Barry Rubin, one of the most important, indefatigable, and prolific commentators on Middle East politics, international affairs, and world history – often touching on Jewish topics and Zionism – passed away on Monday morning after falling into a coma in his 18-month battle with cancer.
Prof. Rubin was the director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya for nearly two decades and a long-time columnist for The Jerusalem Post. He also was the Middle East editor and featured columnist at PJ Media, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and editor of the Turkish Studies Journal.
American-born Rubin, a former Fulbright and Council on Foreign Relations fellow, received his Ph.D from Georgetown University in 1978 and taught both at major Israeli and American Universities.
Most of his commentary was published on his widely read personal blog, The Rubin Report, a treasure trove of insight for thousands of followers. Moreover, Rubin authored and edited numerous books and thousands of articles.
Upon being diagnosed with cancer in 2012, Rubin wrote:
“People always asked me why I wrote so much and so intensively. I never told them one of the real reasons: I always expected my life would be limited. My grandfathers died, respectively, at 42 and 44, both of things that could have been cured today. My father died of a heart attack at 62, and his life probably could have been extended many years today by all the new tests and drugs available. But I felt that once I passed that birthday, less than a year ago, I might be living on borrowed time.”
Rubin was a strenuous defender of Jews, Israel, and US interests and an intellectual, who probably would not be comfortable with the label, considering that he viewed modern day elite and the mainstream media with great suspicion.
Rubin did not see a near-term solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, believing Jews should defend themselves. Anti-Semitism was "at the highest point in the West and the world generally since 1945," he wrote in 2010, believing that the West is in denial about this reality. He saw revolutionary Islamism as the current driving force behind this hatred.
“Let us try to preserve as much as possible of the rapidly disappearing Jewish people. And if you want to boycott someone, why not start with those who insist on remaining our enemies and who would like to murder us?” he said.
Rubin was extremely gifted in analyzing political events as they happened, giving them meaning and foreseeing developments before they played out.
For example, he saw early on that the Turkish government, led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist-AK Party was no friend of Israel or the West.
In a post titled, “Turkish Regime Changes Sides, West Avert Eyes,” he wrote:
“The foolish think that the breakdown is due to the recent Gaza flotilla crisis. The merely naive attribute the collapse to the December 2008-January 2009 Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip. Such conclusions are totally misleading. It was already clear—and in private every Israeli expert dealing seriously with Turkey said so—well over two years ago.”
On the “Arab Spring,” he was one of the first to say that what was happening was not going to lead to true democracy in the region, but to an Islamist rise to power.
Writing weeks after the Egyptian revolution erupted in January 2011, he foresaw that the Muslim Brotherhood were playing a more important role than what the media was letting on:
“Without stinting the courage and efforts of the urban, middle-class, young, Facebook crowd, the Muslim Brotherhood had more to do with this event than Western observers realize. It was in close touch with the Facebook crowd and knew what was going on at every moment. It was not caught by surprise but simply held back to avoid committing itself to a devastating defeat that would end in harsh repression.”
A late initiative of his was to put free editions of some of his books online on the Gloria Center website. Some of Rubin’s books were:Israel: An Introduction, Yasir Arafat: A Political Biography, and Revolution Until Victory?: The Politics and History of the PLO.
His forthcoming book, Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East, deals with the relationship forged during the 1930s and 40s between Nazi leaders, Arab nationalists, and Muslim religious figures.
Rubin also wrote about his ancestry and those who perished in the Holocaust. In 2013, he published Children of Dolhinov, an account of the Jews of Dolhinov, which today is part of Belarus.
“For 2000 years my ancestors dreamed of returning to their homeland and reestablishing their sovereignty. I have had the privilege of living that dream. How amazing is that?”
Writing from his hospital bed in 2012, he wrote:
“Thanks to our Creator for our lives and thanks to our Creator for the chances we are given--often more than we merit--to transcend those lives by good deeds, integrity, solidarity with those who stand for the just and the free, and love for our fellows.”
He is survived by his wife Judith Colp Rubin and their two children.
The funeral will take place on Tuesday at 11:00AM at the Kiryat Shaul Cemetery in Tel Aviv. Shiva will be held at the Rubin family home: 16 Haim Ve-Elisha St. Apt. 2, Tel Aviv.