Israeli soccer player leaves Turkish club over Gaza solidarity post

Turkey’s leading soccer club Basaksehir announced on Thursday that it has terminated the contract of its Israeli player Eden Karzev following a disciplinary probe of his social media post calling for the release of hostages held in Gaza by the Hamas militant group. The club said that Karzev’s action was “contrary to our country’s sensitivities” and that he was fined and asked to continue his career abroad.

Karzev, a 23-year-old midfielder who joined Basaksehir in 2020, was also briefly questioned by police in Istanbul after he re-posted a message on Instagram that marked the hostages’ 100 days in captivity with the hashtag “BringThemHomeNow”. The message referred to two Israeli civilians and the remains of two Israeli soldiers who are believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza.

Israeli soccer player leaves Turkish club over Gaza solidarity post
Israeli soccer player leaves Turkish club over Gaza solidarity post

Israeli player detained and deported over similar post

The club’s decision came days after another Israeli player, Sagiv Jehezkel, was briefly detained in Turkey and questioned for allegedly inciting hatred after he expressed solidarity with the hostages after scoring an equalizer during a top-division game. The Antalyaspor winger returned to a cheering crowd in Israel on Monday from the Turkish coastal city of Antalya where he played.

Jehezkel, a 25-year-old forward who joined Antalyaspor in 2020, had also re-posted the same message as Karzev on his Instagram story, along with a photo of himself wearing a shirt with the Israeli flag and the words “I stand with Israel”. He later deleted the post and apologized, saying that he did not intend to offend anyone and that he was only calling for peace and an end to the Israel-Hamas war that erupted in October 2023.

Turkish public opinion strongly opposes Israel’s actions in Gaza

The two Israeli players’ actions were considered to be supportive of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians and injured more than 10,000 since October 7, 2023, when Hamas and other militants launched an unprecedented attack on southern Israel with rockets and drones. Israel has responded with airstrikes and ground operations, targeting Hamas’s military infrastructure and leaders, as well as civilian buildings and infrastructure.

There is widespread public opposition in Turkey to Israel’s actions in Gaza and overwhelming support for Palestinians. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Israel of acts verging on “genocide” while describing Hamas as a group fighting for liberation. Turkey has also provided humanitarian aid and diplomatic support to the Palestinians, and has called for an international intervention to stop the violence and lift the blockade on Gaza.

Israeli players face backlash and discrimination in Turkish soccer

The incidents involving Karzev and Jehezkel are not the first time that Israeli players have faced backlash and discrimination in Turkish soccer. In 2019, another Israeli player, Diaa Sabia, was booed and jeered by fans and players of rival teams during his stint with Basaksehir, which ended in 2020 when he moved to a Chinese club. Sabia, who is of Palestinian origin, had also expressed his support for the Palestinian cause on social media.

In 2011, another Israeli player, Itay Shechter, was subjected to anti-Semitic chants and gestures by fans of Besiktas during a Europa League match against his team, Hapoel Tel Aviv. Shechter, who is Jewish, was also denied entry to a mosque in Istanbul by a security guard who told him that Jews were not allowed.

The treatment of Israeli players in Turkish soccer reflects the strained relations between the two countries, which have deteriorated since 2010, when Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists on a ship that was trying to break the blockade on Gaza. The two countries have also clashed over regional issues such as Syria, Libya, and Cyprus.

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