A display by a Spanish artist, including a candelabrum growing out of the barrel of an Uzi sub-machinegun and a sculpture of a haredi figure standing on a priest, who kneels on a prostrate Muslim, has drawn fire from the Foreign Ministry. The Israeli Embassy in Madrid issued a statement Wednesday protesting the display at the International Art Fair in the Spanish capital.
"Values such as freedom of speech and creative freedom are sometimes used to disguise stereotyping, prejudice and provocation for the sake of provocation," the statement said. The sculptures are two of five works on display by the well-known artist Eugenio Merino.
Merino denied that he had tried to provoke. "The aim was to display the wonder in the co-existence of the three religions, each making a common effort to reach God," he told reporters.
One of Merino's works on display (Photo: Reuters)
Israeli Ambassador to Spain Rafi Schutz decided to limit his protest to the release of the statement, and not to call for the removal of the works, in order to avoid presenting Israel as a state that suppresses art.
"In the body of this Spanish artist's work there are elements offensive to Jews, Israelis and undoubtedly others as well," the statement said. "An offensive message doesn't stop being offensive simply because it aims to be a work of art."
"We express our opinion on this issue though we recognize that provocations like this are successful only because it is not possible not to respond," continued the statement, which was issued to media outlets in Spain.
Diplomatic sources emphasized that the term "anti-Semitic" was deliberately avoided, for fear of provoking a wave of anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli feeling in Spain.