German-Israeli singer admits in court to inventing hotel antisemitism claim

In 2021 video, Gil Ofarim said staff asked him to hide Star of David pendant; under plea bargain, will give 10,000 euros to Leipzig Jewish community and Holocaust education center

Gil Ofarim arrives at an event at the Hotel de Rome in Berlin, August 19, 2021. (Gerald Matzka/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Gil Ofarim arrives at an event at the Hotel de Rome in Berlin, August 19, 2021. (Gerald Matzka/picture alliance via Getty Images)

A German-Israeli singer admitted in court on Tuesday to having lied when he accused two hotel employees of antisemitism in a viral video posted online two years ago.

Gil Ofarim, 41, shared an emotional account on social media in October 2021 accusing staff at an upscale hotel in the eastern city of Leipzig of asking him to “put away” a Star of David pendant before checking in.

The post was shared thousands of times, raising alarm about resurgent anti-Jewish sentiment in Germany eight decades after the end of the Holocaust.

However, investigators in a probe found “no evidence” to back up the allegation that led to the suspension of two hotel employees, and they filed defamation charges against Ofarim last year.

In surprise testimony Tuesday, Ofarim admitted to the accusations, saying he had made up the story and asking the hotel staff for forgiveness.

Addressing the hotel manager in the courtroom, Ofarim said: “I would like to apologize — I am sorry, I have deleted the video.” He offered no explanation for his false claim.

A screenshot from video of singer Gil Ofarim posted to his Instagram account, on October 5, 2021. (Screenshot/Instagram)

The manager, a co-plaintiff in the case against Ofarim, said he accepted the apology, closing the case.

Under the terms of a plea bargain with prosecutors, Ofarim agreed to donate 10,000 euros ($11,000) to Leipzig’s Jewish community and the House of the Wannsee Conference, a Holocaust education center, the court said in a statement.

With antisemitic crime rising in Germany against the backdrop of the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, Jewish representatives strongly condemned Ofarim’s behavior.

The singer “did great harm to all those who are actually affected by antisemitism,” the Central Council of Jews in Germany said in a statement on behalf of the 200,000-strong community.

In the video, Ofarim said that after waiting in line to check in at the hotel, he asked why others who arrived after him were admitted before him. According to Ofarim, another customer replied telling him to “take off the star,” and he claimed a hotel employee told him he would not receive service unless he removed the pendant.

The songwriter’s social media post garnered widespread attention and triggered a public debate on antisemitism in Germany, which is sensitive to its Nazi past.

Security footage of singer Gil Ofarim checking into the Westin Leipzig hotel on October 5, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)

After the video was published on Instagram, thousands gathered outside the hotel to express solidarity with the singer.

Germany’s then-foreign minister Heiko Maas said he was “stunned” by the incident, warning that “Leipzig is not a one-off” and calling on Germans to stand together against antisemitism.

Several Jewish organizations both in Germany and abroad condemned the incident.

But Ofarim’s version of events came under scrutiny when footage from a security camera, published by German media in the weeks after the incident, did not appear to back up his claims.

In the footage from the hotel in Leipzig, the necklace did not appear to be visible around his neck.

Additionally, the Bild newspaper reported that while giving a statement to police, Ofarim stated that he did not remember whether he was wearing the Star of David chain at the time, even though in his Instagram video he claimed he was.

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