A provocative piece of art emblazoned with the Arabic-slogan “Slaughter the Jews” was stolen from its display in a college art exhibition on Tuesday, amid controversy over the project that has been protested by students and a member of Knesset.
The item, a hamsa by artist Gal Volinez, was removed from a wall shortly before the exhibition was due to open at the Sapir College near Sderot, and in full view of security cameras.
The hamsa is a palm-shaped amulet popular in the Middle East as protection against the Evil Eye, a curse of misfortune.
Volinez made the hamsa with the Arabic slaughter phrase — a recurring chant among anti-Jewish protesters in the Middle East — written across the front with Hebrew letters.
After reviewing video of the theft, the college said it was seeking two men who are the prime suspects.
The “Power of the word” exhibition has faced strong opposition from within the student body over some of Volinez’s contributions that, in addition to the “Slaughter the Jews” text, also feature a hamsa with the text “With blood and fire we will redeem Palestine” and another with the Hebrew acronym for the Islamic State terror group.
“We condemn incidents of vandalism and attempts to harm the freedom of speech,” Sapir College said in response to the theft, the Hebrew-language news website Maariv reported.
Volinez planned to produce a replacement hamsa by Wednesday.
Haaretz reported that earlier this week MK Danny Danon wrote to Sapir College President Omri Yadlin asking him to cancel the exhibition for being racist.
Yadlin wrote in his response to Danon that the pieces represent phrases that are heard in the world today, and not necessarily the artists’ own views.
“The common thread among the works in the exhibition is ‘The Power of the word'”, he wrote. “The words that appear in it, different artistic contexts, are not words invented by the artists. These are words that are often heard on the street and in the media.”
Students intended to hold a demonstration outside the exhibition on Wednesday.
Volinez made headlines earlier this year when he produced an edited version of the Britney Spear’s music video “Work B**ch” that featured his pot-bellied self dancing in place of the svelte pop star.
The video, that was post to YouTube with the title ‘Hi Brit’, has so far garnered 2.4 million views and was reported on by, among others, TIME and celebrity gossip site Perez Hilton.