'McJesus' sculpture to be removed from Israeli art gallery after Christians protest

The "McJesus" sculpture by Finnish artist Jani Leinonen on display at the Haifa Museum of Art.Haifa Museum of Art

An art gallery in Israel has said it will remove a controversial sculpture after hundreds of Arab Christians protested. 

Haifa Museum of Art faced intense criticism from the region's Christians for displaying the 'McJesus' sculpture by Finnish artist Jani Leinonen.

They declared the sculpture, which depicts the Ronald McDonald clown being crucified on the cross, as 'blasphemous' and demanded its removal.

Protests turned violent when firebombs were launched at the museum and rocks were thrown at police, leaving some officers injured.  At least one person was arrested on suspicion of assault.

'I object to this disgraceful sculpture,' said Nicola Abdo, a Haifa resident and protester, according to the Guardian. 'As a Christian person ... I take deep offence to this depiction of our symbols.'

'I am deeply offended by your disgraceful exhibit mocking Jesus,' wrote one visitor to the gallery's Facebook page.

'Have some dignity for yourselves and TAKE IT DOWN.'

The gallery has now promised to remove the life-size sculpture, the city's mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem confirmed in a tweet

She said the decision had been made following a consultation with church leaders, although she did not say exactly when the sculpture would be withdrawn. 

'The work will be removed and returned as soon as possible,' she said.

She added: 'We regret the aggravation the Christian community experienced ... and the physical injury and violence that surrounded it.'

The work was on loan from a Finnish museum and had been due to be returned at the end of the month. 

It had been on display as part of an exhibition called 'Sacred Goods' being hosted by the gallery on the theme of religion and faith in today's consumerist culture.