Israeli soccer player freed after false accusations of inciting hatred

Israeli soccer player Sagiv Jehezkel appeared in court in Antalya after being taken into custody for ‘incitement to hatred and hostility’ following his protest for Israeli hostages held in Gaza during a soccer match in Turkey.

Israeli soccer team player of the top-tier Turkish club Antalyaspor Sagiv Jehezkel was released on Monday from detention in Turkey and returned to Israel at night. Jehezkel was taken into custody and was interrogated after celebrating a goal with a protest in support of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza for 100 days during a Turkish Süper Lig match. 

After scoring a goal, Jehezkel showed his bandaged wrist to the camera, which read „100 days, 7/10”, as a protest in support of the hostages who have been held by Hamas in Gaza for over 100 days since the deadly October 7 attack. 

On Sunday, Antalyaspor announced its decision to suspend Jehezkel from the team, saying that he acted against the „national values” and was „excluded from the squad by the decision of the board of directors.”

A club statement added: „Our Board of Directors will never allow behaviour against the sensitivities of our country, even if it results in a championship or a cup.”

„I did not act to provoke anybody. I want the war to end. This is why I showed that sign,” Jehezel previously said, according to a leaked Turkish police report widely cited across Turkish media.

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked ministers not to comment on the arrest due to the sensitivity of the issue and efforts to free Jehezkel, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant attacked the Turks with harsh words. „When the earth shook in Turkey less than a year ago, Israel was the first country to stand up and extend aid that saved the lives of many Turkish citizens,” he said. „The scandalous arrest of the footballer Shaviv Jehezkel is an expression of hypocrisy and coercion. Through its actions, Turkey serves as the de facto executive arm of Hamas.”

Meanwhile, another Israeli soccer player, Eden Karzev, is also facing a disciplinary investigation by his club, Istanbul Basaksehir, over a social media post.

On Monday, the club said on X that Karzev „violated the club’s disciplinary instructions by posting on his personal social media account that contradicts the sensitivities of our country.”

While the club did not specify the exact post in question, Karzev re-posted an image from another account marking 100 days since hostages were taken by Hamas with the hashtag „BringThemHomeNow”.

The Palestinian issue has been causing repeated rifts in the diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel. In November 2023, Turkish President Recap Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of being „a terrorist state” and of aiming to wipe out the total population of Gaza.


Photo credit: Adem Akalan/DHA/AP