German-Israeli singer charged with lying about antisemitism at hotel

Gil Ofarim accused staff at Leipzig’s Westin hotel of refusing him service over his Star of David pendant, sparking protests, but investigators say no evidence incident occurred

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

German prosecutors said Thursday they had charged a singer with defamation after failing to find evidence for allegations of antisemitism he made against the staff of a hotel that briefly sparked an international maelstrom.

In an emotional video shared on social media in October, Gil Ofarim, a 39-year-old dual citizen of Israel and Germany, accused the Westin Leipzig hotel of denying him service because he was wearing a Star of David necklace.

The video, which Ofarim titled “Antisemitism in Germany 2021” in all capital letters, went viral, with antisemitism watchdogs and others sharing it widely and condemning the hotel’s management.

But investigators found “no evidence” to back up the allegation which led to the suspension of two hotel employees, a statement from Germany’s prosecution said on Thursday.

Prosecutors charged Ofarim with wrongful suspicion and defamation, while closing the investigation.

The musician had shared the video through Instagram “in the knowledge it was false and would have defamatory consequences for the hotel employees,” prosecutors said.

In the video, Ofarim said that after waiting in line to check in, 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 removes the pendant.

The employee, described by Ofarim as the “manager at the check-in counter” and whom he identified only as “Mr. W.” said to him, “Put away your Star [of David].”

“I am speechless,” Ofarim said in the video, which he recorded while sitting outside the hotel shortly after the alleged incident.

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

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

Then-German 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 security footage from the hotel in Leipzig, the necklace does not appear to be visible around Gil Ofarim’s 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.

“I don’t know if I was wearing the chain over or under my shirt. But it’s not about that, it is about being Jewish in general,” Ofarim told Bild after the tape was published.

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