Israel museum removes sculpture depicting Ronald McDonald as Jesus after violent protests

‘McJesus’ taken off display after furious Christian protesters attempt to firebomb building

Tom Barnes
Thursday 17 January 2019 16:51 GMT
McJesus, by Finish artist Jani Leinonen, features a depiction of fast food mascot Ronald McDonald on a crucifix
McJesus, by Finish artist Jani Leinonen, features a depiction of fast food mascot Ronald McDonald on a crucifix

A museum in Israel will remove an artwork depicting Ronald McDonald as the crucified Jesus after it sparked violent clashes between police and members of the country’s Arab Christian minority.

The life-sized sculpture of fast food chain McDonald’s clown mascot on a cross, created by Finnish artist Jani Leinonen, was due to go on display in the city of Haifa for several months.

However, the piece sparked protests, which became violent on Friday, when three police officers were injured as dozens of demonstrators tried to force their way into the Haifa Museum of Art.

One person was arrested on suspicion of assault after clashes outside the gallery, while investigators are searching for two other individuals suspected of throwing firebombs at the building.

“I object to this disgraceful sculpture,” said Nicola Abdo, a Haifa resident and protester. “As a Christian person, I take deep offence to this depiction of our symbols.”

McJesus has been removed from an exhibition at the Haifa Museum of Art after protests

Christian Arabs, who make up around two per cent of Israel’s population, initially won support for their cause from the country’s populist culture minister Miri Regev.

Ms Regev, who won plaudids on the right for censuring art deemed pro-Palestinian, threatened to cut state funding for the museum on the grounds it had offended religious sensitivities.

However, Israel’s justice ministry rebuked her suggestion, claiming she did not have authority to take such actions.

The mayor of Haifa, Einat Kalisch-Rotem, announced in a tweet late on Wednesday McJesus would be taken out of the exhibition following consultations with church leaders.

“The sculpture will be removed and returned as soon as possible,” Einat Kalish Rotem tweeted.

“We regret the aggravation the Christian community experienced and the physical injury and violence that surrounded it.”

Artist Mr Leionen, known for his public artworks criticising capitalism using the branding and logos of multinational corporations, has also demanded the artwork be removed from the exhibition.

He told Israeli newspaper Haaretz he had asked the museum to take the piece off display last September because he wanted to show solidarity with Palestinians.

The sculptor accused the country of using art and culture to “whitewash and justify” the occupation of the West Bank.

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Meanwhile, some in the city see the decision to remove the artwork as an opportunity for reconciliation between religious groups.

“The winner today is the people of Haifa,” said Wadie Abu Nassar, an adviser to local church leaders. “The removal of this sculpture is a reflection our desire to coexist in the city.”

Additional reporting by AP

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