Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) co-CEO Alex Ryvchin has declared, “We know what we heard,” after NSW Police said they found no evidence “gas the Jews” was chanted in videos circulating online of the infamous October 9 anti-Israel rally at the Sydney Opera House.
In scenes seen around the world just two days after Hamas terrorists murdered 1200 Israelis and kidnapped 240, an intimidating mob burned flags, lit flares and chanted offensive slogans outside the famous landmark, which was being illuminated in blue and white to show solidarity with the victims of the heinous attack. Members of the Jewish community were told by police to stay away for their own safety.
But NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Mal Lanyon told reporters last Friday an expert had concluded that the phrase heard in videos of the demonstration was in fact “where’s the Jews”.
“We have obtained several statements from persons who were present outside the Opera House who believe that they heard the words ‘gas the Jews’ that evening. Those persons have not been able to ascribe those words to any individual,” he added.
Asked if there was evidence of any other antisemitic comments such as “f**k the Jews”, he replied, “There is evidence of that and those are offensive and completely unacceptable.”
Under Section 93Z of the NSW Crimes Act, “gas the Jews” may have met the threshold of incitement to violence to mount a prosecution, but “f**k the Jews” does not.
In lieu of the police findings, NSW Premier Chris Minns said his views on what happened outside the Opera House on October 9 “are well known and have not changed”.
“The protest was violent and racist,” he said.
“Hate speech and racist language have no place in NSW. If those comments were made about any other group my reaction would be the same.”
NSW Shadow Minister for Police Paul Toole said everyone deserves to feel safe in their community.
“It is unacceptable that any community would be subject to such offensive chants here in Australia,” he said.
“The Jewish community needs to know that it can feel safe and the Police Minister is currently failing to assure the community of their safety hiding behind ‘operational matters’ every time.”
State Member for Vaucluse Kellie Sloane, who represents the largest Jewish community in the state, said the scenes at the Opera House “were abhorrent”.
“We must not lose sight of the reality that barely two days after the October 7 attacks you had a violent mob descend on the Opera House with the aim of preventing the Jewish community coming together to mourn and be with one another. You had a situation where Jewish people were told to stay home for their own safety,” she said.
“All of us need to condemn antisemitism when it occurs, without qualification or drawing any equivalency, just as it should any other form of hate-based activities.”
Ryvchin said on Friday that “multiple independent witnesses have verified and declared that the ‘gas the Jews’ phrase was used”.
“We know what we heard, and the world knows what was said. However … the core issue is that on October 9, before Israel had even commenced its military response, just two days after the greatest atrocity inflicted on the Jewish people since the Holocaust, a mob of thugs gathered at one of our nation’s most cherished sites to celebrate the mass slaughter and rape of Israelis, to burn Israeli flags and to chant threateningly towards fellow Australians.”
ECAJ immediate past president Jillian Segal said, “If action is not able to be taken because of what was said or how it was recorded or viewed, then we really believe it is an obligation of the government to take action and amend the legislative framework.”
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive manager Joel Burnie told Sky News, “The police did not say that it didn’t happen, they said that [with] the evidence that they had, they couldn’t confirm that the phrase ‘gas the Jews’ was used.
“The police statement does not make the event that occurred on that evening any better,” he said.
The Zionist Federation of Australia noted that “numerous eyewitnesses heard the crowd chant ‘gas the Jews'” and signed statutory declarations to that effect, but said it understood and respected the difficult position police forces across the nation are finding themselves in on a daily basis.
President Jeremy Leibler said, “The crowd at the Sydney Opera House were revelling in the massacre of Hamas on October 7, and spewing revolting antisemitism. This vile rally was purposefully designed to prevent the Sydney Jewish community from gathering in mourning and solidarity.”
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies said in a statement, “If they wanted to know where we were whilst they were out celebrating, we were at home mourning our dead family and friends and worrying about those who had been taken hostage.
“Based on the police advice to the Jewish community to stay away from the CBD, we can only imagine what would have happened if they had found ‘the Jews’.”
The AJN approached NSW Police Minister Yasmin Catley for comment and was referred to the Police Media Unit.