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UCLA Chancellor: Video of Pro-Palestinian Protesters Beating Netanyahu Pinata “Extremely Hateful”

The video, which has gone viral on social media, shows pro-Palestinian protesters beating the piñata with a stick while chanting “Free Palestine.”
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November 15, 2023
Chancellor Gene D. Block (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for UCLA Semel Institute )

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block issued a statement to the UCLA community on Friday that appeared to address a recent video showing pro-Palestinian protesters beating a piñata of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; the chancellor called it “extremely hateful.”

The video, which has gone viral on social media, shows pro-Palestinian protesters beating the piñata with a stick while chanting “Free Palestine.” The video ends with a masked protester punching the piñata and then breaking it with his knees.

Asked by the Journal to comment on the video, a university spokesperson pointed to Block’s Friday statement. “At an event just this week on our campus, individuals exhibited extremely hateful behavior and used despicable Antisemitic language, which was captured on video and shared widely, frightening many within our community,” Block said in the statement. “While this may be protected speech under the First Amendment, it is nonetheless abhorrent and completely unacceptable. Campus officials are reviewing the actions at the event and anyone found to be in violation of the law or the UCLA code of conduct will be held accountable.”

According to the Daily Bruin, organizers of a November 8 pro-Palestinian rally on campus “invited attendees to destroy piñatas” that had both Netanyahu and President Joe Biden on them. The rally, held by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UCLA and UC Divest Coalition at UCLA, called for the university to divest from the investment company BlackRock; the Bruin talked to a student who claimed that BlackRock “is investing in weapons companies linked to the Israeli military.” Chants of “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “Israel, Israel you can’t hide we charge you with genocide” also occurred at the rally, per the Bruin. The Bruin talked to various attendees at the rally who accused Israel of perpetuating genocide against the Palestinians.

“In our diverse university community, even if we disagree with someone passionately, we cannot devolve into dehumanizing them with rhetoric, treating them with prejudice or jeopardizing their safety,” Block added in his statement to the community. “We must find the best in ourselves and in one another. Let us work towards better days ahead.”

Hillel at UCLA Executive Director Dan Gold told the Journal via text message regarding the video, “As I and our Hillel has said publicly, we stand strong and we stand firm against all forms of antisemitism on our campus at UCLA. There should be no doubt about this rhetoric, these chants, and these aggressive and violent tactics at the supposed ‘anti-Zionist’ rallies are antisemitic and are done to intimidate Jews on campus. We condemn it and we call on everyone else united against hate to condemn it.”

UCLA’s SJP and UC Divest Coalition chapters did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

Earlier in his Friday message, Block said that he “joined University of California President Michael V. Drake and the UC chancellors in issuing a forceful condemnation of incidents of bigotry, intolerance and intimidation that have taken place on UC campuses — including UCLA — over the past several weeks. We must be crystal clear: discrimination, threats, violence and hate have absolutely no place in a university community dedicated to open-mindedness, respect and mutual understanding.” He added that UC President Michael Drake will be issuing “a series of systemwide initiatives in the coming weeks to address the current university climate, and my administration will be launching its own set of efforts to strengthen community and reaffirm our values in this period of intense strife.”

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