January 18, 2019 10:50 am

Israeli museum to drop ‘McJesus’ sculpture after protests

WATCH: This McJesus sculpture on show in an Israeli museum in Haifa has remarkably managed, where countless others have failed, to unite many Palestinian supporters and Israelis.


HAIFA, Israel — An Israeli museum plans to withdraw a sculpture depicting the McDonald’s mascot as the crucified Jesus following protests that briefly united the country’s Christian minority, its populist culture minister and the pro-Palestinian artist.

The life-sized sculpture, which shows the Ronald McDonald clown on a cross, has been at the centre of an exhibition about consumerism and religion. Other pieces depict Jesus and the Virgin Mary as Ken and Barbie children’s dolls.

READ MORE: Israeli Christians outraged by ‘McJesus’ sculpture

Protests became violent on Friday. Police said they arrested one man on suspicion of assault and were searching for two others who threw firebombs at the Haifa Museum of Art.

Three police officers were hurt as dozens of protesters tried to forcibly enter the museum, police said. Panes of glass along its entrance were smashed. Protests continued on Saturday.

WATCH: An art exhibit in Israel featuring a crucified Ronald McDonald sparks protests by the country’s Arab Christian minority.

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“I object to this disgraceful sculpture,” said Nicola Abdo, a Haifa resident and protester. “As a Christian person … I take deep offence to this depiction of our symbols.”

The mayor of the Jewish-Arab city of Haifa said on Thursday the sculpture would be taken out of the exhibition following consultations with church leaders.

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“The sculpture will be removed and returned as soon as possible,” Einat Kalisch Rotem tweeted. “We regret the aggravation the Christian community experienced … and the physical injury and violence that surrounded it.”

She did not say when the sculpture would be removed, but it was originally due to be returned at the end of the month to the Finnish museum from which it came last year.

Christian Arabs, who make up around two per cent of the country’s mostly Jewish population, found a champion for their anger in Miri Regev, the culture minister whose censure of art deemed pro-Palestinian has made her a darling of the Israeli right.

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Citing the injury to religious sensitivities, Regev had threatened to cut state funds to the museum. Israel’s Justice Ministry slapped her down, arguing she had no such authority.

The McJesus sculptor, Jani Leinonen, from Finland, had also demanded that the exhibit be removed, as he was boycotting Israel in solidarity with the Palestinians.

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Others saw in Thursday’s decision a chance for reconciliation.

“The winner today is the people of Haifa,” said Wadie Abu Nassar, an adviser to local church leaders. “The removal of this sculpture is a reflection of our desire to coexist in the city.”

© 2019 Reuters

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