January 15, 2024 | Flash Brief

Turkey Targets Israeli Soccer Player for Supporting Hostages

January 15, 2024 | Flash Brief

Turkey Targets Israeli Soccer Player for Supporting Hostages

Latest Developments

Turkish authorities detained and ordered the deportation an Israeli player on a Turkish soccer team on January 15 for displaying solidarity with Israeli hostages in Gaza. After scoring a goal in a Turkish Super Lig match, Sagiv Jehezkel of the Antalyaspor club showed news cameras his bandaged wrist on which he had drawn a Star of David with the words “100 days 7.10,” in reference to the October 7 massacre that triggered Israel’s Gaza offensive. Turkish authorities accused Jehezkel of offending Turkish sensibilities. Antalya police detained Jehezkel for questioning, and he was suspended and later fired by his team.

The incident outraged Israelis. Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Turkey had become a “dark dictatorship,” and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant described Ankara as “a de facto executive branch of Hamas.” Released from custody, Jehezkel, 28, is due to be deported to Israel aboard a private plane, given the suspension of commercial flights between the two countries. He told Turkish media that he did not aim to be provocative but rather to bring attention to the plight of Israeli hostages held by Hamas and the need for the war to end.        

Expert Analysis

“Erdogan is one of the most hateful, dangerous and antisemitic Islamists. That he rules over a NATO-member country makes him even more dangerous. Under Erdogan, Turkey has slipped steadily into Jew-hatred, such that the most anodyne show of support for Israel sets off alarm bells in Ankara. This will not end with Israelis. Any country that has, or is liable in the future to have, a disagreement with Turkey — including European powers — should already be looking to the safety of their citizens there.”Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“Jehezkel was charged under Turkey’s penal code for ‘inciting people to hatred and hostility.’ Let’s forget for a moment that this is an ambiguous legal provision. Did Jehezkel have legal representation in a court of law? Were his actions even deliberated before a judge and considered as freedom of expression? At what point was he found guilty, and who decided that deportation was the right course of action? Was his statement ever taken? Has he been offered any chance to appeal? It is clear that due process was not even a factor when deciding to oust Jehezkel.” Sinan Ciddi, FDD Non-Resident Senior Fellow

Erdogan’s electoral strategy for 2024: Vilify Israel,” by Sinan Ciddi

The United States Needs to Play Hardball With Turkey,” by Eric S. Edelman and Sinan Ciddi

Turkey’s Erdogan Tries to Distract from His Support for Hamas,” FDD Flash Brief


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