Ed Blanche, senior Arab Weekly writer, passes away

Blanche was a brilliant deskman as well as a consummate reporter.
Sunday 20/01/2019
Veteran journalist and senior contributor to The Arab Weekly Ed Blanche. (Tamara Blanche)
Veteran journalist and senior contributor to The Arab Weekly Ed Blanche. (Tamara Blanche)

BEIRUT - Ed Blanche, who died January 13 at the age of 76, worked right up to the end, filing for international magazines and websites on matters of defence and the Middle East. Blanche was a valued senior contributor to The Arab Weekly, a mainstay of his freelance career after he retired from the Associated Press (AP) in 1996.

“His passing is a great loss to the newspaper as it is to his family and friends,” said Al Arab Publishing House Chairman Haitham El-Zobaidi and The Arab Weekly Editor-in-Chief Oussama Romdhani in a joint message to Blanche’s family.

A native of the Scottish town of Coldstream, Blanche began his career with the Western Daily Press in Bristol, England. He joined the AP in London in 1967 and immediately made his mark, covering the Six-Day War in the Middle East within months of his hiring.

By the time he left the AP, Blanche had reported from Northern Ireland, the Far East, the Middle East and many points in between. He reported major international stories, including the 1982 invasion of Lebanon by Israel, the Iran-Iraq war and the kidnapping of colleagues in Beirut.

“My fondest memories are of Ed’s experiences in Northern Ireland where, as a Brit attached to an American news outfit, he was allowed far more scope for meeting ‘undesirable’ contacts on the Republican side than Brits working for, for example, the BBC,” said Tim Llewellyn, a former BBC Middle East correspondent.

“Ed made some dangerous friends, one of his specialities. It made his copy a lot more sensible and impartial than many others.’”

Blanche was a brilliant desk man as well as a consummate reporter.

“Ed was my first editor as a cub reporter with the AP,” Julie Flint remembered. “He was stunningly good looking, a bull on the rugby field and no mean guitar player but it quickly became apparent that he was, above all, profoundly serious, a brilliant agency reporter in the glory days of agency journalism. He was always tough but never rough.”

After 10 years in Cyprus as hostage-taking scarred Lebanon, Blanche returned to Beirut in 1996, initially to relaunch the Daily Star and then to carve a niche for himself writing for specialist magazines, including Jane’s group, in the military, strategic and security fields.

“I remember being rather awed and a little envious at his obvious mastery of these sometimes rather arcane subjects and the cogency and clarity of his arguments,” said David Hirst, the Guardian’s longtime Middle East correspondent.

“Ed not behind a keyboard or screen or without a phone in his ear was Neptune without his trident,” said Llewellyn. “His death leaves a wide gulch in real journalism. He had the admiration of his peers, which is what keeps newsmen warm long after the ‘herograms’ have faded.”

Ed Blanche is survived by his  wife, Mona Ziadeh, and his three children, Tamara, Jay and Lee.