Crikey: Calls for further ‘Gas the Jews’ investigation as group behind footage mocks police finding

Three months ago, protestors gathered at the Sydney Opera House steps, illuminated to commemorate Hamas' attack on Israel on October 7. Following the protest, reports surfaced of anti-Semitic slogans. Fahad Ali, one of the organizers, confirmed these reports and stated that the small group responsible was asked to leave. However, it was the alleged chant of "Gas the Jews" that garnered significant attention with videos circulated and aired by the Australian Jewish Association and Sky News allegedly captured the chants, with both videos carrying corresponding captions.

Recently, the accuracy of the footage has come under scrutiny. While other chants were undoubtedly anti-Semitic, the specific Holocaust reference carried potential legal implications, possibly constituting incitement to violence.

Various Jewish and Palestinian organizations are urging for a deeper investigation following an announcement by NSW Police stating they lack evidence supporting claims that pro-Palestinian demonstrators chanted "Gas the Jews" during a protest at the Sydney Opera House. The publishers of the contested footage have declined to acknowledge any inaccuracies.

A review into evidence by the NSW Police found no evidence supporting the "Gas the Jews" chant. Deputy Commissioner Mal Lanyon acknowledged eyewitness accounts claiming they heard such chants but couldn't identify individuals responsible. 

In response to these findings, Mahmud Hawila, barrister for the protest organisers, welcomed the conclusions, urging further investigation into the footage's authenticity and potential legal repercussions for spreading false information.

NSW Premier Chris Minns refrained from endorsing doubts raised about the footage, emphasising the need for a police investigation. In the aftermath of the protest, the NSW government enacted changes to hate speech laws and initiated a review into related legislative provisions.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Lydia Shelly said she believed the “Gas the Jews” video claims prompted the changes to the Crimes Act as well as caused damage to the community.

“Regurgitating the serious allegation as a ‘fact’ ripped at the fabric of our social cohesion and caused unnecessary harm to vulnerable communities,” she said in a statement.

She also welcomed the hate speech review but said it should have come before the changes, not afterwards.

“The findings of the NSW Police investigation demonstrate that we must all take a more proactive role in ensuring that our civil liberties and parliamentary process are not disregarded when it is politically desirable to do so. Parliamentary processes exist to protect the public,” she said.

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