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Pinched a pic

To tout Jewish-Muslim coexistence, Israel steals photo from US

Foreign Ministry’s Arabic-language Twitter page repeatedly asked to take down the picture, which was swiped from a Missouri woman’s account without permission

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Maharat Rori Picker Neiss (left) takes a selfie with a friend in St. Charles, Missouri, on May 6, 2019. (Maharat Rori Picker Neiss/Courtesy)
Maharat Rori Picker Neiss (left) takes a selfie with a friend in St. Charles, Missouri, on May 6, 2019. (Maharat Rori Picker Neiss/Courtesy)

As part of a social media effort to hail the importance of coexistence and tolerance, Israel’s Foreign Ministry earlier this week stole a photograph of a religious Jewish woman and Muslim woman that was taken in the United States.

The photograph was shared on the Foreign Ministry’s Arabic-language Twitter account, along with the caption: “On the International Day for Tolerance. With an Islamic headscarf and a Jewish head covering, a Muslim and a Jew in a souvenir photo. How beautiful is coexistence and the spirit of tolerance.”

However, the picture was used without the permission of the Jewish photographer, who also appears in it, and without the approval of the Muslim woman featured in it — and without even informing the subjects that their images would be shared by the State of Israel to the nearly half a million followers of the Israel in Arabic account. The photograph was also shared by the Facebook page of the Israeli Embassy in Uzbekistan to its nearly 6,000 followers in September.

The tweet with the purloined picture was deleted on Thursday afternoon after The Times of Israel contacted the Foreign Ministry about the case, though it remained on the Facebook page of the Israeli Embassy in Uzbekistan as of publication.

The photograph was taken in St. Charles, Missouri, in 2019 by Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, executive director of the St. Louis Jewish Community Relations Council, and posted on her personal Twitter page.

When Picker Neiss saw that her photograph had been taken and used without her permission this week, she reached out to her local Israeli consulate, but received no response. (The Times of Israel requested and received permission from her to use the photograph in question for this story on condition we blur the face of the other woman in the photo.)

A screenshot of a since-deleted tweet featuring a stolen photograph that was shared by Israel’s Arabic-language Twitter account on November 16, 2021.

The Times of Israel contacted the Foreign Ministry for comment. A spokesperson said he was looking into the matter, but did not respond further.

Under Israeli law, it is illegal to use a photograph or any other creative work without permission, with a potential penalty of up to NIS 100,000 ($32,460).

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