Dear 'HaMevaser', Scrubbing Woman Leaders From Your Front Pages Is Never Okay
This week, Israel-based Orthodox Jewish newspaper HaMevaser published a Photoshopped image on its front page of the Sunday march against the attack on Charlie Hebdo — utterly erasing all female world leaders. It's more than a little unsettling to see male leaders cherry-picked to be on the front page of the newspaper — which, by the by, was covering a march whose message was "united in solidarity."
Neither President Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in Paris at the time, joined their colleagues from across the globe, (Later, the White House admitted this was a mistake: "We should have sent someone with a higher profile.") But for Israeli readers of HaMevaser, a myriad of European leaders also neglected to attend.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is noticeably absent, along with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thoning-Scmidt, Paris Mayor Ann Hidalgo, and Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The paper has a long-standing policy not to publish photos or even the names of women on its pages in accordance to Jewish Orthodox religious law barring this. Examining the front-page photo, it's easy to see a barrage of only men on the Paris street. The rally appears to have taken place a century ago, without any proof of female leadership on the world stage — de facto deleting any evidence of a progressive world that, yes, elects women as heads of state. (Albeit not enough.)
It's a stark comparison to the lineup that actually marched over the weekend, with Merkel standing next to French President Hollande.
This is not the first time an Orthodox Jewish paper has scrubbed out women from a published image. In 2011, Brooklyn-based newspaper Di Tzeitung removed then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from a photo of administration officials in the Situation Room watching the bin Laden raid.
Here's the original photo.
Like HaMevaser, this paper defended its choice to delete Clinton based on religious law in a statement to the Washington Post:
In accord with our religious beliefs, we do not publish photos of women, which in no way relegates them to a lower status. Publishing a newspaper is a big responsibility, and our policies are guided by a Rabbinical Board. Because of laws of modesty, we are not allowed to publish pictures of women, and we regret if this gives an impression of disparaging to women, which is certainly never our intention. We apologize if this was seen as offensive.
Eliminating world leaders based on their sex ensures readers' takeaway is that only men are active on the world stage, marginalizing the goal of this rally: unity. To borrow the words of Di Tzeitung, “Publishing a newspaper is a big responsibility." It is, and the purpose of the press is to accurately report on news events and maintain honesty to its readers. Either paper could have opted to not publish the photo if they deemed it to be so offensive.
The photo may violate the policies of Jewish law, but the papers' decisions to alter history through Photoshop disregard the laws of journalism and do a serious disservice to readers.
Possibly the best response was put together by Irish satire site Waterford Whispers — it Photoshopped the image to exclude all men.
Image: Getty Images (2)