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Maria Briceño
By Maria Briceño April 16, 2024

Social media posts wrongly characterize the Sydney mall attacker as Jewish or Muslim

If Your Time is short

  • The New South Wales Police in Australia reported there isn’t evidence that the attack was driven by a particular motivation or ideology.

  • Police identified the attacker as Joel Cauchi, 40, from Queensland. Authorities said he suffered from mental illness.

  • Learn more about PolitiFact’s fact-checking process and rating system.

An April 13 knife attack at a mall in Sydney, Australia, unleashed misleading claims about the attacker and his motives.

Speaking into a camera, a man in an April 13 Instagram reel said people would be seeing claims that the incident was an "Islamic terrorist attack."

"As I explained in the previous video," the man continued, "it is a Zionist attacker who attacked Jewish in a shopping mall area in Sydney … the guy's name is Ben Cohen and he’s Jewish."

He said the attacker carried out the incident to falsely suggest an Islamic terrorist had done it.

We saw similar claims on Facebook identifying the attacker as a "Jewish terrorist," "a radical Jew, or "Benjamin Cohen." On X, some posts described him as a "Zionist."

These posts were flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Featured Fact-check

That’s because none of this is accurate.

(Screenshot from Instagram)

New South Wales police identified the suspect as Joel Cauchi, 40, of Queensland. Police said Cauchi attacked a police officer; the officer shot Cauchi, who died before paramedics could arrive. 

Police Commissioner Anthony Cooke said in an April 13 press conference that Cauchi suffered from mental health issues and that there was no evidence that the attack was driven by any "particular motivation, ideology, or otherwise." 

"We are continuing to work through the profiling of the offender but very clearly to us at this stage, it would appear that this is related to the mental health of the individual involved," Cooke said.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that social media posts falsely identified Ben Cohen, a 20-year-old Jewish student at the University of Technology Sydney, as the attacker. The paper said the misleading claim started spreading April 13, hours before investigators released the attacker’s name. Cohen’s father took to X to call on police to release the real name of the suspect.

We rate the claim that the Sydney attacker was a "Zionist" who targeted Jewish people so that people would think the attacker was Muslim False.

Our Sources

Instagram reel, April 13, 2024 

Facebook post, April 13, 2024

Facebook post, April 13, 2024

Facebook post, April 13, 2024

X post, April 13, 2024

X post, April 15, 2024

X post, April 13, 2024

X post, April 14, 2024

X post, April 15, 2024

ABC News, NSW Police name 40-year-old Joel Cauchi as Bondi shopping centre attacker | ABC News, April 13, 2024 

NSW Police, UPDATE: Critical incident declared after man shot by police - Bondi Junction, April 14, 2024

AAP FACTCHECK, Falsehoods spread about identity of Bondi attacker, April 15, 2024

The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney uni student trolled for being Bondi Junction killer in a terrible case of mistaken identity, April 14, 2024

The Guardian, False claims started spreading about the Bondi Junction stabbing attack as soon as it happened, April 14, 2024


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Social media posts wrongly characterize the Sydney mall attacker as Jewish or Muslim

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