What a relief. It turned out recently that a bird detained in Turkey, on suspicion of spying for Israel, was cleared of the charges.
The bird was a kestrel, a type of small falcon. It was discovered by residents of the Turkish village of Altinavya in the Elazig province. It had a metal ring on its foot stamped with “24311 Tel Avivunia Israel.”
Worried residents of the village turned the bird over to Elazig’s Firat University. There, as Britain’s Telegraph reports:
medical personnel…initially identified the kestrel as “Israeli Spy” in their registration documents. Intensive medical examinations—including X-rays—determined that the bird was, indeed, just a bird. There were no sign of microchips that might transmit information back to Israel, local media reported. The kestrel was allowed to fly off after authorities determined there was no need to press charges.
Turkey, it should be noted, was long considered a prime example of a Muslim secular democracy. It even had extensive economic and strategic relations with Israel.
Many date the deterioration of those relations from the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, when Israeli commandos, attacked by a mob, killed nine Islamists on a Turkish ship headed toward Gaza. But Turkey’s Islamist prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had already started curtailing those relations over Israel’s 2008-2009 operation against his fellow Islamists, Hamas, in Gaza.
Turkey, in other words, has moved closer to the anti-Israeli attitudes prevalent in the region’s Arab countries. Both in those countries and in Turkey itself, the kestrel incident was hardly the first of its kind.
Turkey’s previous contribution to the genre came in May 2012. The BBC reported that villagers in the southeast of the country took fright when a bird, a common European bee-eater,
was found dead in a field with a metal ring around its leg stamped “Israel.”
They called the police after deciding its nostrils were unusually large and may have carried a microchip fitted by Israeli intelligence for spying.
It was taken to government experts for examination and declared safe.
…At one point a counterterrorism unit became involved in the case.
Otherwise the contributions have been by Arab countries. Just last December, for instance, Sudanese authorities said they had
captured an Israeli spy in the town of Kereinek, but Israeli authorities have cast doubt on the claim, noting that the alleged Mossad agent is covered in feathers and weighs less than 30 pounds.
Officials in the North African country are calling a large bird captured last week an “Israeli spy bird,” according to Middle Eastern media reports.
Indeed, it wasn’t only Sudan that got into that act. An Egyptian daily
said the raptor was fitted with solar-powered equipment that can broadcast information, including satellite images. The report states a GPS tracker was also installed.
Iran’s Press TV reported that the Sudanese security services believe the vulture was dispatched on its mission from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University….
It’s always a letdown to puncture such theories, but…an Israeli ecologist clarified that
the bird was being tracked for the purpose of studying migration patterns…. “This is a young vulture that was tagged, along with 100 others, in October. He has two wing bands and a German-made GPS chip…. This is equipment that can give out distance and altitude readings only….”
And then there was the Saudi case in January 2011. This one involved a griffon vulture—indeed, scary devils than can have a wingspan of almost nine feet.
Saudi officials got good and scared when a griffon vulture with a GPS transmitter saying “Tel Aviv University” was found—and detained—in a desert town called Hyaal.
Israeli wildlife officials, for their part,
dismissed the claims as ludicrous and expressed concern about the bird’s fate. [They said] they were “stunned” by the allegations and concerned that the bird could meet a horrible punishment in the notoriously severe Saudi justice system.
“The device does nothing more than receive and store basic data about the bird’s whereabouts, and about his altitude and speed,” [said] a bird specialist at Israel’s Park and Nature Authority….
“I hope they release the poor thing.”
Apparently, they did eventually.
Prince Bandar bin Saud Al Saud scoffed at the claims…. “These systems are fitted to birds and animals, including marine animals. Most countries use these systems, including Saudi Arabia…. We have taken delivery of this bird, but we will set it free again after we [have] verified its systems.”
Saud insisted he wasn’t defending Israel, but called for calm.
Not all the cases, though, have involved birds. Sharks, anyone?
It was back in June 2010 that shark attacks along Egypt’s Red Sea coast injured three Russians and a Ukrainian and killed a German woman. The incidents “triggered a flurry of speculation [about] an Israeli plot to harm Egyptian tourism.”
Israel and Egypt, by the way, signed a peace treaty in 1979. It says the sides will “establish normal and friendly relations….”
But Mohamed Abdel Fadil Shousha, governor of the South Sinai region, said it was
not “out of the question” that Israel could have planned the attacks on tourists to dent the Egyptian economy.
He said: “What is being said about the Mossad throwing the deadly shark in the sea to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question. But it needs time to confirm.”
Why bother with Jaws when you’ve got Jews?
Though these cases have their funny side, they’re sad too. Israel is indeed the most advanced country in the region. Instead of, perhaps, learning from what Israel does right—economic and cultural freedom, encouragement of thought and innovation—the populations of the region attribute its achievements to a diabolical Jewish cunning.
A light that could help the region progress gets translated instead into even deeper darkness.