Friday, June 22, 2007

R.I.P. Zeev Schiff

Zeev Schiff, 74, Author and Dean of Israel Military Correspondents, Dies - New York Times

I knew Zeev for 23 years. I first met him at a meeting in Norway, when the late Marianne Heiberg and her colleagues at NUPI gathered a number of well-placed or well-informed players and observers of the Multinational Force in Lebanon for a retrospective assessment. NUPI convened the meeting while memories were still reasonably fresh, so the conference was quite memorable, as was Zeev specifically. The result was a very solid edited book, which is still in print.
I met Zeev sometimes at conferences, or at various intellectual cross-roads around the world. He was a gentlemen, with a admirable capacity for self-deprecation and a keen respect for the truth. He and I did not always agree, particularly when we discussed Israeli policy options in Lebanon, but I respected him and his work. He was a good man, a very decent person and an interlocutor with whom you might find lively disagreement but then go to dinner together and share a joke over good wine.
He was very connected to the Israeli military and intelligence, which gave his reportage special value, but he was also susceptible to the same misjudgments as his informants. He co-wrote several important books, including the seminal Israel's Lebanon War, which I reviewed many years ago in the Middle East Journal. I will find a copy of the review and post it. His book on the first Intifadah, which he co-authored with Ehud Yaari, was quite good and I also reviewed it. I learned about Israeli support for Islamists in 1986, during a recent visit to the West Bank and Jerusalem, but the first book to confirm that funding was the Intifadah volume, published in 1988.

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