This story is an update to this story, about a sculpture on display in Israel.
Last week I covered a statue on display in a museum in Haifa, Israel. The sculpture had been on display for a few months at the museum when it suddenly spawned outrage among Israel's minority Christian population. It appears that pictures of the exhibit shared on social media caused the sudden anger.
The sculpture, which depicts Ronald McDonald crucified in a manner and pose similar to Jesus, was part of an exhibit criticizing cult-like worship of capitalism. The sculpture, entitled "McJesus," is by Finnish artist Jani Leinonen.
Outraged Christians rioted outside the museum, culminating in a clash with police that resulted in stun grenades and tear gas being used on the angry mob.
At the time that I wrote last week, the museum's director, Nissim Tal, said that the sculpture would not be removed. He said that removing the piece would infringe on freedom of expression.
And that brings us to the unfortunate update to this story. Shortly after my post was published, it was revealed that the sculpture would in fact be taken down soon. The sculpture was already scheduled to be taken down and returned to the Zetterberg Gallery, the Finnish museum it was on loan from within a few weeks. According to the mayor of Haifa, Einat Kalisch-Rotem, the process of returning the sculpture will be expedited "in agreement with church leaders."
As I touched on in my earlier post, the artist, Jani Leinonen, was actually calling for the statue to be returned to Finland. His requests began before the violent riots, however, as his motivation was his recent aligning with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Speaking about his support for the BDS movement, Leinonen said, "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," he added.
While I am glad that the artist's wishes are being honored, and support why he asked for it to be removed, I am more than upset that another case of religious bullying was successful. Leinonen requested the return of the statue before the riots, and did not get anywhere. It was not until these Christians went nuts over a sculpture that the local government decided to censor the museum's exhibit and remove the piece.
Emboldening these religious zealots who get outraged at every perceived slight by kowtowing to their demands is going to set us further and further back. We need to stand firm against this kind of religious bullying and uphold the ideals of freedom of speech and expression. Islamists who get upset over cartoons, Christians who get upset over statues, Hindus who get upset over TV commercials... this is nonsense.
You can read my original post here.