NSW police say analysis shows pro-Palestine chant in viral Sydney Opera House video was ‘where’s the Jews?’

NSW police say analysis shows pro-Palestine chant in viral Sydney Opera House video was ‘where’s the Jews?’

Independent expert says with ‘overwhelming certainty’ the phrase was not ‘gas the Jews’, as was widely reported around the world. NSW police say analysis shows pro-Palestine chant in viral Sydney Opera House video was ‘where’s the Jews?’

New South Wales police say an independent investigation has found no evidence pro-Palestine protestors used the offensive phrase “gas the Jews” during a march near Sydney’s Opera House two days after the 7 October attacks on Israel.

The investigation by an “eminent expert” from the National Centre of Biometric Science examined a compilation video containing a number of audio and visual files.
Pro-Palestine protesters on Monday night marched to the Sydney Opera House, which was lit up in white and blue in solidarity with Israel.
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“The expert has made an examination of the audio and visual files which were taken from outside the Opera House on that occasion,” deputy commissioner Mal Lanyon told a media conference in Sydney on Friday.

“That’s where he has concluded with overwhelming certainty that the words used were ‘where’s the Jews?’.”

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Claims that protestors had resorted to words recalling the use of gas by the Nazis against the Jews during the Holocaust were reported around the world. Those claims prompted outrage from many and triggered the NSW government to reexamine its laws against hate speech.

The NSW parliament amended section 93Z of the Crimes Act late last year to make it easier for police to prosecute anyone “recklessly or intentionally” threatening or inciting violence against others on a range of issues, including on the basis of race, religion and sexual orientation. Some groups called the move a “knee-jerk reaction”. A review was launched last month.

Lydia Shelly, president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said the police statement “demonstrates the danger of reporting a serious allegation as a ‘fact’ before the findings of investigations are made public”.

“The NSW premier [Chris Minns] did not wait for the review of the evidence prior to changing the law,” Shelly said. “This is another example of how due process, civil liberties and human rights can be swept aside under the guise of ‘expediency’.”

The NSW opposition leader, Mark Speakman, said “everyone deserves to feel safe in their community.

“The scenes at the Opera House were unacceptable,” Speakman said. “The Minns Labor government failed to provide a safe environment for Sydney’s Jewish community who were meeting to mourn the atrocious 7 October terror attacks in Israel.”

Premier Minns has been approached for comment.

The findings were released as part of Strike Force Mealing, established to investigate reported unlawful activity committed during an unauthorised protest at the Sydney Opera House on 9 October. The Opera House was lit up that night with a flag of Israel to mark the October 7 attacks by Hamas, which killed of more than 1,200 people in Israel.

Police said they received several statements following the protest stating that the offensive antisemitic gas phrase was chanted during the event.

“Those persons have not been able to ascribe those words to any individual,” Lanyon said. “We haven’t identified any individual who used those words.”

There were, however, other offensive chants, including “fuck the Jews”. “Yes, certainly, there is evidence of that, and those are offensive and completely unacceptable,” he said. “But I think the major contention has been about the phrase that has changed. And quite emphatically, our expert has said that it’s ‘Where’s the Jews?’.”

Lanyon said the police would not be questioning those who had made the original statements about gassing.

“We won’t be going back to them to speak about what has subsequently been concluded by the expert, because the expert is relying on what they heard on the audio and visual analysis,” he said.

Lanyon said there was no evidence the files examined had been doctored. “Obviously, subtitles are … an opinion of someone putting those subtitles on there of what they hear,” he told the media event, referring to commentary added on versions widely shared on social and other media.

As to whether Sydney’s reputation had been hurt by the original claims, Lanyon said: “The reason I stand before you today is because there has been significant public interest in the words that were chanted outside the Sydney Opera House.”

The president of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, Nasser Mashni, said in a statement: “In the days and weeks after 9 October, we saw MPs at both state and federal levels and media outlets across the country use what has now been confirmed to be a deliberately inaccurate and maliciously subtitled video to sow discord and hate towards Palestinians and our supporters.

“… And we’ve seen the mainstream media publish stories about this video, using it to smear people protesting in support of Palestinians, and to sow division and hate in our community. This has all caused very real harm and damage.

“The confirmation that this subtitled video was faked must compel every politician who relied on it to spread hate and fear to issue a public apology, and every media outlet that trumpeted it as part of their campaigns to discredit and vilify protesters to publish front-page corrections,” Mashni said.

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies said in a statement: “The findings of the NSW Police investigation in respect of the Opera House demonstration on 9 October confirms once again what a night of national shame and infamy this was.

“Less than 48 hours after 1,200 innocent human beings were murdered, raped and mutilated and hundreds were taken hostage – activists menacingly chanted ‘Fuck the Jews’ and ‘Where’s the Jews?’ whilst burning an Israeli flag and throwing flares at the Opera House,” the statement said.

“… This was a night where dangerous and unadulterated antisemitism found manifestation in the shadow of one of our nation’s greatest landmarks. No one should be distracted into thinking otherwise.”

Alex Ryvchin, co-chief executive of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, questioned the expert’s assessment.

“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,” Ryvchin said.

“However, the exact words used in these chants is not the core issue,” he said. “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.”

Detectives from Strike Force Mealing continue to investigate the incident and have urged anyone with information, who may not have yet spoken with police, to contact Crime Stoppers.


Pro-Palestine Protest at Sydney Opera House
In October, around 1,000 pro-Palestinian supporters marched through downtown Sydney to the city’s iconic Opera House. (AP pic)

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