German-Israeli singer admits in court he invented antisemitism claim against hotel employees
12/06/2023 // Cassie B. // Views

A German-Israeli singer has admitted in court that he lied when he accused employees of a German hotel of antisemitism in a video that he posted online two years ago that later went viral.

The man at the center of the scandal is 41-year-old Gil Ofarim and his post on social media in 2021 in which he accused two employees of an upscale hotel in Leipzig of telling him he needed to “put away” his Star of David pendant before he could check into the hotel.

In the video, the singer claims that when he was waiting in the hotel's check-in line, he asked why other guests who had arrived before him were admitted prior to him. This is when he claims another customer told him to take off his Star of David chain and a hotel employee said that he would not be served if he did not remove it.

His post attracted thousands of shares and led to a public debate about antisemitism in Germany. This is a very sensitive topic in the country given its Nazi past, and thousands of people gathered outside the Leipzig hotel to show solidarity with the singer.

Even the country's foreign minister weighed in, saying that the incident "stunned him” and calling on the German people to stand up against antisemitism. The two hotel employees were suspended over the incident.

The story started to unravel, however, when footage from one of the hotel security cameras emerged on German media showing that no Star of David necklace was visible on Ofarim. Moreover, the media there reported that he told police in a statement that he couldn't remember if he was wearing the chain despite claiming in his Instagram video that he was.

In a defamation trial against him, several witnesses contradicted his account of what happened that day and said he was visibly angered by the long wait to check in, which had been caused by software problems rather than any personal vendetta on the part of employees against people who appear to be Jewish.

The investigation revealed that there was no evidence that the incident ever happened, and Ofarim admitted in surprise testimony in the trial that he invented the story and pleaded with the hotel's employees to forgive him. He never explained why he made the false claim, only saying that he was sorry and that he had deleted the video. The hotel's manager, who was a co-plaintiff in the case, accepted the apology and the case was subsequently closed.

Ofarim ordered to donate 10,000 euros to Jewish community

Instead of being ordered to pay restitution to the hotel whose reputation he compromised or the employees he slandered, his plea bargain with prosecutors saw him agreeing to donate 10,000 euros to the Jewish community of Leipzig and a local Holocaust Education Center.

Germany’s main Jewish administrative organization, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, who initially defended Ofarim, released a statement in which they condemned Ofarim’s behavior and said that he should “face the consequences of his lie in every way,” accusing him of causing “great harm to all those who are actually affected by antisemitism.”

A German man who posted a hateful comment online about Ofarim on a news story about the incident was handed a seven-month prison sentence last year under Germany’s strict laws that ban antisemitic speech. Referring to an infamous Nazi concentration camp, the man wrote in a comment on the German news website TAG24: "In Buchenwald he would have liked to be seen with his Star of David."

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