SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – Five teenagers were arrested for allegedly hurling anti-Semitic epithets at and physically threatening Jewish school students on a bus in Sydney.
Police confirmed that the five minors were arrested Thursday morning but were too drunk to be interviewed. They were released into their parents’ custody and were expected to be interrogated by police later in the day, a police spokesman said.
Police are searching for several other youths believed to have been engaged in the incident, which has stunned the Jewish community here.
About 30 children from Moriah College, Mount Sinai College and the Emanuel School, ranging in age from 5 to 12, were aboard the bus when the driver stopped to collect a group of 15- to 17-year-olds apparently wearing school uniforms.
Police allege the youths then racially taunted some of the children and physically threatened others. One parent alleged that her child told her the offenders yelled “Kill the Jews” and “Heil Hitler.”
Jacqui Blackburn told local media that her 12-year-old daughter said the gang had threatened to “slit the children’s throats.”
Police said they did not believe it to be a targeted attack on the students and said the gang only began racially taunting them once they were aboard the bus.
The bus was not exclusively chartered by the Jewish schools, but is run by the State Transport Authority. Drivers stop to pick up students from several schools.
Parents criticized the driver for not calling police. Police said the driver told them he was unaware of what happened.
The incident drew a chorus of condemnation from across the community. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry issued a statement Wednesday saying it was “deeply concerned” by the incident, as well as the spike in anti-Semitism since the Israel-Gaza conflict began last month.
“We as a community are profoundly troubled by this latest event and the sequence of anti-Semitic incidents that has preceded it,” the statement said.
The council cited the attack on a visiting rabbi from Jerusalem who was set upon by a gang of youths in Perth earlier this week; the painting of Perth’s only Jewish school with the words “Zionist scum” two weeks ago; and a Melbourne man who recently was called a “Jewish dog” and beaten by two men.
“It is completely unacceptable and morally repugnant to scapegoat or hold responsible Jewish Australians, including children, for events overseas,” the Executive Council of Australian Jewry said.