A student under investigation for incitement after she created a controversial poster displaying pictures of Prime Minister Netanyahu with a noose was questioned and released on Tuesday.
The student was questioned under caution by Jerusalem police on Tuesday evening after she put up a piece of work at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design on Monday featuring multiple posters of Netanyahu with a noose and the word “ROPE,” surrounding a single poster of assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The poster was a play on a 2008 presidential campaign poster of Barack Obama with the word HOPE at the bottom. Some reports said the Rabin poster and a piece of paper at the side bearing the text “This is called incitement” were not in the original display, and were added later by other students.
Attorney Rami Othman, who represents the student, stated that “the entire ordeal was taken out of context. This is an 18-year-old student who completed a first year project about how to use Photoshop. There is nothing in this assignment that includes incitement. The media is taking this out of proportion.”
“The rope is not hanging around the head of the prime minister; it’s simply a statement that there is no hope coming from this government and that the nation wants hope,” Othman told Hebrew media.
Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich criticized the police probe, saying that the investigation of this student was useless and non-democratic.
“Did they arrest the student who lacks taste from Bezalel? On what grounds exactly? Maybe an investigation (even that is useless), but detainment? Democracy? Has Israel’s police lost its mind?” Smotrich wrote on his Twitter page. The student was not in fact arrested, but only questioned.
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.
Adi Stern, president of Bezalel, told the Hebrew-language daily Haaretz in an article published Tuesday morning that the image posted by the student had been taken out of context and “is not incitement but the expression of an opinion.”
Stern added that critics of the artwork, which had been removed by Monday evening, are intentionally “taking the work out of its original context” for political purposes, and noted that the piece was not part of an official exhibit but was put up in a stairwell at the artist’s own initiative.
He also told Army Radio Tuesday that if a photo of the entire piece had been published and not just the single poster of Netanyahu, the response “would have been completely different,” as the display was meant to be about incitement, rather than a form of incitement in itself.
Bezalel said in a statement Tuesday that the artwork was part of an assignment and not an attempt at provocation. It urged its students to feel free to continue to produce their art.
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.