Bar Refaeli cancels Istanbul gig following anti-Israel campaign

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — The organizer of an Istanbul fashion show that was supposed to feature Israeli top model Bar Refaeli denied reports that she cancelled her participation due to safety concerns.

The cancellation of Refaeli’s participation at the Laleli Fashion Shopping Festival, which is due to open on Aug. 24, was announced Wednesday, and attributed to health reasons. But the Israeli news site, citing acrimonious rhetoric against the invitation, reported that organizers beefed up security amid the controversy over Refaeli’s planned attendance.

“There is no safety issue that I know of,” Giyasettin Eyyupko, the president of the organization behind the festival, LASIAD, was quoted on Thursday by the news site as saying during a news conference. He said Refaeli would attend a different event at a later date. “Naturally, there are legal steps that can be taken, but we decided not to because the reason for her failure to attend is understandable, that is all I can say,” Eyyupko reportedly said.

Conservative media in Turkey, including the Islamist Yeni Akit daily, referred to Refaeli as “the Zionist model” quoting activists who called her invitation a “betrayal.” The paper blurred her picture, which adorned the organizers banner for the event. It also published an op-ed criticizing the ruling AKP party fdor allowing the event.

The news site and other Turkish media reported she would receive the equivalent of 700 billion Turkish liras, or a little over $2 billion, but other media reported the figure was closer to $2 million.

The conservative news site reported that the local Istanbul-area municipality of Fatih came under pressure for its sponsorship of the event, and that it responded in a statement stating the organizers have cancelled the model’s attendance. also published on Wednesday an article about Refaeli’s message of support on Facebook for Israeli troops fighting in Gaza last year. The article was titled “the bloodcurdling message of the unscrupulous Israeli model.”

Separately, a band of street musicians was assaulted in Istanbul last week by a man dressed in traditional Muslim garb who accosted them for playing “Jewish music” and warned them that he would “punish them as a Muslim,” the news site reported Monday. Two other men unleashed two dogs on the musicians, according to the report.

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