17:07 GMT21 September 2020
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    Some Israeli politicians have seized on the results of a first-year art student’s homework assignment as fodder for a push to censor artistic expression.

    On Tuesday, Jerusalem Attorney General Avichai Manelblit launched a probe into artwork displaying a representation of an assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, a noose, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the Times of Israel reports. A Likud official posted a portion of the offending painting on the party’s Facebook page writing, "this is called incitement."

    A local TV station reported that the investigation probably will not lead to a conviction.

    Eli Hazan, a senior communications official for the Likud party, wrote, "Change the name and the picture and instead put in a left-wing representative and exhibit it in a [West Bank] settlement. Will it be seen as an incitement?" Officials from the Herzog party generally agreed, saying that freedom of speech is essential, but that there’s "no place for using it to incite toward harming public leaders" no matter if they are from the left or right.

    Still, efforts to quell artistic expression in any country are worrying, belying lawmakers’ failure to adequately understand the discomfort sometimes sparked by art. What the Israeli political parties are calling illegal incitement is concurrently considered by many in the county to be a crafty way of provoking citizens and lawmakers to think about the world in new ways.

    ​The display was, reportedly, precisely intended to be about incitement. It was not, according to Adi Stern, president of the prestigious Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, intended to be an actual call to incitement against Netanyahu.

    Stern added that the subject of the painting has been taken "out of its original context." The controversial image used by Likud was only one picture in a canvas featuring dozens of posters, and the media outlet’s editing significantly alters what people might think about the image. The student’s work "is not incitement but the expression of an opinion," Stern said.

    "The work that hangs on the stairwell is composed of the image, which appears several times around a documentary photograph of incitement posters against prime minister Rabin. Next to the work is a page that reads, 'This is called incitement,'" school officials detailed.

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    Tags:
    Censorship, Free Speech, art, Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Avichai Manelblit, Israel
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