Barry Rubin, RIP

Barry-RubinBarry Rubin, one of the most astute, knowledgeable, and humanistic observers of the intersection between Israel and the rest of the world died yesterday from cancer, at age 64.  I cannot improve on Rick Moran’s words about him:

Barry Rubin was director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA), and a professor at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel. He was also editor of the journal Turkish Studies, and penned frequent columns at PJ Media where he served as Middle East Editor.

His “voice” rang true when he defended Israel, especially from western critics. But Rubin was no apologist for the Jewish state, being a frequent critic of government policies. He also brought clarity to the Palestinian issue, exposing the blindness of the Obama administration to the real goals of Palestinian diplomacy.

His criticism of Secretary of State Kerry (and his predecessor Hillary Clinton) was harsh, fact based, and relentless, exposing their naivete and stupidity time and time again. Few scholars had the depth of knowledge and understanding of the entire region – its history, its people its politics – and Dr. Rubin employed this understanding to show how dreadful American policy in the region had become.

His output was astonishing. Columns, blog posts, books, as well as editing GLORIA’s website.

Despite his prodigious knowledge and lucid writing, the establishment assiduously ignored Dr. Rubin.  He had the temerity to defend Israel at a time when it has become increasingly unpopular to do so (although he was never a slavish sycophant), and he hung out with a conservative coterie.  The establishment couldn’t forgive these “sins.”

My own contact with Barry took place in a series of emails over the years when this great man was kind enough to compliment my work and engage in conversations with me about Israel and the American political scene.  I was not the only beneficiary of this generosity.  Again, from Rick Moran:

One of the little known contributions Dr. Rubin made to the defense of Israel was his mentoring of students, bloggers, and writers. Dozens of men and women received the benefit of his wisdom. No one who worked with him could forget the largeness of spirit he demonstrated while sharing his thoughts and ideas.

Dr. Rubin’s death is a great loss at so many levels — to his family, to his close friends, to the intellectual world, and to those who had the pleasure of being on the receiving end of his great generosity of spirit.

Rest in Peace, Dr. Rubin.  You will be greatly missed.

Prayers and thoughts for Barry Rubin, please

I have long been singularly fortunate in that Barry Rubin periodically corresponds with me.  He is a light in the blogosphere:  informed, brilliant, objective, open-minded, decent, and kind.  Read any one of his posts about the Middle East, and you will learn more than you will learn in a year of reading the New York Times.  I always feel honored when I hear from him.

What I didn’t know is that Barry has been fighting cancer — at least, I assume it’s cancer, because he mentions chemotherapy in a recent post updating readers about the fact that he will be incommunicado for a while as his physicians work to drain fluid build-up from his longs:

i’m about to undergo an operation to attempt to drain the fluid from my lungs by inserting a tube. this will take 3-5 days and i will be in hospital. it is possible i will not be able to communicate during this time. they will then try to seal the lungs which if it succeeds will help me. we will then begin chemo and other therapies. the operation is said not be dangerous. please expect no correspondence or articles from me during this period. it is hoped that by next week i will be pretty normal and undergoing care. i have wonderful doctors. i hope and believe we will be together again in future. with all my gratitude for your being good readers and interested in my thoughts. i hope i have been helpful to you. please keep up the fight for what’s good and decent and right even when it costs us in personal and professional terms.

Please keep this lovely man in your thoughts and prayers.

Barry Rubin’s prediction for Egypt: Massive violence

When it comes to the Middle East, I’m hard-put to think of a more astute, knowledgeable observer than Barry Rubin.  In light of the Egyptian court ruling striking down large parts of the recent elections, and the military’s subsequent power move, he’s not sanguine about Egypt’s future:

The Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court has just invalidated the parliamentary election there. The parliament, 75 percent of whose members were Islamists, is being dissolved. The military junta has taken over total authority. The presidential election is still scheduled for a few dozen hours from now.

In short, everything is confused and everything is a mess. All calculations are thrown to the wind. What this appears to be is a new military coup. What is the underlying theme? The armed forces concluded that an Islamist takeover was so dangerous for Egypt and for its own interests that it is better to risk civil war, a bloodbath, and tremendous unpopularity than to remain passive and turn over power. I believe this decision was made very reluctantly and not out of some lust for power by the generals. They have decided that they had no choice.

Yes, it is under legal cover, but nobody is going to see it as a group of judges — appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak, remember — looking deep into the law books and coming up with a carefully reasoned decision based on precedent. In theory, this will be seen by every Islamist — whether Salafi or Muslim Brotherhood — and by most of the liberals — who feel closer to the Islamists than to the government — as if the 2011 revolution has just been reversed. In preparation, the army prepared a new regulation allowing itself arrest anyone.

Prediction: massive violence.

Read the rest here, especially because Rubin tempers that grim conclusion with some speculation about the weird silence with which the Islamists have greeted the events of the last 48 hours.

Is Ron Paul correct that the U.S. is at fault when it comes to Iran’s intransigent hatred for our country?

According to Barry Rubin, who has forgotten more about the Middle East than most people (including State Department employees) will know in a lifetime, Ron Paul is Wrong Paul when it comes to Iran.  First, what’s happened in the last decade is irrelevant, since Iran hatred long preceded that.  The real issue is whether the U.S. decision in 1953 to put the Shah in power was the trigger that deserved the animus that now comes our way.  Rubin, with access to key contemporary documents, says it is not.  Not only was it a rational and reasonable decision at the time, the mullahs wanted it:

What is especially interesting in retrospect is that one of the main supporters of the move were the Iranian Muslim clerics, including Ayatollah Kashani, the man who would be a role model for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. I saw how he and his colleagues met with U.S. officials and urged a coup, since they also feared a Communist regime. It is ironic for Islamists to complain about a U.S. policy that they actively backed at the time.

Read the whole thing, which succinctly summarizes decades of Iran policy. It’s fascinating.

And while you’re at it, you might want to check out Barry Rubin’s new book, which got a great review in the latest edition of Commentary Magazine:

Obama — enemy to Israel, and to peace and stability in the Middle East

I’ve never doubted Obama’s fundamental anti-Israel beliefs, nor have I ever thought he’s on a right, or even a sane, track in the Middle East. As much as anything, though, my feelings regarding Obama’s Israel/Middle East attitudes were predicated on a gut attitude resulting from his pre-presidency friendships and his execrable Cairo speech. Now, though, after almost three years of his presidency, the evidence is in, and Barry Rubin explains that my instincts (and yours too) are born out by the facts:

In a major address on U S. Middle East policy to the Brookings Institution, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta gave us a clear picture of the Obama Administration’s view of the region. When taken along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent speech on the same subject, we now know the following regarding Obama’s policy:

It is dangerously and absurdly wrong. This administration totally and completely, dangerously and disastrously for U.S. interests misunderstand the Middle East. They are 180 degrees off course, that is heading in the opposite direction of safety.

Despite the satisfactory state of relations on a purely military level, the Obama Administration is not a friend of Israel, even to the extent that it was arguably so in the first two years of this presidency.

It is now an enemy; it is on the other side.  Again, the issue is not mainly bilateral relations but the administration’s help and encouragement to those forces that are Israel’s biggest enemies, that want to rekindle war, and that are 100 percent against a two-state solution. And I don’t mean the Palestinian Authority, I mean the Islamists.

And the Obama Administration is also a strategic enemy of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Morocco, and Jordan. It is also a strategic enemy to the democratic opposition forces in Iran, Syria, Turkey, Tunisia, and Egypt.

Having analyzed and studied the Middle East for almost four decades I say none of this lightly. And these conclusions arise simply from watching what the administration says and does.

Read the rest here.