Hundreds Pay Their Final Respects to Haaretz Reporter Ze'ev Schiff

Amir Oren
Amos Harel
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Amir Oren
Amos Harel

Hundreds of friends and family members paid their final respects to military commentator and Haaretz defense editor Ze'ev Schiff, who was laid to rest Wednesday at the Kiryat Shaul cemetery in Tel Aviv. He died Tuesday night in Tel Aviv at the age of 74.

To his many friends, Schiff was known as Wolfy. To his readers in Israel and the world, he was a brand name, a guarantee for reliable information and authoritative analysis. More than anything else, Schiff was the quintessential Israeli military correspondent.

Remembering him Tuesday night, former defense minister Moshe Arens said: "Not on the right or the left, because he was above political disputes, objective as only he knew how to be. Nor among the many writers and analysts and the Israeli press. As professional and sharp-eyed as they come, he was superior to them all. His articles were read by statesmen and politicians, generals and reservists, and they knew that he wrote the stark truth and how to listen to his views."

"He never dealt with 'stories,' but with problems. He wasn't too concerned with the headline but rather with the bottom line," Schiff's close friend and senior analyst of Arab affairs, Ehud Yaari, eulogized.

Yaari, who in 1984 co-authored a book on Israel's first Lebanon War with Schiff, said that Schiff wrote "truthful and corroborated words about the enemy and about us."

"You were always one, two or three steps ahead, applying your sharpened scalpel to reveal what the future had in store... You never were anybody's mail boy, and you never bent the truth so that it would fit any sort of doctrine," Yaari concluded.

Newly appointed Defense Minister Ehud Barak called Schiff "a true Israeli patriot, the epitome of a journalist wielding a sharpened pen, proud of the Israeli Defense Forces, of its commanders and troops."

Likud Chair Benjamin Netanyahu said: "Schiff wrote with distinct integrity and commitment to Israel's security. Each time we spoke, I came to appreciate his personal and professional decency, as well as his immense knowledge and pleasant manners," Netanyahu said.

Schiff's widow, Sarah, told the crowd: "I don't know what's going on here. Why must I bid Wolfy good-bye after all those years we spent together? We had been together for 60 years, since childhood to this day. It was a beautiful partnership that has produced a beautiful family, children and grandchildren... I will have good and beautiful memories. Maybe they will help me get over the loss."

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter told Israel Radio on Wednesday: "Ze`ev Schiff will be missed by us all. His name has been associated with the word 'defense' for dozens of years. I had the honor of meeting him, and he was a wonderful interlocutor."

Described by BBC World Affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds as "the most respected military analyst in Israel," Schiff wrote numerous books on Israeli defense issues including "A History of the Israeli Army," "Fedayeen," "Entebbe Rescue," "A Lexicon of the Israeli Army and Defense," "The Year of the Dove," and "La Guerre Israelo-Arabe."

Among the others who paid their respects were Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, Minister Isaac Herzog and former Mossad head Ephraim Halevi. Haaretz editor-in-chief David Landau and publisher Amos Schocken also attended the funeral, along with many other journalists and media figures.

The Arab media, which regarded Schiff with great esteem, reported on his passing at length Wednesday. "He passed away in Tel Aviv Tuesday, in a quite manner which is entirely uncharacteristic of the controversial and fascinating nature of his articles on military and defense issues," the Saudi owned news-site Elaph reported.

Schiff's books have been published in Israel, the United States, and France, and have been translated into several languages, including Arabic and Russian.

Schiff also contributed articles to Foreign Policy, National Interest, Middle East Journal, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post.

Schiff served as a military correspondent in Vietnam, the former Soviet Union, Cyprus and Ethiopia. He won a number of journalism prizes, including the Sokolov Journalism Prize in 1975 for his book "October Earthquake and the Yom Kippur War." "Intifada," which he co-authored with Ehud Ya'ari, became an international bestseller after being published in 1990.

Born in France in 1933, Schiff immigrated to Israel with his family in 1935. He served as an intelligence officer in the IDF, studied Middle East affairs and military history at Tel Aviv University, and joined the Haaretz staff in 1955.

He became a senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 1984. For many years, he was chairman of the Military Writers Association in Israel. He was also a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Schiff was also survived by his two sons, Eyal and Hadar.