Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Invitation: Rubin Center Launch & Symposium: “Regime Collapse and Sectarian War: Where Is the Middle East Headed?”

Dear Readers,

We are pleased to announce the renaming of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center in memory of the center’s founder, the late Prof. Barry Rubin.


You are cordially invited to:



The Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs

The late Prof. Barry Rubin

Official Launch & Symposium

“Regime Collapse and Sectarian War: Where Is the Middle East Headed?”


Click here to see the full program.


Sunday, March 15th 2015, at 9:30am

Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Israel


Please RSVP to info@rubincenter.org.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jonathan Spyer
Director, Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs

Rubin_IDC_Logo

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Barry Rubin’s Improbable Journey

By Martin Kramer
The late Prof. Barry Rubin
The late Prof. Barry Rubin
Today, February 3, marks one year since Barry Rubin, scholar and friend, lost his bout with an aggressive cancer. He was sixty-four. The many tributes published upon his passing celebrated him as a prolific and passionate advocate for his adopted country, Israel, and as a tireless scholar who generated a steady flow of writings and an astonishing array of initiatives: a think tank, several journals, and many conferences. His highly regarded expertise made him the go-to source on the Middle East for journalists, diplomats, and some Israeli public figures.
This was Barry Rubin, the finished product. Had you told me thirty-five years ago, when I first met him, that he would become not only “one of the great intellectual defenders of Israel,” but an Israeli, I would have dismissed you. Nothing would have seemed so improbable.
Barry grew up in northwest Washington to well-to-do parents who strived to assimilate. He later recalled having “no sense of my own history, coming from a family which had tried to obliterate its own past.” Barry had no Zionist upbringing whatsoever—no youth movement, no summer camp, no family trip to Israel. “When I attended one-day-a-week religious school at Washington’s premiere Reform synagogue,” he later wrote, “we were told that Jewish history began with the discovery of the New World. Hebrew was taught without any reference to the existence of the state of Israel.” (Personal experience would inspire the mature Barry to write a book-length critique of Jewish assimilation.)
Ron Radosh has noted that as a young student, Barry was “hard left—as left as they come.” Perhaps it was his youthful reaction to privilege. Barry’s father was a successful Washington property developer; his parents, Barry later wrote laconically, “changed their Thunderbirds every year or so [in the 1960s] and at some point, a few years later, would move into Mercedes.” Radosh tells of Barry’s enthusiasm for Castro’s Cuba, which he visited in 1975. (“You’ll love Cuba!” he told Radosh. “You’ll see how Castro is building a new socialist country right in our own backyard.”) But his radicalism extended to the Middle East. He published Marxist-inflected articles in the pro-Palestinian Journal of Palestine Studies and the far-left MERIP Reports. He eventurned up in Beirut in 1974, in the company of his Georgetown mentor, the Palestinian professor Hisham Sharabi, whom Barry candidly described later as “one of the teachers who most influenced me.” “It is no secret,” he wrote in a 1977 letter to COMMENTARY, “that when I was young I was a leftist and anti-Zionist.”
By the time I met Barry in 1979, this was only a few years behind him. But he had already learned “what it’s like to believe in the totalitarian Left, to be misused and disillusioned, to go through difficult internal struggles, and finally to emerge from this dark period. Many of our finest intellectuals and journalists have had similar experiences.” The newly liberated Barry Rubin was about to forge a new persona as a serious researcher.
Walter Laqueur, the historian and author, had a major influence on Barry in the late 1970s, guiding him to a deeper understanding of the perils of the totalitarian mindset and serving as his model of a contemporary historian. Laqueur had closely dissected the vile ideological excesses of 20th-century Europe, from Nazism to Stalinism. He had written widely on the Holocaust and the Cold War, and had also authored a masterly history of Zionism. Barry’s later work showed the influence of Laqueur’s research agenda, his approachable prose, and his method of scholarly entrepreneurship. “He also taught me,” wrote Barry, “that being prolific is not a sin.” In a few cases they collaborated, and one of their joint projects, Barry’s revision and expansion of Laqueur’s Israel-Arab Reader, seems on track to stay in print forever.
According to Laqueur, he tried to dissuade Barry from specializing in the Middle East. But the unsettled region excited Barry’s own restless curiosity. Had he stayed on the left, and especially had he been willing to defame Israel, he would have been assured an academic position in the United States. Many radical Jewish academics did just that, and made comfortable careers in Middle Eastern studies. But Barry had progressed, and it left him unemployable. His only interview for a teaching position “was interrupted by one professor screaming at me, ‘How could you ever possibly represent the narrative of the Palestinian people?’ To which I responded that obviously, I didn’t think I was supposed to represent it, merely teach about it…. I think the problem was my last name.” Barry later wrote this about my own indictment of Middle Eastern studies,Ivory Towers on Sand: “When I first read it, I joked to Martin that it was my life story.”
Still, when Barry moved to Israel, in the early 1990s, I was surprised. It wasn’t as though Israel beckoned to him with open arms. Ironically, in Israel, too, Barry’s prospects of finding an academic position were slim: he hadn’t come up through the Israeli system, so he didn’t have a patron. For some years, he moved around Israeli academe in adjunct or research positions, and he did a long stretch at the Begin-Sadat Center (BESA) at Bar-Ilan University. It is to the credit of the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya that it ultimately offered him a proper academic appointment.
Barry became best known not for his academic titles, but for his many book titles. The number of these books that appeared under the imprint of first-tier university presses exceeded the production of just about any Israeli academic. Oxford University Press published four of his books: Paved with Good Intentions: The American Experience and Iran; Secrets of State: The State Department and the Struggle over U.S. Foreign Policy; Hating America; and Yasir Arafat: A Political Biography. Harvard University Press published two: Revolution Until Victory? The Politics and History of the PLOand The Transformation of Palestinian Politics: From Revolution to State-building.Yale University Press published two: Israel: An Introduction and, most recently,Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Syracuse University Press issued The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict, and Cambridge University Press published The Tragedy of the Middle East. When Barry wrote in a more journalistic style, he placed those books with commercial presses. My personal favorite is hisIstanbul Intrigues, a historical study set in the Second World War that reads like a thriller.
At a memorial event for Barry held in Washington, Judith Colp Rubin—his devoted wife and occasional co-author—said that Barry would sometimes wonder aloud whether anyone was reading his books. I’m sure he carefully monitored the sales of all his books, and it’s sad to think that they disappointed him. But as a rule, books on the Middle East don’t find large audiences, unless publication neatly coincides with a crisis to which a book is immediately relevant. The closest Barry came was his 1980 book on Iran, Paved with Good Intentions (also the only book by him that I ever reviewed), which appeared in the midst of the Iran hostage crisis. It was widely and favorably reviewed (most prominently by Daniel Pipes in the New York Times Book Review), and it remains his most-cited work (so says Google Scholar).
But Barry was usually too prescient to get the timing right: his books often appearedbefore they became relevant. So it was with his study of Arab liberals, The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East, which preceded the “Arab Spring” by five years. No book came closer to predicting the explosions that eventually rocked the region. “If a large group in the Arab world,” Barry wrote, “whether a majority or sizeable minority, will someday speak and struggle for democracy, the views then expressed could confound all the public statements made in the last half-century about what people in Arab societies think.” Another book, The Truth About Syria, preceded the country’s breakup by three years. “With its mix of competing religious and ethnic groups,” Barry wrote in that book’s short description, “[Syria] is a 72,000-square-mile time bomb waiting to go off.” Contrary to other expert expectations, it did. Barry reached a broader audience through his journalism and blogging, and especially his long-running column in the Jerusalem Post. But he saw his fifteen books as his greater legacy, and one of his last projects was to make all but the newest pair freely available on the web. For students and younger scholars looking for a model of meticulous analysis combined with passionate prose, Barry Rubin’s virtual shelf is an excellent place to start. (It is maintained by the institute he founded, and which is soon to bear his name.)
Barry regarded his Tragedy of the Middle East as the book that best encapsulated his own view of the region. For Barry, the “tragedy” wasn’t simply the massive dysfunction of the region’s politics, but the compounding denial or deflection of blame, which made change nigh impossible. He came to his conclusions not by extensive travel (he traveled little in the Middle East, with the exception of Turkey), or by exhaustive reading (although he was very well read). Barry was informed by a vast network of Middle Easterners who knew they could share their opinions with him in total confidence. “Every single point you will read in this book,” he wrote in The Tragedy of the Middle East,
has been made a multitude of a thousand times in private conversation by Arabs of every description and location throughout the Middle East. Yet this hidden mountain of truth is invisible in public and ineffective in shaping the life of the nation.
“What you see is only a small portion of what goes on behind the scenes,” he insisted. Barry relied instead on his
contacts with people all over the region, sometimes people whose lives would be in danger if it were known they were talking to me…. As an Israeli, I often find it’s much easier to talk with Turks, Iranians and Arabs because we are on the same page—especially in private—about understanding the reality of the region compared to the fantasies often held in Western academic, media and governmental circles.
For Barry, the regimes of the Middle East were so many Cubas, deceptively concealing oppression behind a facade of revolution, and seducing gullible Westerners with lies. Why could others not see the “hidden mountain of truth” that seemed so obvious to him? They subscribed to those same radical shibboleths he himself had abandoned. The worst offenders were the denizens of Middle Eastern studies. “I cannot think of a single book of value on any subject regarding the Middle East produced by these hundreds of tenured radicals,” Barry once opined. It is a harsh verdict, to be sure, but it has the ring of truth.
Over the last decade, Barry reacquainted himself with America. Much of what he saw disturbed him. During a sabbatical stretch spent in the Washington area with Judy and the children, he saw how the educational curriculum had been emptied of any pride in America’s great achievements. To Barry’s mind, Barack Obama personified this abandonment of the American ethos, and in his posthumously published jeremiad against the left, Silent Revolution: How the Left Rose to Political Power and Cultural Dominance, he staked out his position clearly.
Yet he took heart from everyday Americans, such as the Civil War reenactors whose ranks he enthusiastically joined (on the Union side). Barry would go off almost annually to live for several days in tents with these history buffs—small contractors, office and construction workers, mechanics—and there he rediscovered the spirit of America that he so admired. They must have wondered at this eccentric man, and no more so than when Israel’s then-ambassador, Michael Oren, visited Gettysburg with an entourage for the 150th anniversary of the battle, and suddenly recognized and embraced a grizzled Union soldier. It was Barry in authentic uniform and kit, attending his very last reenactment.
Barry’s personal friendship, once given, was generous and enduring, and his love for Israel was unconditional. Born and raised in a cynical city at a troubled time, he embarked on a quest for a cause worthy of his fierce loyalty, and for people who would love him for who and what he was. After much trial and error, he found his place amidst his ancestral people, his true friends, and his adoring family. “I think it is likely that I will never leave Israel again,” he wrote to me during his illness, “but then with a country we love so much that’s not so bad. I am glad to have participated with you and so many others in trying to restore and preserve our nation, the miracle that we have made and has been given to us—with all of its flaws—after so many centuries of yearning.” Barry Rubin’s own improbable journey home was one of the more amazing small miracles of which Israel is the sum.


Martin Kramer is President of Shalem College. An authority on contemporary Islam and Arab politics, Kramer earned his undergraduate and doctoral degrees in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University. He is former Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University. Kramer has taught as a visiting professor at Brandeis University, the University of Chicago, Cornell University, Georgetown University, and The Johns Hopkins University (SAIS). He has served as a visiting fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Harvard University's Olin Institute for Strategic Studies.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Make Your Tax-Deductible Donation to Continue Barry Rubin's Work Before the End of the Year

The late Barry Rubin and wife Judith Colp Rubin
As the one-year anniversary of the death of my husband, Professor Barry Rubin, approaches, I am reaching out to you, his loyal readers, to help continue his important work.

Barry was one of the most prolific Middle East scholars of our time. He believed strongly in fighting for the security of America and Israel and worked tirelessly for this cause, literally up to his death. Even while hooked up to an IV dispensing chemo, Barry was dictating his famous Rubin Report to his assistant. He also finished three books, which were published posthumously: Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Yale, 2014, co-authored with Wolfgang G. Schwanitz), Silent Revolution: How the Left Rose to Political Power and Cultural Dominance (Harper Collins, 2014), and The Military History of the Modern Middle East (Routledge, 2015).

I know Barry would be proud as to how GLORIA, the research institute he founded at the Interdisciplinary Center and which I always referred to as the “other woman in his life,” continues to thrive.

The  Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center is now under the directorship of Dr. Jonathan Spyer--Barry’s longtime deputy and hand-picked successor--who has reported from across the region, including several trips to war-torn Syria. Dr. Spyer is recognized as one of the world’s leading Middle East analysts, appearing on and writing for major media outlets as well as doing speaking events worldwide.

The Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA), which Barry pioneered in 1997 as the first online Middle East journal, maintains its high level of scholarship, with a circulation of over 25,000. In addition, GLORIA continues to publish Turkish Studies, founded by Barry and listed in the prestigious Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI). Thirteen of Barry’s books are available now for free on the GLORIA website, including The Arab States and the Palestine ConflictThe Truth About Syria, and more.

In addition to these projects, Barry’s longtime dream of helping develop the next generation of Middle East scholars has become a reality. In October, Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi became the first recipient of the Rubin Fellowship. Al-Tamimi has already emerged as one of the world’s leading experts on the Islamic State (IS), recently testifying before the British parliament on the subject.


As Barry’s widow and co-author, I ask for your help in ensuring the GLORIA Center continues these ongoing activities. Funds are especially needed to expand the Rubin Fellowship. Please consider making a donation in Barry’s memory and for the values for which he dedicated his life.  Click here to make your tax-deductible donation before the end of the year from the United States, the UK, or Israel.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Help GLORIA to Continue Prof. Barry Rubin’s Work

The late Barry Rubin and wife Judith Colp Rubin
As the one-year anniversary of the death of my husband, Professor Barry Rubin, approaches, I am reaching out to you, his loyal readers, to help continue his important work.

Barry was one of the most prolific Middle East scholars of our time. He believed strongly in fighting for the security of America and Israel and worked tirelessly for this cause, literally up to his death. Even while hooked up to an IV dispensing chemo, Barry was dictating his famous Rubin Report to his assistant. He also finished three books, which were published posthumously: Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Yale, 2014, co-authored with Wolfgang G. Schwanitz), Silent Revolution: How the Left Rose to Political Power and Cultural Dominance (Harper Collins, 2014), and The Military History of the Modern Middle East (Routledge, 2015).

I know Barry would be proud as to how GLORIA, the research institute he founded at the Interdisciplinary Center and which I always referred to as the “other woman in his life,” continues to thrive.

The  Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center is now under the directorship of Dr. Jonathan Spyer--Barry’s longtime deputy and hand-picked successor--who has reported from across the region, including several trips to war-torn Syria. Dr. Spyer is recognized as one of the world’s leading Middle East analysts, appearing on and writing for major media outlets as well as doing speaking events worldwide.

The Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA), which Barry pioneered in 1997 as the first online Middle East journal, maintains its high level of scholarship, with a circulation of over 25,000. In addition, GLORIA continues to publish Turkish Studies, founded by Barry and listed in the prestigious Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI). Thirteen of Barry’s books are available now for free on the GLORIA website, including The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict, The Truth About Syria, and more.

In addition to these projects, Barry’s longtime dream of helping develop the next generation of Middle East scholars has become a reality. In October, Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi became the first recipient of the Rubin Fellowship. Al-Tamimi has already emerged as one of the world’s leading experts on the Islamic State (IS), recently testifying before the British parliament on the subject.


As Barry’s widow and co-author, I ask for your help in ensuring the GLORIA Center continues these ongoing activities. Funds are especially needed to expand the Rubin Fellowship. Please consider making a donation in Barry’s memory and for the values for which he dedicated his life.  Make your tax-deductible donation today from the United States, the UK, or Israel.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Book Review: Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East


“The enemy of your enemy is your friend,” wrote the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, al-Hajj Amin al-Husaini, about his reverence for Nazi Germany that had fought his enemies, the (British) colonialists and the Zionists. While this may have been an understatement, it is common knowledge that the Palestinian Arab leader ruined his reputation by collaborating with the Nazis. The exact nature and extent of his collaboration and the solidity of its ideological foundations, however, were not fully explored until the publication of this study. It is to the credit of these two fine scholars, the late Israeli historian Barry Rubin and his colleague Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, that they discovered documentary proof in German, Yugoslav, Israeli, British and Russian archives of how the Grand Mufti made maximal efforts to provide the Nazis—who were notoriously short of allies—with as much assistance as he could.

Goebbels and Himmler were grateful to the Grand Mufti for his support. With his usual self-gratulatory tone, Goebbels wrote in his diary that al-Husaini was “intelligent and had good judgment.” With the help of the Mufti, the Nazis hoped that they could win the support of four hundred million Muslims. As late as May, 8, 1944, Himmler gave the Mufti an entire afternoon of his precious time. During this meeting the two men discussed horses, Arabic poetry and the achievements of the Muslim units that the Mufti had helped enlist and which fought for the Third Reich. These included the Hanzar (Khanjar) division which “had participated in the murder of thousands of Bosnian Jews, Christian Serbs and Roma (“Gypsies”).”...

Professor Johannes Houwink ten Cate, co-author of “In het puin van het getto: het concentratiekamp Warschau,” Jewish Political Studies Review 25(Fall 2013)3-4, 26 November 2014.



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Barry Rubin and Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, Nazis, Islamists and the Making of the Modern Middle East, New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2014, xiii plus 340 pp.

Reviewed by Johannes Houwink Ten Cate

“The enemy of your enemy is your friend,” wrote the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, al-Hajj Amin al-Husaini, about his reverence for Nazi Germany that had fought his enemies, the (British) colonialists and the Zionists. While this may have been an understatement, it is common knowledge that the Palestinian Arab leader ruined his reputation by collaborating with the Nazis. The exact nature and extent of his collaboration and the solidity of its ideological foundations, however, were not fully explored until the publication of this study. It is to the credit of these two fine scholars, the late Israeli historian Barry Rubin and his colleague Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, that they discovered documentary proof in German, Yugoslav, Israeli, British and Russian archives of how the Grand Mufti made maximal efforts to provide the Nazis—who were notoriously short of allies—with as much assistance as he could.

Goebbels and Himmler were grateful to the Grand Mufti for his support. With his usual self-gratulatory tone, Goebbels wrote in his diary that al-Husseini was “intelligent and had good judgment.” With the help of the Mufti, the Nazis hoped that they could win the support of four hundred million Muslims. As late as May, 8, 1944, Himmler gave the Mufti an entire afternoon of his precious time. During this meeting the two men discussed horses, Arabic poetry and the achievements of the Muslim units that the Mufti had helped enlist and which fought for the Third Reich. These included the Hanzar (Khanjar) division which “had participated in the murder of thousands of Bosnian Jews, Christian Serbs and Roma (“Gypsies”).”

After the defeat of the Third Reich, al-Husseini wanted to persuade the world that he had collaborated out of opportunistic motives, essentially because other Middle Eastern leaders accommodated the British and French colonial powers, and Nazi Germany fought against those countries. During the war, however, and especially before Nazi audiences, al-Husseini quoted the Quran as proof that the Jews were terrorists, the bitterest enemies of the Muslims, and haters of Muhammad. Second on his list of worst enemies were the British. The Mufti added that he did his utmost to convince Muslims to join the Waffen-SS, the elite army of Nazi Germany. Thousands followed the call of the Mufti, although the contingent of Dutchmen outnumbered the Muslims among the foreign volunteers in the SS. According to the Mufti, Nazi Germany was the natural ally of the Muslims. He added that Germany was fighting against “World Jewry,” England and Communism which oppressed forty million Muslims and wanted to destroy Islam. However, there was much more to his collaboration. According to the Mufti, the most important feature of their alliance was the fact that Nazism and Islamism shared a common ideological basis.

The title of this seminal book, Nazis, Islamists and the Making of the Modern Middle East is appropriate because Rubin and Schwanitz document these ideological similarities. Indeed, Rubin and Schwanitz not only have written a study of the collaboration of the Mufti with Nazi Germany but also a study of the “making of the modern Middle East.” Both Islam and Nazism preached the necessity of a community living in a single state under a single, all-powerful leader [i.e., Das F├╝hrer Prinzip]. Furthermore, redemptive anti-Semitism was central to the worldview of the Nazi religion. Both Islam and Nazism glorified armed conflict and martyrdom as well as the notion of the common good (as opposed to individual liberty), the family, motherhood, physical labor and hatred of Jews. According to the Mufti, an Allied victory would mean the triumph of the Jews and a disaster for Muslims and Islam. If Germany and Islam would win the war, the Arabs would be united under their new leader, namely the Grand Mufti, and the Jews would be destroyed. Despite the setback of the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, Haj Amin al-Husseini remained the historic Palestinian Arab leader until Yasser Arafat succeeded him in 1968.

Rubin and Schwanitz have produced an extremely well-researched and documented book, both on the Mufti and on the common ideological ground shared by Nazi doctrine and political Islam in its radical form. However, some of the authors’ assertions are not entirely convincing. Along with Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, they state that the Mufti visited Nazi death camps. Nazi leaders usually did not show these camps to foreign sympathizers. They also note that the Mufti supported an “accelerated policy of genocide that the Axis’ partner intended to spread to the Middle East” (160). Had the Nazis been victorious in the Middle East, it is plausible that in planning the most universal of genocides (to paraphrase Professor Yehuda Bauer), they would have murdered the Jews there as well, since that was their policy toward all Jews, even in territories that they had not yet conquered. However, it is not likely that Hitler and his henchmen needed the support of the Mufti in making their genocidal decision to kill the Jews. In their discussion of the role of Haj Amin in the decision-making process of implementing the Holocaust, Rubin and Schwanitz are skating on thin ice. They repeat the common error of over-estimating the importance of the Wannsee Conference (20 January 1942). In fact, 1,100,000 million Jews had perished prior to that meeting. In addition, they appear to have ignored much of the recent scholarship on this decision-making process, particularly the works of Christopher R. Browning on the origins of the Final Solution.

In any case, the above is but a minor criticism. The main point is that Rubin and Schwanitz have provided a work based upon excellent original research and have produced a well-written and seminal book on the collaborationist policies of the Grand Mufti, who strove to become the most important Arab leader of his time. It is always important to remember that it was the Mufti himself who emphasized the ideological common ground of Nazism and radical political Islamism. Rubin and Schwanitz have demonstrated its continuity.


Johannes Houwink ten Cate is Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.