‘Offensive’ McJesus statue will be removed from Israeli museum after violent protests
The divisive artwork of Ronald McDonald nailed to a cross, which sparked wide scale protests in Haifa, Israel, will be taken down, the city’s mayor promised. Her decision was slammed by human rights campaigners.
The controversial sculpture will be removed from the Haifa Museum of Art “in the coming days” and “returned as soon as possible,” the city’s mayor, Einat Kalisch-Rotem, said on Thursday. The decision was made after violent protests against the artwork erupted in the city.
Israel’s small Arab Christian community deemed the sculpture offensive and demanded it be taken down. Some of them tried to storm the museum, and hurled firebombs and threw stones at the building, police said.
Law enforcement used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the angry crowd. One man was arrested and three officers were injured during the scuffles. Police are searching for two people suspected of throwing firebombs.
Christian Palestinians protesting in front of the Haifa Museum to the sculpture “McJesus” by Finnish artist Jani Leinonen, depicting Ronald McDonalds clown on the cross. pic.twitter.com/7mZH0nq7Nz— The Wolf Report (@thewolfreports) January 12, 2019
Local Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches also requested the court to have ‘McJesus’ removed. Kalisch-Rotem met with the clergy earlier this week and said that she “understood the depths of the hurt that they are feeling.” The decision to remove the statue was made “in agreement” with the church officials.
The artwork itself was loaned from the Finnish Zetterberg Gallery last year and was due to be sent home at the end of January.
1. בסיכום עם ראשי הכנסיות, והיות וחוזה ההשאלה של הפסל מק'ישו מסתיים בימים אלה, היצירה תוסר ותוחזר בהקדם. שאר הפריטים יהיו תלויים בחדר סגור. pic.twitter.com/Cox4sKloFQ— עינת קליש רותם (@EINATkalisch) January 16, 2019
The life-size statue of a crucified Ronald McDonald was meant to symbolize the cult-like worship of capitalism. According to the museum’s director, Nissim Tal, it was featured for months without anyone complaining. The sculpture even led to some in-fighting between state officials. Culture Minister Miri Regev threatened to deprive the museum of state money if it failed to remove the artwork. The idea was quickly rebuffed by Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber, who said that Regev doesn’t have the legal means to withhold government funds due to “insults of religious feelings.”
Jani Leinonen, the Finnish artist behind ‘McJesus’, also demanded the statue to be removed “instantly,” but for a different reason. He supports the pro-Palestinian BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement and is against any of his works being exhibited in Israel.Also on rt.com ‘McJesus’ statue sparks riot at museum in Israel as protesters call for removal of ‘offensive’ art
Speaking on Thursday, Mayor Kalisch-Rotem said that she regrets “the distress” the divisive artwork has caused to the Christian community, as well as the violence it provoked.
Nissim Tal had earlier refused to take down the statue. He said that the museum won’t cave to public pressure and promised to defend freedom of speech and “freedom of art.”
Rotem’s move to get rid of the statue was slammed by a civil liberties group, the Association for Citizen Rights. The mayor’s decision is “a capitulation to violence” and a violation of “artistic freedom of expression.”
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