International paranoia over Israeli spy tactics reached new heights this week when Turkish authorities detained a kestrel, believing it to be part of an elaborate surveillance operation.
Locals in eastern Turkey found the bird and passed it over to the authorities, who took it to Fırat University to be X-rayed.
The tests revealed that there was nothing unusual about the kestrel — no microchips or other surveillance equipment — and set it free.
According to Turkey’s Hurriyet news agency: “Authorities decided not to press official charges and the falsely accused bird was free to fly away.”
The incident was the latest in a long line of animal-spy accusations levelled against Israel.
A year ago, Turkey suspected another bird, a merops apiaster, of espionage, and back in 2010, an Egyptian official claimed that shark attacks in the Red Sea could be an Israeli plot.
Most absurd of all, however, was the decision by Iranian military intelligence to detain 14 snails on suspicion of spying.
A backhanded compliment to Israel’s technological ingenuity, perhaps? Israeli author and Mossad expert Yossi Melman didn’t think so.
“This is about pure paranoia,” he said. “It shows how standards of rationality are decreasing in these countries. They think Israel is almighty, omnipotent, capable of all tricks. Israel is proud to use human sources in its intelligence gathering activities. This is a joke.”
The Turkish suspicions were aroused because the bird was wearing a metal tag with the words “24311 Tel Avivunia Israel.” Officials apparently thought that this was an easy-to-crack code pointing to the bird’s Israeli identity. In reality, it was a tag used to track migratory patterns.
Israel and Turkey remain at diplomatic loggerheads.