Even the highest estimates – and there is plenty of conflicting opinion on the subject – put those belonging to ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) streams at about 10% of the total population of Israel.
Much of the foreign media, however, has a tendency to disproportionately feature the ultra-Orthodox in pictures used to illustrate articles about Israel, thus creating a misleading impression of the make-up of the country’s population. The BBC is no exception.
Take this “In Pictures” item from January 9th 2013 entitled “Storms sweep Middle East” for example. Four of the eleven pictures featured were taken in Israel – one in Tel Aviv, two in Jerusalem and one in the Golan Heights.
The first three pictures are credited to Reuters. Perhaps, one might think, the BBC pictures editor had no choice: maybe those were the only pictures available.
Well it just so happens that Reuters is running a similar feature on its own website and the first and third pictures used by the BBC also appear there. But alongside them are many pictures which the BBC elected not to use.
Images can evoke a range of emotional reactions from the viewer, one of which is identification. Identification with the subject of an image in turn promotes empathy. The decision by members of the media to disproportionately feature pictures of people who represent a minority group within Israeli society and whose lifestyle, dress and customs do not promote a sense of identification – and hence empathy – for the vast majority of viewers, is therefore very significant.
Once again, we see interesting editorial decisions from the BBC News website’s Pictures Editor Phil Coomes and/or his staff: decisions which contribute towards painting a misrepresentative picture of Israeli society.