Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Sends Condolences on Barry Rubin's Passing

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote on Prof. Rubin's passing, "Barry was a prolific writer, historian and analyst who dedicated both his intellect and his energies to the challenges facing the Middle East... His contribution to the public discourse in both Israel and the United States will serve as a proud legacy...."

To make a tax-deductible contribution in Prof. Barry Rubin’s memory in order to continue his mission and help future research, click the donate button at the top right of this page or visit:

Monday, February 17, 2014

Barry Rubin: An Appreciation

By Jonathan Spyer

Prof. Barry Rubin and Dr. Jonathan Spyer

Barry Rubin was one of the leading Middle East scholars and analysts of his generation.

He was also a patriot of two countries – Israel and the United States – a dissenter, and a moral and intellectual beacon for thousands of people in many lands.

Barry brought to his work a tremendous, searing energy, which made him famously prolific. This energy stayed with him throughout the illness which has now prematurely ended his life. He was still composing articles in the very last days, when his hands could no longer work the keyboard. He stayed with his chosen mission to the end.

What was the source of this extraordinary energy and commitment? It is vital to note that Barry’s work was characterized not only by its analytical depth, but also by a profound sense of moral urgency. This set him apart from the scholarly and academic mainstream. There was always a sense behind his words of some urgent wrong to be righted, or some piece of information which must be revealed and understood, with no time to waste.

There are many examples from his work which demonstrate his prescience, clarity and moral commitment.

And since he believed in backing up claims with empirical evidence, here are a few of these: In Tragedy of the Middle East, Barry expressed a cogent and extremely prescient critique of the prevailing political culture in the Arab world. Many of the points he raised in this seminal work form the basis of the claims that were raised by liberal Arab oppositionists in the first days of the “Arab Spring.”

The closed nature of regional political systems and economies, the cynical misuse of anti-American and anti-Israeli rhetoric, the vast disparities in access to wealth and power – all are noted here. Barry championed in a practical way the cause of Arab reform and liberalism in the region when it still went largely unnoticed by most analysts.

At the same time, he had no illusions about the balance of political power in the Middle East and was also among the first to predict the rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood and the acute dangers inherent therein.

Barry was similarly among the first to detect the anti-Western and anti-democratic tendencies of the Erdogan government and the AKP in Turkey. I remember him issuing a passionate, uncompromising warning in this regard on many platforms, as other scholars sought to outline what they imagined to be more “nuanced” or “measured” positions. Of course, Barry’s assessment of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoganand the nature of his ambitions is now mainstream.

In his book The Truth about Syria, Barry wrote the only serious, book-length treatment of the Assad dictatorship in Syria that sought to issue a clear moral indictment of this brutal and murderous regime. This work is in my estimation the equivalent in the Syrian context of Iraqi dissident Kenan Makiya’s famous Republic of Fear, which revealed to the world the true nature of Saddam Hussein’s regime in the 1980s.

Again, at a time when the prevailing wisdom was that Syria was a rather pleasant place, when Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife were received by the Queen of England, when The New York Times was running long segments onDamascus and Aleppo as charming and adventurous tourist destinations, it was Barry Rubin who pulled off the mask and revealed the Assad regime for what it was.

Once again, he incurred the condescension of much of the academic community on Syria for his passionate and strident tone. And once again, events have proved him right. This book, and the moral courage of the man who wrote it, deserve far wider recognition.

Finally, Barry was among the first analysts of US politics to recognize that the Barack Obama presidency would represent a sharp break in American policymaking, rather than a continuum. He noted this when Obama was still a candidate for the Democratic nomination in 2008, and he sought to raise the alarm for what he saw as a danger both to America’s global standing and to its relationship with Israel. Again, his analysis was ahead of its time.

Barry’s writing deserves to be placed high in the canon of contemporary Middle East analysis. But there was another, more private aspect to his work, which involved his consulting with senior figures in the Israeli policymaking world, and advising and mentoring younger scholars, researchers and activists.

Regarding the former, Barry had been acting in the year prior to his death as an unofficial adviser to a senior minister in Israel’s government, a member of the inner security cabinet.

This relationship had great promise, but was sadly cut short by Barry’s illness. In a similar vein, in recent years he had developed a close connection to one of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s closest advisers.

Barry was both discreet and modest about these connections, but he was also aware of their importance.

But it is a mark of Barry’s nature that his network of connections went far beyond the senior reaches of Israel’s establishment.

So on the same day that he might be corresponding with members of the Israeli Cabinet, he would be meeting with visiting Turkish friends to discuss their fears regarding the direction of their country, or having coffee with a member of the Kurdish underground who was passing through Tel Aviv, or speaking with a brilliant young officer of IDF Military Intelligence, or advising an unusually talented young Iraqi Arab scholar concerning the direction of his research.

These are all real examples whose outlines will be instantly recognizable to those who knew Barry well.

None of these people knew each other. They might not have agreed about very much if they had met. But all found it beneficial to communicate with Barry, and all learned and benefited from his knowledge. In turn, their insights helped to give his work the unusual depth and breadth which characterized it.

Barry’s work was a 24-hour-a-day project for him. He was always switched on, reading, speaking, learning, writing, contributing.

He was a fascinating, multi-dimensional man, with many levels to his personality and to his interests. In his youth, he had been a radical, in the ferment of the US campuses of the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the second part of his life, Israel and the Jewish People were his abiding passion. Throughout, he was fascinated by the history of the land of his birth, the USA, and by its traditions of liberty and possibility.

As Walt Whitman described America itself, so Barry too “contained multitudes.”

Because of all this, there will be thousands of people, in Israel, in the broader Middle East, in the US and in Europe who will be feeling themselves diminished by his passing.

Barry would have allowed scarce time for lamenting, however. He would have stressed the urgency of the hour, and the need to get organized and back to work.

We will learn from his example.

And despite the grievous loss, it is accurate to say that in a number of ways, he is still with us. Barry liked to split issues up into three components, so here are three of the ways in which his presence will linger and continue to serve as a beacon illuminating the way.

First, in his books and his writings, which are readily available and which together form a monument and a testimony to a life spent learning, studying and analyzing the Middle East and public policy.

Second is the example he set of how to live, in his generosity, staunch integrity, and passion above all for his family, but also for his friends, and for the causes to which he was committed.

And finally, for those of us who were privileged to work closely with him, in the memory of the very dear and wonderful personality that lay behind all of this scholarship and industry, and which will continue to remain beloved in our hearts for as long as we live.

Teacher and mentor, husband and father, scholar and friend and traveling companion, Barry Rubin is gone too soon – far too soon. It remains for those of us who learned from him to continue to walk along the lines he set and thus to honor his memory.

Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is the author of The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict (Continuum, 2010) and a columnist at The Jerusalem Post. Spyer holds a PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics and a master’s in Middle East Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

This article originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post.

To make a tax-deductible contribution in Barry Rubin's memory in order to continue his mission, click the donate button at the top right of this page or visit:

Remembering Prof. Barry Rubin

Learning from Barry Rubin, A Lifelong Teacher
By Lee Smith

This morning Tablet reviewed Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East, a new book by Barry Rubin and Wolfgang G. Schwanitz. Although it’s a challenging and critical take, it’s also, I’d argue, precisely the sort of engagement with his work that Barry most relished, a real debate, an argument with ideas, history, and the future and real lives at stake. Sadly, Barry is not around to partake in it. He died last night at the age of 64 after an 18-month struggle with cancer…

A Privilege to Work With
By Efraim Cohen

I was devastated when I learned of Barry Rubin’s untimely passing.

During my time as cultural attaché at the American embassy, I was privileged to work with Barry on a number of projects for worldwide dissemination. In the process of our work, we often discussed where Israel and the Middle East were headed. I felt as if I was learning at the “feet of the master.”

I would ask him a question, he would close his eyes in contemplation, and then he would hold forth on his visions of the future. Invariably, his insights and predictions proved to be accurate – though other people might not come to the same conclusions until months later…

Institute Expresses Condolences on Passing of Dr. Barry Rubin
By the Washington Institute

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy expresses its deepest condolences to the family of our friend and former colleague Dr. Barry Rubin on his passing yesterday at age sixty-four of cancer.

"Barry was a brilliant scholar who was passionately committed to the pursuit of truth," says Dr. Robert Satloff, the Institute's executive director. "He brought this determination to his fight against cancer. His death is a loss to the broader community of Middle East scholars…"

R.I.P Barry Rubin
By Dennis Mitzner

Barry Rubin was one of a few thinkers who could intuitively connect the dots of a variety of political and social events both in the West and in the Middle East and arrive at an insightful and fascinating theory. But theorizing aside, more often than not, he was right. Rubin’s vast knowledge of the Middle East coupled with razor-sharp incisiveness was a potent combination,  unmatched by most of his contemporaries…

R.I.P.: Remembrances of My Friend Barry Rubin
By Ron Radosh

The loss of a friend comes hard to all of us, and Barry Rubin was a friend, whom I always knew was there to discuss the issues that were of mutual concern to us. PJM readers know him well as our Middle East editor, a man who traveled the world and wrote candidly and frankly about the hard truths others always seems to avoid...

Friends and Colleagues Mourn Barry Rubin, Middle East Scholar and Defender of Israel
By Sharona Shwartz

Conservative writers and Middle East analysts are posting moving tributes over the loss of one of their colleagues, Barry Rubin, who died Monday after a battle with cancer. He was 64.
Rubin, a prolific and intrepid Middle East scholar based in Tel Aviv, was a widely followed expert who published his analyses several times a week and wrote or edited 40 books, some of which he made available online for free after his diagnosis 17 months ago…

Barry Rubin 1950-2014
By Elder of Zion

Barry Rubin, a true scholar and wonderful man, passed away this morning after a battle with cancer. He was 64.

Barry was a staunch defender of Israel. His writings were accurate, clear and powerful. He didn't mince words.

Rubin was also the director of the GLORIA Center in Israel. Last year, I believe after his diagnosis, Rubin did the unthinkable - he placed 13 of his books on the website of the GLORIA Center to be freely downloaded…

On the Passing of Our Friend, Barry Rubin
By Brian of London

This morning a tremendous man and a true lover of Israel passed away. I counted Professor Barry Rubin as a personal friend and he was always a great fan of Israellycool and the audio show, Shire Network News, I used to host.

I first met Barry Rubin virtually through cyberspace. He was the serious interview subject on the largely satirical audio show I helped put together. He appeared on the show and was, himself, a big fan of our mix of frank discussion and humour. He said we were funny and that made all of us working on the show proud…

Barry Rubin: Conscience of the White City

By Roger L. Simon

I first knew Barry Rubin by his work. He wrote more cogently of the Middle East than almost anyone alive, maybe than anyone alive in the English language.

Some years ago, taking a flyer, I found his email and invited him to write for what was then a media company known as Pajamas, not PJ Media.  How lucky we were that he said yes and accepted a position as one of our columnists and our Middle East editor.  For the intervening years, this site became one of the most important places, one of the “go-to” stops, for the crisis in that part of the world that itself never stops…

[Read more...]

Farewell Barry
By Efraim Inbar

Prof. Barry Rubin, a dear friend and colleague, passed away on Monday after a battle with cancer. He was far too young.

Everybody interested in the field of contemporary Middle East studies knew of Barry Rubin. He was an incredibly prolific writer with a remarkably comprehensive understanding of this region. He authored at least 40 books, published by the most reputable publication houses, such as Cambridge, Yale and Harvard. I recall watching him type at lightning speed and could not believe my eyes. He had the whole text in his head and smoothly transformed it into an article or book without hesitation.Barry wrote about a variety of subjects and themes. His endless curiosity led him to write about everything from espionage in the Middle East during World War II (the unforgettable Istanbul Intrigues), American policies toward the Middle East, the history of the PLO, a biography of Arafat...

[Read more...]

To make a tax-deductible contribution in Barry Rubin's memory in order to continue his mission, click the donate button at the top right of this page or visit:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

In Memoriam: Barry Rubin

With deep sorrow, we announce the passing of Barry Rubin, husband, father, historian, political analyst, and mentor.

Professor Barry Rubin was founder of and served as director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya for nearly two decades. He was also columnist at the Jerusalem Post, Middle East editor and featured columnist at PJ Media, editor and publisher of The Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and editor of Turkish Studies. He received his Ph.D. from Georgetown University in 1978. He taught both in the United States and internationally, including American University, Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Bar-Ilan University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, and Monash University. He was a Fulbright, Council on Foreign Relations Fellow; a Washington Institute for Near East Policy fellow; and a U.S. Institute of Peace and Hebrew University Leonard Davis Center grantee.

Prof. Rubin authored and edited close to 100 books--three of which will be published posthumously--and tens of thousands of articles. His book Tragedy of the Middle East foresaw many of the processes that have gone on to dominate the politics of the region over the last three years. One of his other titles, The Truth About Syria, stands out as a shining example of the way that scholarship can be combined with moral clarity to produce a work of enormous value both to knowledge and to the advancement of human rights. Prof. Rubin’s books and articles are available at

In his 64 years, he worked tirelessly to defend and promote both U.S. and Israeli interests. He was also dedicated to the research and commemoration of his ancestry and those who perished in the Holocaust. In 2013, he published Children of Dolhinov, a historical account of the Jews of Dolhinov (today part of Belarus). He wrote, “If we don’t respect those who came before us, and who made our existence possible, how can we expect anyone to respect us?”

In addition to his professional and academic achievements, he was a loving father and husband. He is survived by wife Judith and his two children.

To make a tax-deductible contribution in his memory in order to continue his mission, visit: