|Epicenter: Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future, DVD|
Joel C. Rosenberg
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Did you know that radical Islam believes the destruction of the U.S. and Israel will usher in "Hudna" and their Messiah? What are key leaders from military, government, and evangelical Christianity saying about the "last days?" Discover these things, and significant historical information about Israeli wars for survival and the relevancy of the Temple Mount in this gripping-yet easy-to-understand-documentary.
CHRISTIANBOOK.COM: All right, Joel Rosenberg. The first thing would be obviously the news this week of Hamas gaining control of Gaza and the Hezbollah connection with Hamas. What’s your take on that?
JOEL ROSENBERG: Well first of all, it’s a disaster inside Gaza for the Palestinian people. You’ve got well over a hundred Palestinians that have been killed in ferocious street fighting, hundreds wounded, people being executed in the streets. This is a disaster and it’s a disaster as well for evangelical Christian Palestinians who are living caught in the crossfire between the jihads of Hamas and the secular nationalists of Fattah so everywhere you slice it, it’s a disaster. One thing that I think particularly needs to be noted is that Washington politicians need to take careful note of what’s happening because Gaza is what can happen when you precipitously pull your military forces out of a Middle East war zone without making sure that you’re leaving in place a truly democratic government as well as adequately trained armed security forces who are capable of ensuring law and order. And of course a number of American politicians including presidential candidates right now are talking about a full scale withdrawal before Iraq’s government or military is really ready and I think that would be a disaster and unfortunately Gaza proves that point. In the summer of 2005 then-Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon believed that if he just withdrew from Gaza and took all Israeli military forces out…”Fine, we don’t want to occupy, we don’t want to be a magnet for terror, we’re just going to leave and we wish you well.” He thought that there was going to be a sign of good will, but instead it was read as a sign of weakness and surrender and instead of peace between the Israel and the Palestinians you have this horrible civil war going on, as well as thousands of rockets and missiles coming from Gaza into southern Israel so this is just part and parcel of the movement of radical Islam to surround Israel and destroy her and unfortunately the jihadists have won another round.
CB: Right, now I’m not asking you to take sides on any political issues unless you really want to but when you say it would be catastrophic for the US to pull out before there’s a democratic base there what level would that catastrophe be in Iraq if we did that?
JR: Well, if the government in Iraq is not yet ready to secure law and order and the US military forces are suddenly gone you’re going to have a collapse, you’re going to have an implosion and the sectarian violence that’s bad today will become dramatically worse. You will have a full blown civil war, and you’ll have a bloodbath because there has to be some form of security, given the tension that already exists, and this is what’s happening inside Gaza. The Israeli occupation, while it was seen as a blight by the Palestinians, kept some semblance of order. Not perfectly, but in their absence - with no other functional, effective government - you now have people killing each other by the hundreds in Gaza and an all out battle for control. This is what we don’t want to see happen in Iraq. To an extent it’s already a problem but it’s going to get much worse if we leave too quickly. Everybody wants us to leave, we want to leave, but the question is when and under what circumstances. And in Iraq we really need to get those Iraqi security forces trained and prepared to take care of their own country. It won’t be easy after we leave but we can’t just leave before the Iraqi security forces are ready.
CB: Taking that into consideration, and I understand this is extremely early to be talking about presidential elections but they’re sort of jumpstarting it this year by six months, what should voters be looking for by way of Middle East policies from the next person that they want to put into office?
JR: What I’m looking for in a presidential candidate in 2008 is someone who has demonstrated an understanding of the stakes that we face in the Middle East. The Middle East isn’t the only issue that we need to judge a candidate by, but it’s extremely important. Does a candidate understand the threat we face from radical Islam? Does a candidate understand that withdrawing from Iraq too quickly will create more terror and more bloodshed and put US national security in more jeopardy? Does the presidential candidate understand that there is a rapidly rising new threat in the Middle East from Iran? Do they understand that the president of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad believes that the end of the world is eminent and the way to hasten the coming of the Islamic Messiah, known as the 12th Imam or the Mahdi, is to annihilate two countries, Israel which he calls ‘the little Satan’ and the United States whom he calls ‘the great Satan’? Does a presidential candidate understand that Russia is joining the axis of evil today by arming some of the Untied States worst enemies including a recent billion dollar missile deal with Iran?
JR: These are some of the questions I am watching for in addition to their stand on defense, the sanctity of human life, the protection of traditional marriage, the understanding of the importance of free market economics, low taxes, restrained spending, and keeping our borders secure. In addition to that, what’s happening in the epicenter in the Middle East has such a dramatic affect on our lives, that if somebody doesn’t really get it I don’t want that person in office in 2009.
CB: Right. Now, the issues that are going to affect the election are basically unrankable. You just can’t say one is the top; number two is the second…
JR: No, I can. The number one issue going into the 2008 elections is the existential threat posed by radical Islam and the efforts of jihadist leaders to annihilate Judeo-Christian civilization as we know it.
CB: And you would say that it would be the number one…
JR: The absolute number one issue in this election is whether candidates understand that threat from radical Islam and have a clear vision and a clear set of policies that are consistent with protecting us and our allies from that threat. No question in my mind, that’s the number one.
CB: As early on as it is, obviously we’d be getting into more detailed debates and things like that, have you seen this issue addressed yet in the way you think it should be addressed in the recent debates?
JR: I have seen some disqualify themselves in my mind. One leading candidate says the war on terror is just a bumper sticker, just a political slogan demonstrating absolutely no understanding of the threat we face from radical Islam So you know, someone like that I would rule out. Beyond that it is too early; there are a lot of good people in the race. And my role is not to pick and choose candidates for other people but to frame what’s happening in the epicenter and why it matters, why the current rumblings in the Middle East threaten to change our future.
JR: Because that’s really where I see my role is.
CB: Now in a hypothetical situation between two candidates; one who was all for your view, your ideal for the situation in Iraq but on the other issues had a deplorable record, and the other one everything else except the Iraq issue was lined up but the Iraq issue was a bumper sticker issue….
JR: That’s not hypothetical, that’s what’s happening and so I’m not ready to comment on that because it’s a real problem. I think a lot of voters are concerned that they see strengths in some areas and serious weaknesses in others and that’s why you know time, we’ll just have to see. I’m not ready to go there yet. Not because I don’t want to be on the record about it but because that’s the problem. You just nailed it…that’s the discontent that people have with, with both fields of candidates, you know?
CB: There are a lot of other of people who are in your business, prognosticators and people focusing in the Middle East. Who are the ones that you think are also focusing on the right issues?
JR: I’m just focusing on the message I’m trying to share with people and you know answering people’s questions. I think there’s enormous interest in trying to understand in what’s actually happening in the Middle East right now and what is God’s plan and purpose for the Middle East. And as a result of that enormous interest there is a number of different authors explaining the region and explaining the scriptures from their unique vantage point and I think that’s good, generally speaking, that I’m finding for myself it’s not just Christians who are enormously interested in what’s going on. So I’m being interviewed on secular television and radio programs; CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox, MSNBC, the Washington Post, the New York Times among others are showing a lot of interest in Evangelical Christian perspectives on the Middle East because what’s happening in the epicenter is so confusing, so disturbing that people are searching for answers. People are trying to make sense of what’s happening over there and I think it’s very healthy and encouraging that secular media outlets are talking to Evangelicals trying to get their perspectives.
CB: And it doesn’t seem to them to matter what our eschatological views are? Is that what you’re experiencing?
JR: It matters to them, but it’s not Evangelical eschatology that’s the hot button issue right now, its Iranian Shiite eschatology. I mean the real interest right now in the Middle East among secular media people is what is going to happen with Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Will Iran go nuclear? Will the US or Israel intervene to stop Iran from going nuclear? What people don’t understand - but have a growing interest in - is the eschatology of the Iranian president. Why does Ahmadinejad believe the end of the world is eminent? Why does he believe the Islamic Messiah is about to appear? Why does he believe he has to annihilate Judeo-Christian civilization as we know it in order to bring about the Mahdi? Those are good questions, they are urgent questions, and they’re questions that the secular media is just beginning to get interested in. They’re why I wrote the book Epicenter, and why we’ve made the film Epicenter to help answer those kinds of questions from both a geopolitical perspective as well as from perspective from Bible prophecy.
CB: What does the film cover that the book doesn’t, or visa versa? Are there any major differences?
JR: No, the book is much more comprehensive than the Epicenter documentary film but what the documentary film does is take you inside the room as I do exclusive interviews with Benjamin Netanyahu, former Israeli deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky, the former chief of staff of the Israeli military, top Middle East analysts, Iranian Shiite Muslim converts to Christianity, and various Bible prophecy experts. The documentary takes you inside the epicenter in a visual way and for those who aren’t sure if they’re quite ready for all the details of the book, it helps them understand the major themes and major issues going on in the Middle East right now, and you’re getting to hear from the leading experts and so in addition to the hour-long film then we’ve got two hours of exclusive bonus features which include some of the full interviews that I did with these various leaders, so in addition to the sound bites that you’re getting with the Epicenter film you really get to hear them in more detail. I get emails saying ‘I wish I could go to the Middle East with you and see this stuff for myself and meet with these experts and hear what their perspectives are.’ And that’s what the film really tried to do is take you there and put you in the room with some of the most impressive, insightful leaders there are on these issues.
CB: One of the most chilling parts of the book was your interview with Mitrofanov about Zhirinovsky. That to me was almost like watching a movie, where two people are sitting around the table talking about the big bad guy, or something like that. Is that part of the DVD?
JR: No, I had done that interview with Mitrofanov in the fall of 2004. It was on the record, you know, I took detailed, careful notes sitting at the table at the Hotel National in Moscow with Mitrofanov but we did not have a film crew with us and he was not open to doing an interview on camera.
CB: Was it as dire as it seems in the book?
JR: It was a surreal experience to sit with the chief strategist for the leading ultra-nationalist fascist in the country of Russia. Vladimir Zhirinovsky is one of the most dangerous men in modern Russia, he’s the deputy speaker of the Russian parliament and is close to Vladimir Putin the president of Russia and Mitrofanov is widely considered Zhirinovsky’s brain. This is the guy who’s charting out the Fascist movement in Russia and when you sit with a man like that who’s laying out for you the plans of the fascist movement to seize control of the Middle East and build alliances with radical Islam and eventually wants the final thrust south to seize control of the Middle East and Israel, it’s a surreal experience. It’s as though you’re sitting with one of Hitler’s top advisors in the mid-nineteen-thirties as they lay out the final solution and you‘re not there yet. They’re not fully in power yet but you’re thinking, “My goodness, this guy’s really explaining what the intention of the Nazi movement is.” That’s what it was like sitting with Mitrofanov.
CB: Wow. Now, your family went through the Russian pogroms, but they skirted the Holocaust...
JR: Well, my family was Orthodox Jews that escaped out of Russia in 1907 during the Pogroms, so this was really the Russian effort to persecute and destroy the Jewish people. My grandparents and great grandparents were able to escape out of Russia. By God’s grace they didn’t settle in Poland or Austria or Germany in the 1920s and 30s as many Russian families did. They continued westward across Europe and got to the United States. Like any good Jewish family my father grew up in Brooklyn and so we were very fortunate to escape Russian persecution and escape the horrors of the Holocaust.
CB: That’s incredible. Outside of the obvious, do you see any major parallels going on in the Middle East that was happening in Hitler’s Germany
JR: This current moment feels very much to me like it must have felt in 1937, 1938, 1939 when Hitler and his Nazi regime was rising to power but hadn’t quite yet moved to take over Europe and annihilate the Jews. What’s happening in the Middle East is that we are seeing the rise of a new Adolph Hitler in the form of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and if Ahmadinejad gets nuclear weapons and is able to match those with the high speed ballistic missiles that he already has, Ahmadinejad would be able to do in about six minutes what it took Adolph Hitler almost six years to do and that is to kill 6 million Jews. There are 6 million Jews in Israel today; Ahmadinejad has vowed to wipe them off the face of the earth. And the world seems as asleep to that threat today as the world was asleep to the threat of Adolph Hitler in the final solution in the late 1930s. And what I’m trying to do with the Epicenter book and the Epicenter documentary is wake people up to the current threats that we face, to the coming threats that we face and to understand these threats through a political lens, through an economical lens, and through what I call the third lens of Bible prophecy.
CB: Which is the key, I mean, it’s sort of like a triangulation where you can see everything else lining up politically and economically, and a lot of people would say, “Scripture was written thousands of years ago,” but when that lines up too it gives it incredible extra weight where all of a sudden its not just things happening in the world, its things that have been prophesized.
JR: That’s right, and one of the points I make in the book and the film is that the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 lays out a Russian-Iranian alliance with a group of other Middle Eastern countries that will seek to destroy Israel in “The Last Days”. The strange thing is that in the twenty-five-hundred years since Ezekiel wrote that prophecy, Russia and Iran have never had a military alliance of the sort that Ezekiel describes until today. Russia has sold a billion dollars worth of missiles to Iran just in the last two years. Russia is selling submarines to Iran. Russia is selling nuclear technology to Iran. Russia is building nuclear facilities inside Iran, the worst terrorist state on the face of the planet. Now just because Russia and Iran are forming a military alliance now does not necessarily mean that the full war of Gog and Magog prophecy is about to come true. On the other hand you can’t rule out that possibility because Russia and Iran are forming this alliance and it is striking since it’s never happened in human history. That’s why there’s a lot of interest not just in what’s happening in the epicenter but with the possibility that some major Bible prophecies may be coming close to fulfillment. And that’s what we try to look at from a bunch of different perspectives in the book and in the documentary film.
CB: Now historically how have prophecy-minded scholars interpreted the references to what is now Russia and Iran?
JR: There’s been a lot of debate over the centuries, over the past few decades over the meaning of Ezekiel 38, 39. What I try to do in the Epicenter book is lay out my perspective with a lot of end notes describing other people’s perspective - those who agree with my perspective, those who disagree - so people understand the research I’m drawing from, and have a sense of the debate and the disagreements. I think it’s important that people be aware of this prophecy of Russia and Iran attacking Israel in the last days. It could happen in our lifetime; we don’t know if it will but we’re in a very interesting moment in which Ezekiel 36 and 37 have already come true. These are the famous prophecies of the rebirth of the state of Israel. Jews pouring back into the Holy Land after centuries of exile. Jews making the deserts bloom and rebuilding the ancient ruins and having an exceedingly great army. We have seen those prophecies come true in our lifetime and it begs the question: if Ezekiel 36 and 37 have already come true in our lifetime isn’t it remotely possible that Ezekiel 38 and 39 could come true in our lifetime as well? We don’t have an answer to that question yet but that’s what people are curious about and that’s what I’m trying to write about in Epicenter - and now with this Epicenter documentary film - to help churches, small group Bible studies, home fellowship groups have an entry point into this discussion and be able to think about it, study it, and pray about it as Jesus urges us to understand the times that we live in.