'McJesus' Artwork Causes Uproar, Protesters Allegedly Throw Molotov Cocktail at Israeli Museum

A piece of art depicting a crucified Ronald McDonald displayed at a state-funded museum in Israel caused an uproar with both Arab Christians and the artist, who called for its removal.

The sculpture, which depicts the McDonald's mascot, Ronald McDonald, on a cross was created by Finnish artist Jani Leinonen and was put on display in August at the Haifa Museum of Art in Haifa, Israel. On Friday, Arab Christians clashed with police during a demonstration when they tried to force their way into the museum, according to The Times of Israel.

Israeli police told the digital outlet that three officers were injured when rocks were thrown at them, resulting in the arrest of one suspect. The day before, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the museum and protesters criticized the government for not taking quick enough action.

"If they put up [a sculpture of] Hitler with a Torah scroll they would immediately respond," a protester said.

Protesters weren't the only ones to be perturbed by the museum's decision to include the McJesus sculpture in the "Sacred Goods" exhibit. Leinonen told The Jerusalem Post that as a member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, he didn't want his work in the museum.

"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," Leinonen said. "Therefore I do not wish to be part of this exhibition and I asked the museum to take my artwork off the exhibition."

He claimed that he sent a letter to the museum expressing his desire to have it taken down and allegedly received a reply that led him to believe it had been removed. However, the museum told The Jerusalem Post that the piece was borrowed from a gallery in Finland as part of a contract and the gallery never requested for it to be removed.

"The frequency of such events connected with BDS activists that seek to prevent art exhibitions in Israel has arisen often over the past few years and the museum has to handle many cases of this kind," the museum spokesperson said. "The Haifa Museum of Art works with dedication against attempts such as these so that Israelis who appreciate art will continue to have access to it."

mcjesus israel christians protests
An Arab-Israeli Christian woman holds a cross during a protest near the Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha, on the shores on the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, on June 21, 2015, following a suspected arson attack which took place earlier in the week. Protests erupted on Thursday and Friday over a sculpture titled "McJesus," which featured the McDonald's mascot on a cross. GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday, Culture Minister Miri Regev asked museum director Nissim Tal to remove the sculpture, according to The Times of Israel. Regev called disrespect of religious symbols as an act of artistic protest illegitimate and said it cannot be on display at a state-funded museum.

The museum agreed to post a sign outside the exhibit entrance explaining that there could be offensive material inside but criticized the violence that erupted over the art.

"A discourse about art, however complex it may be, must not spill over into violent territory and must be respected—even in charged situations," the museum told The Times of Israel.

Representatives from the church asked a district court on Monday to order the removal of the exhibit's offensive items including a Barbie doll rendition of a bloodied Jesus and the Virgin Mary, according to the Associated Press. Wadie Abu Nassar, an adviser to church leaders told the AP that the world would be "turned upside down" if the work was directed at non-Christians.

However, the museum said that it would not remove the work because it would be a slippery slope that would turn into politicians demanding the removal of pieces of art as well. Tal called keeping the art up defending freedom of speech, art and culture.

'McJesus' Artwork Causes Uproar, Protesters Allegedly Throw Molotov Cocktail at Israeli Museum | U.S.