A video of pro-Palestinian students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) recently went viral, showing them performing a terrible act: hitting a piñata with an image of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The incident has sparked controversy. The event happened at a demonstration led by Students for Justice in Palestine, a group that came together on campus to express their disapproval of Israel’s activities in Gaza along with the UCLA branch of the UC Divest Coalition. Their main demand was that the US stop providing funding to Israel.
In the footage, a group of students can be seen encircling the effigy and violently hitting the rotating piñata, with many of them sporting keffiyeh scarves on their heads and faces. In the middle of the violent attack, a woman with a bullhorn yells insulting things, like “Beat that f—g Jew!” Pro-Palestinian slogans, such as “Free, free Palestine!” resound across the audience as the piñata is battered. After a while, someone grabs the piñata, hits it hard, and tears it down, which causes the gathering to celebrate loudly.
The purpose of the UCLA demonstration was to denounce Israel’s counterattacks in Gaza in response to Hamas’ October 7 attack on the Jewish state. In addition to the piñata that featured Netanyahu, there was also President Biden pictured in similar effigies, according to sources, giving the protest a more comprehensive political angle.
At the occasion, Mohammad, a representative of Students for Justice in Palestine, declared that the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip constituted genocide. They were strongly condemned, he said, primarily because of the occupation, the continued violence, and what he called the “murder of the people in Gaza”.
Reactions to the incident have been strong both inside and outside the university community. A social media user named @AYM_Higher expressed shock at the actions and emphasized the possible outcomes of this kind of behavior, which might escalate from symbolic acts like smashing piñatas to more severe kinds of aggression.
Concerns concerning the appropriateness of such protests and their effect on communication and comprehension remain as college tensions increase. The incident highlights how complicated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, with activism taking many different forms and igniting discussions about free speech, civil discourse, and the limits of protest.