A sculpture in an Israeli art museum of Ronald McDonald nailed to a cross has sparked outrage and violent protests among the country’s Arab Christians.
Hundreds of Christians in Israel are protesting and calling for the sculpture, titled “McJesus,” to be removed from the Haifa Museum of Art, according to The Associated Press.
Police told the AP that rioters threw a firebomb at the museum and crowds of protesters had to be dispersed using teargas and stun grenades last week.
Local church leaders took the issue to court Monday, asking a judge to order the sculpture be removed, along with other items the church deemed offensive.
Museum director Nissim Tal told the AP she was surprised by the backlash the museum received for featuring the sculpture, which is meant to bring awareness to and criticize society’s obsession with capitalism.
She said the sculpture had been on display for months without an incident.
News of the “McJesus” statue first circulated on social media.
So far, the museum has said it will not remove the artwork, citing freedom of expression. However, since the protests took place, the museum now hangs a curtain over the entrance to the exhibit where the sculpture is on display and posted a sign saying the art is not meant to offend anyone.
“This is the maximum that we can do,” 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 colorful pictures of flowers in the museum.”
He added that the museum “will be defending freedom of speech, freedom of art, and freedom of culture, and will not take it down.”
Christians in Israel make up a small percentage of the population.
“We need to understand that freedom of expression is interpreted in different ways in different societies,” Nassar, an adviser to church leaders, told the AP. “If this work was directed against non-Christians, the world would be turned upside down.”
The Finnish artist behind the “McJesus” sculpture, Jani Leinonen, also called for the piece to be removed, though for other reasons.
“I joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, that upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity,” Leinonen told the Jerusalem Post. “Israel overtly uses culture as a form of propaganda to whitewash or justify its regime of occupation, settler-colonialism, and apartheid over the Palestinian people. Therefore I do not wish to be part of this exhibition, and I asked the museum to take my artwork off the exhibition.”