Singer Gil Ofarim facing defamation charges over allegations of antisemitic discrimination

Prosecutor believes German Jewish singer presented false account of October incident.

By The Algemeiner

Gil Ofarim, the German Jewish singer who accused a hotel in the city of Leipzig of antisemitic discrimination in an incident that electrified the German media last October, is himself facing charges of defamation and libel as a consequence of his allegations.

In an announcement on Thursday, the public prosecutor’s office in Leipzig deemed that on the basis of an extensive investigation into Ofarim’s allegations, the singer had presented a false account of his experience at the check-in desk at the city’s Westin Hotel on Oct. 5.

In an emotional video that quickly went viral, Ofarim shared details of his encounter with hotel staff, which he said left him “speechless,” while sitting outside the hotel’s entrance. He recounted that he was waiting in a long line at the hotel reception because computers at the check-in counter were down.

“I was standing in the queue wearing my necklace which is my right and which I have worn all my life,” he said, holding up his Star of David pendant. Ofarim went onto claim that guests standing behind him in the line were served before him, and that when he asked why, a member of staff told him, “pack up your star and then you can check in.”

Ofarim’s allegations were widely believed, with hundreds of protestors descending on the hotel the following evening for a spontaneous protest against antisemitism.

Germany’s Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (FADA) denounced the Westin hotel’s “incredible case of antisemitism,” then Interior Minister Heiko Maas called on Germans to stand “shoulder to shoulder” against antisemitism — while Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of German Jews, remarked that Ofarim’s alleged ordeal was typical of the “everyday antisemitism to which Jews are repeatedly exposed.”

However, holes in Ofarim’s account of the incident appeared two weeks later, when the German tabloid Bild published CCTV footage of the singer standing in the hotel lobby wearing his trademark open-necked shirt, but without his Star of David necklace on display.

In its statement on Thursday announcing charges against Ofarim, the Leipzig public prosecutor was clear that the incident which Ofarim described in his original video “did not actually happen.” Proceedings against the hotel employee accused of antisemitic discrimination had therefore been discontinued, the statement said.

Ofarim will now have to answer the charge that he knowingly fabricated an allegation of antisemitic discrimination.

Police have also raised questions over the consistency of his account, particularly on the issue of whether he was wearing his necklace. In one interview with investigating officers, Ofarim confessed to being unsure about whether he had been wearing it in the lobby of the Westin. And in a separate interview with the Zeit news outlet, Ofarim elided the same question with the answer, “Anyone who knows me knows that I always wear the Star of David.”

The Munich-born singer is the son of Israeli pop star Abi Ofarim.