On August 17th 2013 the BBC World Service programme ‘Heart and Soul’ broadcast the first episode of a two part series called “The Talmud” by Rabbi Naftali Brawer. The programme itself is engaging and innocuous, but the photograph selected to illustrate it – together with its caption – is interesting.
The image shows two young religiously observant Jewish men studying by a window. At the bottom of the programme’s synopsis we find a caption:
“Picture: Young Jewish settlers study the Talmud, Credit: Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images”.
In the programme itself, Rabbi Brawer visits the Mir Yeshiva in the Beit Yisrael neighbourhood of Jerusalem, which lies west of the 1949 Armistice Line.
The picture – with its caption describing the young men as “settlers” and its depiction of people who, by their dress appear more likely to belong to the Religious Nationalist movement than an Orthodox yeshiva – was clearly not taken at the Mir Yeshiva, even though that location would seem to be the obvious subject matter for an illustrative photograph seeing as it features extensively in the programme. Alternatively an image of, say, a page of the Talmud or of Beit She’arim which the presenter also visits could have been used, but they are not.
So curiously, the picture must come from a location not featured in the programme – but where? A search for photographs taken by the same photographer turns up this image – reportedly taken in Beit El in the Binyamin area of Judea & Samaria, apparently before December 2011. Towards the top left, we see a back view of two young men by a window who appear to be the same people appearing in the photo selected by the BBC.
The yeshiva in Beit El does not feature at all in this BBC World Service programme, and neither do any other yeshivot in locations where the BBC would describe the residents as “settlers”, but the BBC chose to use a picture taken there anyway – for no apparently relevant reason.
It also chose to adopt the words “young Jewish settlers” from what appears to be the photo’s original caption – whilst dropping the location. It is of course difficult to believe that the BBC could have fact checked that description with regard to the specific students appearing in the image, taking into consideration that Beit El yeshiva has students hailing from a wide range of locations.
Now, even assuming that the BBC really could not come up with any other more relevant picture to illustrate the webpage of this programme, would not the caption “Yeshiva students study the Talmud” have been sufficient instead of the gratuitous and – thanks to the BBC’s politicisation of the term – loaded inclusion of the term “settler”?
The second part of the series will be broadcast on August 24th – details here.