Israeli soccer player detained in Turkey over message marking 100th day since Oct. 7
Sagiv Jehezkel points to a message on his wrist that references the Israel-Hamas war.
(Photo: Screenshot from YouTube/DW News)

By Jacob Gurvis
January 16, 2024

(JTA) — An Israeli who plays for a Turkish soccer team was detained by police and suspended from his squad after displaying a message marking the passage of 100 days since Oct. 7.

Sagiv Jehezkel, 28, who plays for the top-tier Antalyaspor club, wrote “100 days” and “7.10” on a bandage on his left wrist at a game on Sunday, accompanied by a Star of David, referring to the day when Hamas invaded Israel, killing and wounding thousands and taking hundreds of hostages. He showed the message to the camera after he scored a goal.

Pro-Palestinian sentiment is widespread in Turkey, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan referred to Hamas as a “liberation group” following Oct. 7. After the game, Jehezkel was detained by Turkish authorities for “instigating hatred and enmity among the public,” the country’s justice minister said.

Antalyaspor’s president said Jehezkel “insulted the values of Turkey,” and the team has said it will release him from his contract.

Jehezkel was held for 10 hours and released after questioning from police and court officials. According to the Associated Press, he told police that he was “not pro-war” and said, “I want this 100-day process to come to an end. I want the war to end.” He added, “I have never engaged in anything related to politics since my arrival. I have never disrespected anyone since the day I arrived.”

After his release, Jehezkel returned to Israel, where he was met by fans who cheered and waved Israeli flags to greet him. In Israel, his gesture is being widely interpreted as a call for the release of the hostages taken captive by Hamas on Oct. 7, more than 100 of whom remain held in Gaza.

Jehezkel, who was wrapped in an Israeli flag upon descending from the airplane, reinforced that sentiment after coming home.

“This was the hardest day of my life, but we will be strong,” he said, according to the Israeli publication Ynet. “It is most important that our hostages return and that our heroic soldiers stay healthy, and that the wounded heal. It is most important that the nation of Israel lives.”

Israeli officials slammed Turkey over its detention of Jehezkel. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant called Turkey “the executive arm of Hamas” in a tweet, while Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called Turkey a “dark dictatorship, which works against humanitarian values and the values of sports.”

“Whoever arrests a football player for a show of solidarity with 136 captives who are more than 100 days with the terrorists of a murderous terrorist organization, represents a culture of murder and hate,” Katz said.

Jehezkel is the latest in a string of athletes who have been caught in the storm of the Israel-Hamas war and its ripples around the world. Last week, Jewish South African cricket player David Teeger was removed as the captain of his country’s Under-19 national team, which cited the potential for anti-Israel protests against him.

Earlier this month, Algerian soccer player Youcef Atal, who plays for the French club Nice, received an eight-month suspended prison sentence and a fine after he was convicted of inciting religious hatred for sharing an Instagram post calling for “a black day over the Jews.” Atal, who was also suspended by his club, has since apologized for the post.

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