This is one of the stranger things I've encountered in the field of journalism where photographs and photography is concerned.
Photo: Failed Messiah
Unless this is some sort of hoax, it appears that the orthodox Jewish newspaper Di Tzeitung has published the Pete Souza photograph of the White House situation room at the time of the mission to eliminate Osama bin Laden—but removed the two women in the scene from the picture. The paper ran the picture with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Counterterrorism Director Audrey Tomason gone.
The paper reportedly observes a religious proscription against depicting women.
It seems to me that if you can't publish pictures of women, then you can't publish pictures of women; okay. But to publish an altered photograph is wrong in several ways.
Read commentary at TIME.com's Newsfeed, which has links to other sites reporting the story.
UPDATE: Di Tzeitung has issued a statement of apology to the White House and the State Department that reads in part, "Our photo editor...in his haste, did not read the 'fine print' that accompanied the picture, forbidding any changes." The statement notes that "the Jewish laws of modesty are an expression of respect for women, not the opposite." (Thanks to juan for this.)
UPDATE #2: I've received several emails from practicing orthodox Jews who either say they have not heard of this practice or that it is, in their experience, not typical of orthodox practice.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Peter Klein: "The Yiddish-speaking ultra-Orthodox ('Haredi') Jewish sect for which this paper exists is very small. Most mainstream Orthodox Jews would find their interpretations of Jewish religious law quite extreme. As would more liberal Jews (such as myself) who make up the vast majority of American Jews.
"Now, to explain (though not to justify) what the paper did.... In Orthodox Judaism, one follows all 613 commandments in the Torah (the 'thou shalts' and 'thou shalt nots'). Over the centuries, a body of Oral Law evolved, via discussions among learned rabbis about how to best follow these commandments. This was later written down in the Talmud.
"The Oral Law includes a concept called 'Building fences around the Torah,' whereby in order to be sure that they always follow the original commandment, the community follows a stricter practice. This is how 'Thou shalt not seeth a kid in the milk of its mother' became the elaborate 'kosher' practice of separate dishes for meat and milk-based foods in traditional households, and a prohibition of eating one kind of food within several hours of the other.
"What Di Tzeitung did is an extreme example of the above. To be sure that they don't break a Biblical commandment about female modesty, they simply don't publish pictures of women, period. In this case, the temptation to publish a newsworthy picture that included women was too great, so they found a 'creative solution.'
"In their minds, they are simply following God's law, as interpreted by the rabbis they follow. The rest of us may roll our eyes, but that is irrelevant to them."