An Israeli footballer for a Turkish club was briefly detained by Turkish authorities and suspended by the club after posting a message of support for Israel during a match on Sunday.
Player Sagiv Jehezkel, a 28-year-old winger for first division club Antalyaspor, made the message after scoring in a match.
To celebrate his goal, Mr. Jehezkel ran to the corner of the pitch, where a group of photographers were positioned. He pointed to a handwritten message on tape on his left wrist that included a six-pointed Star of David and “100 days, 7/10” – a reference to the start of the war between Israel and Hamas on October 7. .
His gesture quickly spread on social networks, sparking indignation from supporters and even the president of his club, who described his action as “propaganda” in 2017. a series of messages on X, the site formerly known as Twitter. But he also highlighted the risks leading athletes face when sharing their views on the war in Gaza, after controversies in France, Germany and South Africa.
Turkish prosecutors arrested Mr. Jehezkel after the match, in the club’s hometown of Antalya, in the southwest of the country, for “inciting hatred and enmity among the public.” He was released on Monday, Turkish channels reported, and returned to Israel on Monday evening, traveling with his family, according to Israeli Minister of Sports and Culture, Miki Zohar.
Mr. Jehezkel’s statement to prosecutors said his message was a call for an end to the war, according to Turkish media.
On Sunday, Antalyaspor president Sinan Boztepe said the club’s board had suspended Mr. Jehezkel from the team. In a declarations, the club accused Mr. Jehezkel of having “insulted the values of Turkey”. Team officials also said they would seek to terminate the three-year contract Mr Jehezkel signed when he joined Antalyaspor in September. The Turkish Football Federation also said it had initiated disciplinary proceedings against him.
Israeli officials reacted angrily to his detention and another incident in which another Turkish league club, Basaksehir, began disciplinary proceedings against Israeli player Eden Karzev after he shared an Instagram post calling for his release hostages held in Gaza. .
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant called Mr. Jehezkel’s arrest “ascandalous“, and Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz criticized Turkey for “working against human values and sporting values.” Mr. Katz called on other countries and international sports organizations to take action against Turkey. and against its political use of violence and threats against athletes.”
Turkish society is largely favorable to the Palestinian cause, but support for Hamas is limited, according to a recent poll. Yet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has publicly expressed support for Hamas since the start of the war, saying it is not a terrorist organization but a group of “mujahids” fighting to liberate their country. , and he harshly criticized Hamas. Israel and Western countries supporting the war.
Others immediately demanded strong action against Mr. Jehezkel. The company that sponsors Antalyaspor jerseys declared he would withdraw his support if the club did not act, and a small group of supporters gathered outside Antalyaspor’s facilities in Antalya on Sunday evening and chanted for his expulsion from the city, calling him a “Zionist dog”.
Athletes’ response to the war in Gaza has sparked controversy in other countries, including Germany and France, where players of Arab descent have faced professional consequences – even legal action – for their posts on the war on social networks.
This month, Youcef Atal, an Algerian player for French club Nice, was given an eight-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of 45,000 euros (about $49,000) after a court found him guilty of inciting religious hatred for sharing a post on Instagram promoting attacks against Israelis.
Mr. Atal, who deleted the post and apologized for it, had already been suspended for seven matches by the league.
In Germany, Anwar El Ghazi, a Dutch-born striker of Moroccan origin, was released by his club, Mainz, in a case that highlighted German sensitivities over events in Israel and Gaza. Mr. El Ghazi had already been suspended by his team and was allowed to return to training after talks with club officials. But when I suggested he stick to his earlier comments, Mainz was quick to terminated his contract.
“Stand up for what is right, even if it means standing alone,” Mr. El Ghazi said on social media after his dismissal. “The loss of my livelihood is nothing compared to the hell being unleashed on the innocent and vulnerable in Gaza. »
Last week, Mr El Ghazi lashed out on social media at the Piers Morgan channel after Mr Morgan commented on South African cricket officials’ decision to replace the captain of the country’s national under-19 teamwho is Jewish, on the eve of a major tournament.
The captain, David Teeger, praised Israeli soldiers at an awards ceremony in October and was replaced due to the risk of “conflict and even violence” between rival groups at the upcoming World Cup. world under-19 cricket in South Africa, cricket officials said. he said. Jewish groups denounced the decision as anti-Semitic, and Mr. Morgan, who had a huge following on social media, asked whether Mr. Teeger had been “fired because he’s Jewish?”
This lead to an exchange in which Mr. El Ghazi accused Mr. Morgan of applying double standards, and the channel claimed that Mr. El Ghazi had shown a lack of outrage over the October 7 Hamas attacks that started the war.