Bezalel Student Questioned for ‘Netanyahu With Noose’ Poster

Attorney general calls for the investigation of student who put up poster of Prime Minister Netanyahu with a noose; after being released, student's attorney refutes any question of incitement, saying poster was a class assignment; a second, nude painting of Netanyahu was put up in Bezalel one day later in protest of the supposed attempt to limit freedom of expression.

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The student behind the poster put up at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, which depicts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a noose in front of him, was questioned under caution by the police on Tuesday. In response to her investigation, Bezalel students and faculty plan on participating in a protest against what they consider an aggressvie attempt to limit the freedom of expression. Several of the students also participated in a silent performance piece on Wednesday, that also addressed the silencing of artistic dissdence.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit instructed the police to open an investigation on the matter on Tuesday. The student was reportedly identified, called in for questioning and released shortly after.

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Acting as the student’s legal counsel, attorney Rami Othman denied any suspicion of incitement against his client. “It was just a Photoshop assignment that her teachers asked her to do, nothing more. There’s nothing in it that could be construed as incitement. At the end of the assignment, she asked her teacher whether to take it down or leave it up, and he told her she could leave it up. It was meant to convey how Bibi is strangling the hope for peace. The picture was taken out of context.”

Many of the students at Bezalel felt that the event has been blown out of proportion. “It’s a matter of artistic license, ” said one student. “The work was on display for a week and looked a bit unusual, but there are a lot of works that are hung on the walls.”

As Wednesday morning dawned on the academy, a new controversial poster of the prime minister was revealed. This time, it was Netanyahu’s naked image that beckoned passersby, with a crown on his head and a noose superimposed around his member. Scrawled beneath the noose was the question, “It this better, Mr. Attorney General?”

Several students had reportedly hung up the new poster following the investigation of the artist responsible for Tuesday’s work. “As far as we can tell, ” a Bezalel spokesperson said. “The (new) caricature is the work of a student that was created in protest of the police investigation of a Bezalel student last night.

“The caricature, removed at our behest from the academy’s walls, reflects the students’ rage with regard to the threat to the freedom of expression and of creation, both in general and specifically in the halls of the academy. Students of Bezalel, who belong to all sections of the political spectrum, carried out a quiet protest today against the limiting of the freedom of expression. Bezalel encourages an open discussion regarding the limits to the freedom of expression and will continue, as usual, to lead, protect and preserve the freedom of expression and creativity.”

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The school also said it “will cooperate with any investigation and act in accordance to its conclusions.”

Following the incident, the Likud Youth Movement called for Bezalel to be shut down until an indepth investigation of the incitement against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is condcuted.

A representative of the Likud Youth said that “It seems that some of Bezalel’s students have confused the freedom of expression with clear incitement, which we as a society cannot condone. We call on the authorities to act swiftly against those carrying out the incitement and close Bezalel’s gates until an indepth investigation is done. We must act today before it will godforbid be too late.”

The Bezalel Student Union also issued a statement in response to the affair. “The attorney general was quick to demand an investigation against the student, though it is clear to everyone that her work does not promote incitement, something that was also made clear during the investigation.”

“Students at Bezalel are fighting for their freedom of expression, which is legitimate, ” the student union added. “The use of the photo may have been inappropriate, but the message there was incredibly important: namely, that the academy’s freedom of expression must be preserved.”

By Yael Freidson and Shahar Chai, Ynet News

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