‘McJesus’ sculptor supports BDS, wants controversial statue removed from Haifa museum

The controversial art piece has sparked violent protests by Christian Arabs and a rebuke from a local  pastor.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Finnish artist who created a sculpture currently on display at the Haifa Museum of Art that has some of the city’s Christian population in an uproar wants it gone as much, if not more, than the protestors do.

Jani Leinonen sculpted “McJesus,” an image of Jesus on the cross painted to resemble the Ronald McDonald clown that symbolizes the iconic fast-food chain, as a critique of society’s total dependence on consumerism.

But on Friday, hundreds of Christian Arabs tried forcing their way into the museum and threw rocks at policemen guarding the structure, injuring three of them lightly.

One Arab Christian protestor told Walla! news that the government didn’t care to listen to them because they weren’t Jews.

“If they put up [a sculpture of] Hitler with a Torah scroll they would immediately respond,” he said.

The charge was not completely accurate, however, as Culture Minister Miri Regev had already sent the museum director a letter on Thursday supporting the demonstrators’ opinion.

“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 part.

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On Sunday, religious officials chimed in. In a Ha’aretz report, Rev. Archimandrite Agapious Abu Sa’ada of the Greek Melkite Catholic Archeparchy of Acre condemned “the injury to the holiest symbol of Christianity by an institution that is supposed to serve citizens of all religions.”

“What is suitable for Europe and the Christian population of Finland is not suitable for our community and cannot be met with understanding,” he said.

Leinonen himself is insisting that the museum remove his work, but for a different reason, he told The Jerusalem Post. A supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, he claimed in the interview that “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,” and he demanded that the curators remove his artwork.

However, a museum spokesperson said that the sculpture has been part of the Museum’s “Sacred Goods” exhibit since August, having been contractually borrowed from a Finnish gallery, the Post reported.