A sculpture of Ronald McDonald nailed to a cross — a spoof of the crucifixion of Jesus — has sparked violent protests in Israel, with rioters hurling a firebomb at the museum. Hundreds of Christians calling for the removal of the sculpture, entitled “McJesus,” demonstrated at the museum in the northern city of Haifa last week.
Authorities dispersed the crowds with tear gas and stun grenades.
Church representatives brought their grievances to the district court on Monday (local time), demanding it order the removal of the exhibit’s most offensive items, including Barbie doll renditions of a bloodied Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
Museum director Nissim Tal said that he was shocked at the sudden uproar, especially because the exhibit — intended to criticise what many view as society’s cult-like worship of capitalism — had been on display for months.
It has also been shown in other countries without incident.
The protests appear to have been sparked by visitors sharing photos of the exhibit on social media.
Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev, who has been accused of censorship for pushing legislation mandating national “loyalty” in art, also called for the removal of the “disrespectful” artwork.
The museum has so far refused to remove the exhibit, saying that doing so would infringe on freedom of expression.
But following the protests it hung a curtain over the entrance to the exhibit and posted a sign saying the art was not intended to offend.
“This is the maximum that we can do,” Mr Tal said.
“If we take the art down, the next day we’ll have politicians demanding we take other things down and we’ll end up only with colourful pictures of flowers in the museum.”
The concession has done little to placate those who want the artwork removed.
A protester remained camped out in a tent at the museum on Monday with a sign reading “Respect religions”.
Jani Leinonen, the Finnish artist behind “McJesus,” has also asked that it be taken down — but for a different reason.
Mr Leinonen said he supported Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, or BDS, a Palestinian-led movement aimed at pressuring Israel to change its policies toward the Palestinians.
The group has made significant gains in recent years, persuading a number of foreign artists to cancel performances in Israel.
However, Mr Tal said the museum would not bow to religious or political pressure.
“We will be defending freedom of speech, freedom of art, and freedom of culture, and will not take it down,” he said.