russia, by inflated fears of Russophobia, and by rose-colored views of Russia’s Soviet Empire days. But more than 120 million Russians agree with their president.

Does Putin Have God on His Side Regarding Ukraine?

“In principle, Ukraine does not independently exist,” Russian Orthodox Church leader Kirill i said on June 18. Ukraine is instead part of “the historical territory of Russia,” the patriarch said in a report by Espreso tv.

Such a stance on Ukraine mirrors that of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2005, Putin said the demise of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” Ever since, his objective has been rebuilding Russia’s influence in the former Soviet region—especially in Ukraine.

Although Putin never tried to hide what he calls “his deep Christian faith,” he avoided overtly religious rhetoric up until 2012. That year, after tens of thousands of mostly liberal Russians protested his return to the presidency, Putin responded by leaning on the Russian Orthodox Church’s conservative appeal. Since then, he has forged a close alliance with the church, which has helped him paint his opponents as godless liberals. And, as demonstrated by Kirill’s June 18 statement, the church has given Putin’s expansionist foreign policy a veneer of divine approval.

Putin has also leaned toward the church in order to paint Russia as a defender of traditional values in a world led by a morally broken United States and Europe. In December, he said, “Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values. … This is the path to degradation.” Kirill echoed those sentiments, saying Western powers are engaging in the “spiritual disarmament” of their people.

This is an exact reversal of the Cold War era, which many viewed as the “Christian” Americans against the “godless” ussr Communists.

Putin is tapping into the deep-rooted abhorrence many around the world feel toward the West’s embrace of promiscuity, pornography, homosexuality, abortion and other immorality. Putin also invokes divinity regarding Russia’s expansionism. “May God judge them,” Putin said after annexing Crimea in March, in words directed at the “Bolsheviks” who gave the peninsula to Ukraine decades ago.

History teaches that there is no more potent force to sway populations toward a geopolitical aim than religion. Russia is working to harness this power in order to promote its expansionist agenda.

China, India Ready for Final Settlement in Border Disputes

Beijing is prepared to settle its long-simmering border disputes with India, according to statements made by China’s foreign minister on June 9. India and China have a history of border strife dating back to the 1950s, shortly after China annexed Tibet. The tensions culminated in the violent conflict of 1962, which resulted in a humiliating defeat for the Indian Army. Although India-China relations normalized in the 1980s, disagreements over their border remained a source of tension. But based on the Chinese foreign minister’s statements, it appears that a resolution is near. This opens up unprecedented Sino-Indian cooperation.

Japan Takes Historic Step Away From Pacifism

Japan’s cabinet reinterpreted the ban on the country’s use of “collective self-defense” on July 1, marking the largest shift in defense policy since 1954 when Japan reestablished its armed forces after losing World War ii. This major shift away from 70 years of postwar pacifism is a historic win for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has pushed hard for the controversial change.

Japan can now use its large, cutting-edge military in ways unthinkable just a few years ago. If an American ship is under fire, Japan can assist it. If a North Korean missile is aimed at an Australian ship, Japan can shoot it down. If the United Nations is involved in a “gray zone” activity, Japanese troops can participate.

The U.S. welcomed the cabinet’s reinterpretation, because North Korea is a loose cannon, China is increasingly belligerent, and the war-weary American public is tired of policing the world. Many in Washington see Japan’s more assertive military posture in Asia as positive.

But many of Japan’s neighbors are concerned. They remember imperial Japan’s wartime savagery, its subsequent historic revisionism and its failure to sufficiently apologize for the atrocities it committed against other Asians and against the Allies.

If Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the U.S. leaders who wrote Japan’s pacifist constitution saw Tokyo abolishing its intent, they would react sharply against what Washington is doing: snubbing history, turning inward and dismantling the barriers against another world war.

America’s Shrinking GDP

The United States Commerce Department released its most recent data on the gross domestic product June 25, revealing that America’s economy shrank 2.9 percent over the first quarter of 2014.

The slump is the worst since 2009, when America was in the middle of the Great Recession. The recent data was also the biggest revision to a previous gdp estimate since 1976. The department had estimated in May that the economy had shrunk by only 1 percent. In March it estimated that the economy had actually grown by 0.1 percent.

Some economists blamed the long, harsh winter for the reason for the slump, but this new data indicates the economy has far deeper problems than chilly temperatures.

“You cannot dismiss the data as being entirely a fluke,” said Cliff Waldman, senior economist for the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation. He said that this slump is “a warning sign” that America’s economic recovery is more precarious than many economists admit.

Unemployment (which is still at 6.3 percent) and debt loads are two of the bigger problems behind the contraction in the economy. These factors hurt production and thus consumer spending, which only grew by 1 percent instead of the government’s estimated 3 percent.

The latest gdp revision could be a sign that the 2008 Great Recession, which never really ended, is about to intensify.

India Dedicates New made-in-Russia aircraft carrier

Since its independence from Great Britain in 1947, India has had three successive aircraft carriers. The latest one—officially dedicated on June 14—came from a source quite different from the previous two, which reveals a dramatic shift in India’s geopolitical tilt.

The country’s first carrier—called ins Vikrant—was purchased from the British Royal Navy in 1957 and started service in the Indian Navy in 1961. It carried British Hawker Sea Hawk fighter bombers and British Westland helicopters. After a distinguished service, it was decommissioned in January 1997.

The second, also purchased from the British and equipped with British-made armaments, was the Viraat. It entered the Indian Navy in 1987 and is scheduled to serve till 2020. This is more than twice the sailing life of a carrier of this class.

The Indian Navy traditionally has been modeled after the Royal Navy, and it has cooperated closely with the British for over 60 years. But on June 14, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated India’s latest warship aircraft carrier, the ins Vikramaditya. Unlike the previous two models, the Vikramaditya comes from Russia.

The new carrier will operate the Russian MiG-29K, the Indian-made hal Dhruv helicopter and some aging Sea Harriers. The ship is powered by four turbine engines, has a range of 8,000 nautical miles, and can carry 160 officers, 1,400 sailors and 30 aircraft.

India’s decision to buy its latest carrier from Russia is just the latest indication of Delhi’s tilt away from Britain and the West—and toward Eastern powers.

Deadly spree

Dozens of al Shabaab Islamist extremists on two minibuses raced into the small Kenyan tourist resort town of Mpeketoni on June 14, igniting a terror campaign that lasted two days and killed 48 people.

In the assault, the Somali-based, al Qaeda-affiliated gunmen sprayed bullets on civilians and ignited explosives near buildings. They torched two hotels, a bank, a police station and surrounding vehicles.

Some of the slain were occupants at the Breeze View Hotel who were watching World Cup soccer matches on tv, an echo of al Shabaab’s 2010 bombings in Kampala, Uganda, which killed 77 World Cup fans at a public viewing of the games.

The terrorists primarily targeted men, sparing women to watch the slaughter. Non-Muslims who couldn’t answer questions about Koran trivia were also killed in scenes similar to last September’s Westgate Mall attack that killed 67.

Al Shabaab claimed the attack was retaliation for the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia. Kenya has been involved in Somalia since 2011 to help the United Nations-backed government defeat the Islamists.

These religion-based mass murders are becoming more common, but they will not go unpunished for much longer. Bible prophecy and history show they will incite a European retaliation worse than the Crusades.