Shin Bet to Israeli Gymnastics Team: We Can’t Protect You in Turkey (VIDEO)
Officials at Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency have warned Israeli gymnasts that attending an upcoming international meet in Izmir, Turkey could be too dangerous for them, Israeli Army radio said Thursday.
The security officials said “it would be very difficult” to protect the sports entourage, and, as a result, the Israeli Gymnastics Federation said it was doubtful they would make the trip, fearing for the athletes’ safety.
“We must not give in to terror, and we must look out for our interests,” Federation chief Ofir Paz told Army radio on Wednesday.
“A,” a 57-year-old Turkish Jew and factory owner told Israel’s Channel 2 News last week that the situation for the country’s some 20,000 Jews has gone from bad to worse since Israel’s Operation Protective Edge to halt Gaza rocket fire began a month and a half ago.
“The feeling is not at all pleasant to say the least,” he said. “People just do not say their opinion and I encourage Israelis not to come to Turkey. They would swear at them on the street if they knew where they were from.”
“They curse Hitler morning and night,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said of Israelis before a crowd in Ordu in mid-July.
“However, now their barbarism has surpassed even Hitler’s,” he said of precision Israeli air strikes on Hamas terrorists, rocket crews and sites, and terror tunnels leading into Israel.
For “Natalie,” in Istanbul, “Day by day it’s only getting worse – in the press, in the streets and just in general. I’m not saying I’m Jewish, and if I am asked then I deny. It is terrifying.”
Paz that the team would remain in Israel until they received a clear answer to their security concerns.
“On the other hand, I’m pretty certain that, under the circumstances, I’m not going to play ‘Sampson.’ If the Shin Bet says not to go, even though the Federation is an autonomous body, realistically, I’m not about to take responsibility for the state of relations with Turkey.”
He added that he was sure that “the Shin Bet would make every effort to try to allow the group to make the trip.”
Paz emphasized that “The Olympic Committee is aware of the problematic situation, and will arrange for us to meet the criteria somewhere else.”
In a related story closer to home, ongoing rocket fire from Gaza has forced Euroleague champs, Maccabi Tel Aviv BC, to open seasonal practice in Italy, and not in Tel Aviv, according to local Sport 5 News.
Watch a compilation reel featuring Israeli gymnasts at the 2012 Olympics held in London: