Türkiye probes Israeli football player for ‘inciting hatred’
An Israeli football player from the Turkish club Antalyaspor, Sagiv Jehezkel, has been questioned by prosecutors following his arrest on charges of “inciting people to hatred and hostility” and is set to be deported from Türkiye, Anadolu news agency reports.
During a Turkish top division match on Sunday, Jehezkel celebrated his goal by making a heart gesture and showing his wristband to the camera, which featured a hand-drawn Star of David and the words “100 days, 7.10.”
The athlete dedicated his stunt to the 100th day since the Palestinian armed group Hamas carried out its surprise attack on Israel, killing around 1,200 people and taking around 240 others hostage. According to Israeli authorities, 132 people remain in captivity. The latest figures from Gaza’s health ministry suggest that 24,100 people have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory attacks on the Palestinian enclave since October 7.
Jehezkel was detained in the seaside city of Antalya on Sunday. Turkish Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc announced that the Israeli player would be investigated over “‘inciting people to hatred and hostility’ due to his ugly gesture supporting Israel’s massacre in Gaza.”
According to Anadolu, the 28-year-old midfielder was interrogated on Monday and released afterwards; it added that he is slated to be deported from Türkiye on a private plane later in the day.
In his statement to the police, Jehezkel claimed that with his gesture he was only looking to draw attention to the conflict in Gaza and didn’t expect such a backlash. “I want the war to end as soon as possible,” he said, adding that he’d apologized to the Turkish people for the move.
In comments to Ynet news outlet, apparently provided before his detention, the player explained that what he did was actually “a humanitarian gesture to the Israeli hostages in Gaza.”
Türkiye has been among the most vocal critics of the Israeli attacks on Gaza over the past three months, describing them as “genocide.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had labeled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the “Butcher of Gaza” and compared him to Adolf Hitler, among other things.
Antalyaspor fans slammed Jehezkel for his gesture on social media, insisting that the player has no place on their team. Some even protested outside the club’s offices late on Sunday.
The club said in a statement that it has decided that the Israeli midfielder would be excluded from the squad because he “acted against the national values” of Türkiye. According to Channel 12, it’s going to cost Antalyaspor around $1 million to terminate the contract with Jehezkel.