During the 2 weeks covered by this review, we received 9 articles on the following subjects:
Hundreds of Christians gathered to demonstrate outside of the Haifa Museum of Art, where a piece of art created by Finnish artist, Jani Leinonen, has been on display since August. The piece, called “McJesus,” shows Ronald McDonald hanging on a cross. It is meant to be a critique of western consumerism, which is said to venerate corporate symbols like Ronald McDonald. Local Christians were offended by the display and demanded it be taken down. A number of demonstrators tried to force their way into the museum, a few threw stones, and three police officers were injured. Leinonen, himself a believing Christian, said he was surprised to find that his art was on display, as he is part of 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 the exhibition, and I asked the museum to take my artwork off the exhibition.” Leinonen said he had asked the museum to remove the piece before the demonstrations broke out, and was upset to find that his request had not been acted upon. He tried to contact the museum again but did not receive a response.
Leader of the Catholic Church in Haifa, Father Agapious Abu Sa’ada, condemned both the artwork and the violence of the demonstrators. He said he understood the artist was himself a Christian, but that what seems appropriate for Christian communities in Europe and Finland is not necessarily appropriate for Christians in Israel. He also warned against those who would use the demonstrations as an opportunity to act violently. He said: “anyone who thinks they are protecting Christianity by using violence are terribly mistaken.”
In light of the demonstrations, the Mayor of Haifa finally announced that “McJesus” would be taken down. She said: “We believe in freedom of expression as a foundation of democracy. We are grieved by the offense experienced by the Christian community, as well as the violence perpetrated.” A number of commentators were upset by the response of Miri Regev, Israeli Minister of Culture. Regev, they noted, did not “miss an opportunity to push for censorship” when she demanded the artwork be removed. It was argued that Regev often confuses the scope of her authority, seeing herself as charged with maintaining the “purity” of culture, rather than allowing for the freedom of expression.
Hamevasser, January 17, 2019; Hashabat BeNetanya, January 11, 2019
The Municipality of Tel Aviv has initiated a “street library” project, where readers can freely borrow books in outdoor locations. Or L’Achim informed the municipality that the project was being taken advantage of by missionaries, who were using the locations to distribute missionary materials. The municipality agreed to prevent such a use of its street libraries.
The second article reported that thousands of missionary fliers were distributed in Netanya mailboxes by the “fundamentalist cult of the Messianic Jews,” who see it as a “particular victory” when they convert Jews, and use Jewish language to achieve their ends. Lev L’Achim suggested recipients should burn the fliers, saying that even though God’s name is printed on the fliers, it “has no holiness in it” because it was created by infidels. Therefore, there is no halakhic issue with burning the fliers.
The Jerusalem Post, January 14, 2019
A report published by the research institute, NGO Monitor, has found that the World Council of Churches (WCC) trains volunteers on how to promote boycotts against Israel. The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), a branch of the WCC, has to date sent 1,800 volunteer observers to the West Bank and Jerusalem with the goal of offering “protective presence and witness” in areas of human rights abuse. The article argued that the EAPPI has employed anti-Semitic language in its training, for example, comparing Israel to Nazis in Germany. The WCC has also condemned Christian Zionism as a heresy. It has partnered with Israeli and Palestinian organizations seeking to report on human rights abuses (such as B’Tselem, Machsom Watch, Rabbis for Human Rights, and Breaking the Silence). In response to the report, a WCC spokesperson said they do not “promote boycotts based on nationality in this or any other context. Nor does WCC promote economic measures against Israel. It does however have a longstanding policy in favor of boycotting goods and services from the settlements.”