The deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Yaron Mazuz, called Thursday for the director of Haifa Museum to be fired because of an exhibition display there of a caricature of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara as pigs. The work lampoons last summer’s natural gas deal.
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The caricature of the Netanyahus by Ido Shemi hangs alongside other works in an exhibition called “From Andy Warhol to Contemporary Art.” Another of Shemi’s works shows Culture Minister Miri Regev informing members of La Familia, the violently racist fan club of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club, that she has chosen them to represent Israel at the Venice Biennale.
“It’s a disgrace for the Haifa Museum. It’s a disgrace for the person who did it,” Mazuz told Radio Haifa, referring to the caricature of the Netanyahus. “I am upset to hear this. I think [Haifa Museum director Nissim Tal] should hand over the keys and go home. I am also ashamed for [Haifa Mayor] Yona Yahav that he does not intervene.”
Mazuz also called on Culture Minister Regev “to remove the outrageous works immediately and review the museum’s budget.” He said it was inconceivable that a museum with state funding displays works aimed at public figures and in particular the Netanyahus. “Likewise, I will demand that Mayor Yahav fire the museum’s director general and anyone else behind this scandal,” he said.
Responding to a Haaretz inquiry, Mazuz stated through his spokesman that it was a disgrace for all involved to show the prime minister and his wife as pigs. “Where do you hear of such a thing? Art also needs a certain border. It’s a disgrace to freedom of expression,” he stated.
Mazuz hinted that the works constitute a possible security threat. “We need to support our prime minister, who stands in the front against terror in Israel and abroad, and not to incite against him.”
Mazuz said he didn’t see the exhibition, which has been there since December, but learned of it from a front-page article in Yedioth Haifa on Friday about the caricature of the Netanyahus.
Yahav has also served as director of the municipal museums company board since November. His predecessor, Ya’akov Shaham, is publisher of Yedioth Haifa.
The Haifa Museum commented: “Ido Shemi’s works create a colorful world of parody, slaughtering many sacred cows, starting from Ben-Gurion, Eshkol and Shazar through our day, using wild and amusing humor, full of fantasy, irony and parody. He combines historical references with images taken from the world of communications, comics and alternative pop culture. Shemi’s work disrupts and dismantles the gap between high and low, sad and happy, cynical and romantic, childish and mature, prosaic and poetic. The Haifa Museum presents, while maintaining freedom of expression without censoring, the works of good artists. It has no intention of becoming ideologically defiled and to engage in self-censorship.”
Yahav’s office did not comment by press time.