JERUSALEM (JTA) — A poster displayed at a Jerusalem art school showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a noose hanging in front of him.
Israel Police have opened an incitement investigation into the poster hung up Monday in a stairwell at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design with the word “Rope” in capital letters at the bottom. It is a play on a 2008 presidential campaign poster of Barack Obama with the word HOPE at the bottom.
Eleven of the Netanyahu posters, in shades of gray and red, were hung up surrounding a poster of slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin reading “The Traitor” in English and Hebrew. The Rabin poster was circulated in 1995 days before he was assassinated. “This is incitement” was written on a piece of paper hung next to the poster installation.
The Netanyahu installation was taken down by Tuesday. Neither the identity of the artist who created the installation or who took it down are known.
A photo of one of the Netanyahu posters was first posted Monday on Facebook by a Likud party official, who questioned its suitability as art and wondered what the reaction would be if a left-wing leader’s face had been positioned next to the noose. It later emerged that the poster was part of the larger installation.
Israeli Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev called for a halt in funding to the school.
“Freedom of art isn’t freedom to incite! It started with the statue in the city square and now we have a noose,” she said in a Facebook post, referring to the gold statue of Netanyahu placed last week in Rabin Square as political commentary.
“This is artistic talent to incite and murder. If it had been a picture of Boogie, there would already be arrests,” she said, using the nickname of opposition leader Isaac Herzog. The post then calls on Education Minister Naftali Bennett to “draw a line between art and incitement” and halt funding to Bezalel.
Herzog also condemned the poster.
“Freedom of expression is important and necessary, but it should not be used to incite toward harming public leaders from the right or the left,” he said.
A Bezalel spokesperson, Michal Turgeman, said in a statement sent to JTA that the work by one of its students “is a part of an ongoing conversation on what constitutes incitement through art.”
“The work in question is an expression by an individual student and in no way, shape, or form reflects the views of our institution, our faculty or administration,” Turgeman said. “We plan to cooperate fully in the ongoing investigation.”
The student who put up the installation was questioned Tuesday evening by police, first in her dormitory and then at a Jerusalem police station. The student, identified as a 20 year old of Arab origin, reportedly said she completed the project as part of an assignment. Police reportedly do not believe she was attempting a provocation.