(JTA) — Gil Ofarim’s allegation that a hotel clerk in Leipzig, Germany, denied him a room after seeing his Star of David necklace ignited outrage when the pop singer made it in an October 2021 video that went viral. Jews and others protested outside the hotel, and the employee was temporarily suspended.
But Ofarim’s story fell apart under scrutiny, although he defended it, and he was charged last year with making a false accusation and slander. Now, Ofarim — who was born in Munich to an Israeli musician father — has admitted that he fabricated the incident.
“I would like to apologize — I am sorry, I have deleted the video,” Ofarim said in court on Tuesday, in an admission that came as a surprise and suspended the case against him. In order to erase his charges, he will donate 10,000 euros, or about $11,000, to Leipzig’s Jewish community and the House of the Wannsee Conference, a Berlin landmark that was until 2005 Germany’s only Holocaust memorial, according to German media reports.
The Central Council of Jews in Germany, the country’s main Jewish administrative organization, issued a statement condemning Ofarim’s behavior and calling on him to “face the consequences of his lie in every way.” The group said the harm he has done has gone far beyond the hotel and clerk he has admitted to slandering.
“Gil Ofarim has caused great harm to all those who are actually affected by antisemitism,” the group said in a statement. “In addition to the public, he also lied to the Jewish community.”
The group, which had initially defended Ofarim, said it was appropriate to side with those who say they have experienced antisemitism but that false accusations were egregious.
“We have an antisemitism problem in our society; many are unsettled, especially in the current heated social situation, and are experiencing hatred and rejection of Jews,” the group said. “It is right to stand on the side of the person affected in the event of an accusation of antisemitism, to support them and not to initially question their experience of antisemitism. Conversely, such an accusation must never be made without justification. And unfortunately that’s what happened here.”
Last year, a German man was sentenced to seven months in prison for leaving a hateful comment about Ofarim in response to a news story about him. The comment, “In Buchenwald he would have liked to be seen with his Star of David,” referred to the Nazi concentration camp and ran afoul of Germany’s strict — and at times divisive — laws prohibiting antisemitic speech.