Politicians on the left and right condemned a poster produced by a student at the Bezalel Academy of the Arts in Yerushalayim that depicted a rope in front of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s head. Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev slammed the poster and the institution, saying that “freedom of speech is not freedom to incite to violence. Last week it was an insulting statue in the center of Tel Aviv, and now it’s a poster advocating a lynching. If this was a picture of Zionist Camp Chairman Yitzchak Herzog, someone would be under arrest right now.”
Herzog himself condemned the poster. “Freedom of speech is necessary and important, but there is no place for incitement against leaders of the left or right,” he said. “Especially now, as the voices of stridency increase, we need to step back and show our responsibility. This is not our way.”
Herzog added: “We will defeat Netanyahu democratically.”
The poster, according to the school, was the creation of a student who decided to design it and display it at the school. There was no call for criticism of the poster, as it was “art,” the school said in a statement. “Bezalel is a protected zone for freedom of expression and allows students freedom to express themselves in a critical and creative way on a number of issues that interest them.
“In any event, this work is part of a dialogue that is internal to an academic institution that deals with important issues of design, character and culture. The poster evokes incitement against former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. The exercise, whether successful or not, is part of the academic discussion, hanging on the wall of an academic institution, and is not being displayed in public. Therefore, there is no issue of incitement involved.”
Ram Shefa, chairman of the Israel Students Union, also said that he saw no problem with the poster. “In recent months, we have been witness to ongoing attempts to silence people, and to incite people. These two things go together, and could lead to an explosive situation. Freedom of speech is extremely important to us as students, especially in the arts, and in academia in general. All ideas and opinions are welcome, but of course we reject incitement.”
Several right-wing organizations filed complaints with police Monday night, demanding that those responsible for the poster be questioned for inciting violence. The Lavie organization, a right-leaning student group, demanded that police seize the poster and use it for evidence against the artist and the institution. “This is a serious incident that requires police involvement,” the group said, adding that past experience had shown that incitement of this type often leads to violence.