Hundreds of Arab Christians protested on Friday, angered over the display of a crucified Ronald McDonald, the fictitious company mascot of the McDonald’s fast-food restaurant chain. The sculpture was created by Finnish artist Janei Leinonen as part of the Haifa Museum’s “Sacred Goods” exhibit and has been on display since August. A molotov cocktail incendiary device was thrown at the museum on Thursday. Three police officers were lightly wounded by rocks thrown at them by protestors.
גבר בן 32 נעצר ועוד ארבעה גברים עוכבו לחקירה בהפגנה מול מוזיאון חיפה, במחאה על תערוכה פוגענית ברגשות הציבור הנוצרי. המשטרה פיזרה את ההפגנה בכוח, תוך כדי שימוש ברימוני הלם. כמו כן, שלושה שוטרים נפצעו בראשם במהלך ההפגנה ופונו לקבלת טיפול רפואי @10elilevi @samiaah10 pic.twitter.com/1iO1BRjFfL
— חדשות עשר (@news10) January 11, 2019
One of the protesters complained that the government was slow to react to their concerns because they were from the Christian minority. “If they put up [a sculpture of] Hitler with a Torah scroll they would immediately respond,” he told the Walla news site.
The art exhibit features several other pieces featuring potentially offensive depictions of Jesus as well as pieces that may be offensive to observant Jews.
The pastor of Haifa’s Saint Elijah Cathedral (Mar Elias) condemned the exhibit in a statement on Saturday.
“We denounce the exhibition and the injury to the holiest symbol of Christianity by an institution that is supposed to serve citizens of all religions,” the Rev. Archimandrite Agapious Abu Sa’ada of the Greek Melkite Catholic Archeparchy of Acre told Haaretz. The Reverend noted that the artist was a devout Christian but the depiction was still unacceptable.
“What is suitable for Europe and the Christian population of Finland is not suitable for our community and cannot be met with understanding,” the reverend said, adding that he and several other priests met with the management of the museum and agreed that a screen would be placed around the work, blocking it from general view.
On Thursday, Culture Minister Miri Regev sent Haifa Museum director Nissim Tal a letter calling for the sculpture’s removal.
“Disrespect of religious symbols sacred to many worshipers in the world as an act of artistic protest is illegitimate and cannot serve as art at a cultural institution supported by state funds,” she wrote.
In response to the minister’s letter, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel sent a letter Friday to Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber, protesting her statement.
“The minister’s threat to withdraw government support for the museum is baseless,” the letter read. “The Budget Foundation Law does not include even the vaguest clause about prohibiting offensive content due to religious reasons.”
In the wake of the protest, the Haifa Museum Director Nissim Tal announced that a sign will be posted at the entrance to the exhibit warning visitors that some may find the content offensive.