Nude Netanyahu picture stirs up more controversy for Jerusalem art school

The picture depicted Netanyahu wearing a gold crown on his head and nothing else, along with a noose superimposed over his private parts.

December 14, 2016 16:22
3 minute read.
Second controversial Netanyahu poster at Bezale

Second controversial Netanyahu poster at Bezalel. (photo credit: BEZALEL ACADEMY OF ARTS AND DESIGN)

For the second time in less than a week, a controversial artwork depicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went on display at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem.

The picture depicted Netanyahu wearing a gold crown on his head and nothing else. A noose was superimposed over his genitals, which were significantly miniaturized. On the drawing is the phrase: “Is it okay this way, attorney-general?” Students put up the artwork in protest a day after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ordered the police to open an investigation of possible incitement, regarding a poster displayed in the school of a hangman’s noose depicted over Netanyahu.

At the bottom of the poster – designed like the iconic campaign poster of US President Barack Obama – is the word “Rope,” a play on Obama’s message of “Hope.”

The work of a female Arab-Israeli student that hung in an internal stairway at the academy, that poster provoked indignation from politicians across the political spectrum, and has since been removed. The student was questioned by police.

The school’s administration was quick to remove the new artwork.

“Students at Bezalel, as are artists around the world, feel very passionately about their work,” said Michal Turgeman, a spokeswoman for Bezalel, in a statement released to The Jerusalem Post. “The events at our academy over the past few days have touched on the passion of many of our students. The peaceful bipartisan demonstration that our students held today was against the potential threat to their freedom of speech.

“As an institute of higher education, we have a responsibility to not only teach our students to maintain their right to self-expression, but to also balance that with responsibility toward the power of their work.

Striking that balance is always tricky, but something that students, their teachers, and our institution must continue to strive for,” she said.

The school’s student union also issued a statement, saying it decided to halt studies in the academy for two hours on Thursday in protest over the harm to freedom of expression being done in collaboration with the administration.

During the break, which is set to begin at 2 p.m., the school will hold open round-table discussions on the issue of freedom of expression and creation.

“We are proud to show that students at Bezalel do not stand by and do not allow the suppression of freedom of expression within the limits of the campus,” the student union said in a statement. “This is our place to express ourselves, to create and to challenge. The political discourse must find a legitimate and wide space in academia in general and certainly in the art establishment. In the name of freedom of art, we will not agree with incitement and contempt, but we will [also] not allow intimidation and silencing.”

The youth section of Netanyahu’s Likud Party called for the art academy to be closed down, pending an investigation into the incitement incidents against Netanyahu.

“We are looking for creative ways to describe the disgust that has washed over Bezalel in the past few days, and we admit that it is difficult for us,” David Shayan, chairman of Young Likud said in a statement. “It looks like some of the students in Bezalel got confused between freedom of expression and clear artistic incitement, incitement that we as a society cannot be allowed to overlook.”

Shayan added that an academic institution which “gives backing to such a low and perverse incitement has no right to exist.”

In contrast, the youth section of Meretz also wrote a Facebook post in which it called for increased support of Bezalel and its students, and slammed the Right for “playing the victim.”

“Every day the Left absorbs the fruits of incitement of the Right which play the victims,” they wrote. “The same Right that is so destructive on the one hand, and so insecure and poor on the other. The Right acts like the child in the classroom that bothers everyone, and then cries to the principal when someone else chooses to retaliate.”

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