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Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Paper Called Out For 'Disappearing' Merkel, Other Women From Paris Rally


German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) waves while taking part with French President Francois Hollande (center) in a rally in Paris on January 11.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) waves while taking part with French President Francois Hollande (center) in a rally in Paris on January 11.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish newspaper has evoked criticism for its tampering to edit Germany's chancellor and other female leaders out of a photograph from the recent Paris demonstration for unity.

The leaders were attending a massive display of French and international solidarity on January 11, following horrific attacks by Islamist radicals on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, French police, and a Jewish deli that killed 17 people.

Media commentators and readers on social media pounced on the ultra-Orthodox publication HaMevaser's bit of censorship after it was initially called out by Walla.

They have described the photoshopping -- to crop or wipe out images of Chancellor Angela Merkel, EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini, and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo standing alongside male counterparts from France, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Ukraine, among others -- as an "embarrassing" and even "stupid" move.

The image of the January 11 Paris unity rally as shown by ultra-Orthodox Jewish website HaMevaser

The image of the January 11 Paris unity rally as shown by ultra-Orthodox Jewish website HaMevaser

It is not unprecedented for an ultraconservative Jewish publication like HaMevaser -- which was founded by Knesset lawmaker Meir Porush -- to avoid showing women for reasons of "modesty."

A newspaper run by ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York called Di Tzeitung was chastened after it rubbed out then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from a White House situation-room photo from the moments around the U.S. mission to kill Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011. It later apologized.

And HaMevaser's editors might well have chosen a different photo from Paris, but for the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Twitter, commenter Federico Gnech noted it's commonplace for Haredi Jews to avoid photos of women:

But the excuse generally cited for such edits -- religiously inspired "modesty" on behalf of women -- is especially awkward in the current context. Western media are particularly sensitive to perceived religious divisions in the wake of the French terror attacks. And while vowing to better guard against extremist violence, France has rushed to emphasize its multicultural and egalitarian credentials.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz added its voice to the ranks of HaMevaser's critics:

Keeping women out of the public eye is nothing new in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish world....

[But] every so often, there is an incident that is so infuriating and shocking it deserves to be called out – like denying the fact that in the wider world, beyond the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, women do stand on the world stage and shape events.

That's the message sent by a carefully photoshopped and edited picture of Sunday’s solidarity march by world leaders in Paris following the murders at Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Hyper Cacher kosher market.

The photograph appeared in the ultra-Orthodox paper “HaMevaser” (The Announcer) – founded by United Torah Judaism's Meir Porush, a member of Knesset, no less – and transformed the line of world leaders, in which German Chancellor Angela Merkel was front and center, into a line of men.

A writer for Mediaite picked up on the story and detailed all of HaMevaser's redactions. They appeared to include: erasing Merkel completely from the front row of the image; rubbing out all of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo except her gloved hand; cropping out the EU's Mogherini completely; and blurring to indistinguishability the face of Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga.

A response emerged in the form of a meme on January 13:

-- Andy Heil

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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