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An Israeli Soccer Star Stood Up for Hostages in Turkey; Then He Was Attacked

Israeli soccer star Sagiv Jehezkel arrives in Tel Aviv from Turkey. Photo: Reuters/Alexandre Meneghini

It should have been a straightforward story that included facts, relevant reactions, and background.

But these key elements were either omitted or distorted when some media outlets reported on the detention of an Israeli soccer player in Turkey, due to his on-the-pitch gesture of solidarity with Israeli hostages in Gaza.

The reports of CNN and The New York Times painted a picture that legitimized the actions taken against Sagiv Jehezkel, who, until last week, played for Turkish team Antalyaspor.

Here are the core components of the story:

On January 14, after scoring a goal during a Super League match in Antalya, Jehezkel displayed a message written on his bandaged wrist alongside a Jewish Star of David, reading “100 days, 7.10.”
The message alluded to the passage of 100 days since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, in which 1,200 people were killed and some 240 taken hostage. Most mainstream media outlets rightly understood it as a solidarity message with the hostages.
Jehezkel was, however, detained, questioned by Turkish police, and suspended from his club. The Turkish Justice Minister condemned his tribute as “inciting people to hatred and hostility.” His team said he had acted “against the national values.” Jehezkel, who had already returned to Israel, rejected the accusations and according to Turkish media said he had meant to convey a message supporting an end to the war.
Outraged Israeli officials denounced Turkey. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant criticized it as a “de facto executive arm of Hamas.” Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz said Turkey was “working against humane values and sports values.”
Turkey’s actions come against the backdrop of its fierce criticism against Israel since October 7. Turkish President Erdogan has called Israel a “terror state” and said that Hamas terrorists are “freedom fighters.”

But this is not how the story was necessarily covered.

CNN has misrepresented Jehezkel’s message, omitted Israel’s criticism, and added flawed context.

1. The network labeled his solidarity gesture a “protest.”

2. CNN completely ignored Israel’s strong criticism against Turkey, while including the reactions of Antalyaspor and the Turkish justice minister.

The omission of the Israeli foreign minister’s comments is all the more questionable because, apparently, the reporters had been following the Foreign Ministry’s statements. They chose to include the following sentence: “On Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that Jehezkel is returning to his home country.”

3. In an attempt to provide “context” or “balance,” CNN created a false symmetry between a non-violent solidarity tribute and incitement to violence:

This isn’t the first time that a soccer player has become embroiled in controversy over the Israel-Gaza conflict.

Earlier this month, Algerian Youcef Atal, who plays for French club OGC Nice, was handed a suspended sentence and a €45,000 fine ($49,000) following a social media repost about the conflict.

According to Reuters, which cited French newspaper Nice-Matin, Atal republished a 35-second video by a Palestinian preacher who called on God to send “a black day over the Jews.”

4. CNN did include a lengthy background on Israel-Turkey relations. But it called Israel’s actions in Gaza “carnage” and quoted an expert attempting to explain away the Turkish reaction:

Jehezkel’s gesture was misunderstood and misrepresented, Lindenstrauss added, which is “a clear indication that Turkey and the Turkish public have very little understanding of Israel’s interpretation of the events that unfolded on October 7.”

But there was no mention that Erdogan had publicly stated his staunch support for Hamas and its actions.

The New York Times also misrepresented Jehezkel’s message, and felt the need to provide problematic context instead of just reporting the facts.

The newspaper called Jehezkel’s gesture in support of hostages a “pro-Israel” message, creating the impression that Turkey was acting against the player’s political stance.

As mentioned above, other mainstream media — such as The Washington Post and the BBC — reported Jehezkel’s gesture as a plea for the hostages, not a politicized call.

But there’s more.

While The New York Times did provide the necessary background on Turkey’s support for Hamas, it also gave a “balancing” context by equating Jehezkel to other soccer players who had been suspended or fired after sharing violent anti-Israeli calls online.

The paper did not mention why Dutch player El Ghazi had his contract terminated by his German club, Mainz.

Instead, it linked to reports in the Qatari-owned network Al Jazeera that also failed to mention the reason: El Ghazi shared a post early in the conflict with the genocidal call “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free.”

HonestReporting has sent a complaint detailing these flaws to The New York Times.

The wire services included all the necessary elements in their reportage, so any writer or editor could and should have seen what to include in the story.

Why, then, did the outlets mentioned above remove criticism of Turkey, “balance” it or provide background that doesn’t adequately explain the prevailing Turkish zeitgeist?

Instead, their stories downplay or even legitimize the appalling Turkish actions against an Israeli Jew who merely voiced solidarity with innocent people held by a terror group.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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Russia Extends Invitation to Palestinian Factions for Talks in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

i24 NewsRussia has extended invitations to various Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, for discussions on the Israel-Hamas conflict and broader issues in the Middle East.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov announced the initiative on Friday, highlighting Moscow’s desire to engage with all major players in the region amid heightened tensions.

The invitation included a dozen Palestinian groups and is slated for “inter-Palestinian” talks scheduled to commence on February 29.

Bogdanov, serving as President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for the Middle East, emphasized the inclusivity of the invitation, stating, “We invited all Palestinian representatives — all political forces that have their positions in different countries, including Syria, Lebanon, and other countries in the region.”

Among the invitees are Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, alongside representatives of Fatah and the broader Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

The invitation comes at a critical juncture as the Israel-Hamas conflict continues to escalate, drawing international attention and concern. Russia’s proactive stance in convening discussions reflects its growing criticism of Israel and its Western allies, underscoring Moscow’s efforts to assert its influence in the region.

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Netanyahu: Those Who Want us to Desist from Rafah Op Are Telling Us to Lose

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 28, 2023. Photo: ABIR SULTAN POOL/Pool via REUTERS

i24 NewsHamas drops its “delusional” demands, productive hostage talks could begin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday, stressing Israel would not agree to the terror group’s current demands.

WATCH: PM Netanyahu delivers a statement after Hamas suspended negotiations

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) February 17, 2024

“I insist that Hamas should abandon its delusional demands – and when it does, we will be able to move forward,” Netanyahu said in a statement live on TV.

“Those who want us to desist from the Rafah operation,” the leader said in an apparent reference to the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden, “are telling us we should lose. We won’t be dictated to.”

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Iran Unveils New Air Defense Weaponry

Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani speaks at a press conference during the unveiling of a new surface-to-surface 4th generation Khorramshahr ballistic missile. Photo: Reuters/West Asia News Agency

i24 NewsIran demonstrated new weaponry on Saturday, including what it said was the locally made Arman anti-ballistic missile system and the Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system, said the official IRNA news agency. Saturday’s unveiling ceremony of the two vehicle-mounted systems was held in the presence of Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani.

“With the entry of new systems into the country’s defense network, the air defense capability of the Islamic Republic of Iran will increase significantly,” said IRNA.

Video of the new Azarakhsh SHORAD engaging a target drone

It’s radar has a detection range of 50km, with 25km for it’s EO/IR suite

— Iran Defense|نیروهای مسلح جمهوری اسلامی ایران (@IranDefense) February 17, 2024

The Arman missile system is said to be able to “simultaneously confront six targets at a distance of 120 to 180 km,” while the Azarakhsh missile system “can identify and destroy targets up to a range of 50 km with four ready-to-fire missiles.”

The announcement comes amid tensions across the Middle East, with Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis attacking vessels linked to the United States, UK and Israel in the Red Sea in a show of solidarity with the Gaza Strip.

Iran unveils domestically-manufactured Arman anti-ballistic missile and Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system

— Press TV (@PressTV) February 17, 2024

The U.S. and its allies in the Middle East are concerned with Iran’s growing role at the international global arms market, The Wall Street Journal said on Friday. The transformation of the industry, boosted by Russia’s “purchase of thousands of drones that altered the battlefield in Ukraine, has helped Tehran scale up its support of militia allies in Middle East conflicts,” read the report.

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