From a paper perspective, it’s all about the little things. Defamation and false suspicions – German district courts generally hear such allegations discreetly and without publicity. Not even local newspapers are interested in such negotiations, where perpetrators often get away with a fine. Just peanuts.
Things are different with Gil Ofarim. All of Germany is discussing the criminal case. In living rooms, at regular tables, in offices, on the street – the Jewish musician is a topic everywhere today. All media outlets are reporting the ongoing trial against the 41-year-old man at the Leipzig regional court. In FOCUS online alone, more than 1.5 million users follow the room 115 live ticker every day.
But why is it like this? Where does the enormous public interest in the history of legal crime come from, which has been heating up emotions since the night of October 4, 2021 as just spectacular cases of murder or kidnapping? FOCUS online chief reporter Göran Schattauer, who dealt intensively with the case and experienced Ofarim at trial, gives five reasons:
1) The celebrity factor
Gil Ofarim certainly does not belong to the top of “prominent Germans”. He would be more in the “C-celebrity” category. The musician has a solid circle of fans, gives shows and sells CDs. He has also been a guest on TV formats such as “Let’s Dance” and “The Masked Singer”.
But until the “Star of David scandal” that he himself started, most Germans could do nothing with the man from Munich. In the tabloid press and cultural circles he had Son of the well-known Israeli singer Abi Ofarim (1937 – 2018) he always had a place somewhere and was classified as a “VIP”, a “very important person”. In this regard, he can be described as a “star” in a broader sense.
Stories of fallen stars always captivate people. Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, accidents due to personal mishaps, running from red lights or all types of law violations – the public is rooting for celebrities. One part accompanies the decline with a certain satisfaction, even malice (“It’s good for you”), the other part hopes that the star leaves lightly.
If celebrities also have to answer in court – just think of Boris Becker, Uli Hoeneß or Alfons Schuhbeck – readers, viewers and listeners can’t get enough. Each new detail is absorbed with gratitude in accordance with the motto: “Oh look, I wouldn’t have thought that was possible…”
The same happens with Gil Ofarim.
2) The social media turbo
The Gil Ofarim case would hardly be conceivable without the power of social media. If the musician had not posted the important video on the Internet and made it accessible to millions of people, the matter would probably never have reached such a high level.
If there had really been an anti-Semitic insult at the Westin Hotel – as Ofarim claims – it could have been cleared up in the usual way – through criminal investigations and some kind of court decision. Still, the public could have discovered the incident sooner or later. But everyone involved would have been spared an expensive and complex criminal trial, with much fanfare.
With his video on Instagram, Ofarim gave a start that could no longer be stopped. Shit storm, counter-shit storm, pity, indignation, horror, anger, hatred, doubts about Ofarim’s representation, ridicule, hostility towards the hotel and the musician himself – a real war of words raged on the Internet. Opinions and feelings clashed, discussions heated up and continue to this day, a good two years after the incident.
It was only when Gil Ofarim let the genie out of the bottle that the issue gained media traction. The debate on social media moved to television news, focused on politics, and suddenly became the subject of talk shows. Now everyone’s eyes are on the trial of the year in Leipzig.
3) The enormous height of fall
Gil Ofarim has repeatedly recounted his experiences with anti-Semitism. “I have often been insulted and insulted for my Jewish roots,” he once said in an interview. “Every time I post something on my social channels, I get insults.”
In this context, it initially seemed entirely plausible that the singer had once again been the target of an unbearable verbal attack on October 4, 2021. Solidarity with him was correspondingly great. During these hours, Gil Ofarim had the status of an aggressor, a victim worthy of protection.
From this pedestal, Ofarim fell uncontrollably, straight into the dock of a German regional court. It couldn’t be worse.
The investigations carried out by the Leipzig Public Prosecutor’s Office raise the suspicion that a semi-prominent German Jew could have invented an anti-Semitic attack against himself out of purely private interests. This sounds at least as outrageous as the accusation made by Ofarim.
The progress of the process with many witness hearings and the evaluation by a digital expert currently speaks against Ofarim’s version.
Whatever the legal outcome, there are only losers. Even if Gil Ofarim is ultimately acquitted because his guilt cannot be proven beyond a doubt, he will likely face difficult times.
The former “star” has to reckon with the fact that his public reputation will suffer enormously, that his economic success as an artist is at risk and that his name will forever be associated with this inglorious criminal case. It can already be said: Gil Ofarim is an extremely polarizing figure.
4) The big assumptions
Shortly after the incident, photos of the hotel began circulating online. Surveillance camera footage showed Ofarim upon his arrival at the Westin. For many, a kind of search game immediately began: Where is the Star of David necklace that the musician said he wore? The chain about which a hotel employee reportedly said, “Get your star!”
No currents could be seen with the naked eye. The theory that circulated later that Ofarim might not have worn the necklace over his shirt, but underneath it, fueled the discussions even further. Whether with family, colleagues or friends – there was and still is speculation everywhere about what it could really have been like.
Ofarim’s own descriptions, the hotel video, and provisional statements made by those involved have provided material for speculation and interpretation. Everyone can have a say, everyone has an opinion. Since the most important evidence in the criminal case was released very early, anyone could work as an amateur detective.
And in almost every conversation about the Ofarim case, the question arises: Does a German regional court really have to deal with this? Are the enormous costs of such a procedure (numerous lawyers, experts, many witnesses, some of whom travel from abroad) not grossly disproportionate to the crime that is supposed to be solved here? So there is a lot to discuss.
5) The victim-perpetrator role
In the first phase of the criminal process, Gil Ofarim assumed a very clear role – that of victim. A victim is generally considered to be any person who has been physically or psychologically harmed, directly or indirectly, by a crime or other act. Anyone who uncritically followed Ofarim’s descriptions in his Instagram video would have to assume that something bad, something deeply despicable, had just happened to the singer.
Gil Ofarim gave the impression of having been the victim of an anti-Semitic attack – and the vast majority believed him. The highest political representatives and sectors of the so-called “civil society” quickly jumped to the musician’s side, without questioning his presentation or listening to the other side, the hotel employees. In doing so, they deliberately solidified Ofarim’s victim status.
In fact, Ofarim was always just a suspected victim. Just like he is now a suspect in the crime. Because neither one nor the other version has yet been proven.
The fact is that the Leipzig Public Prosecutor’s Office is convinced that the “victim” label that Ofarim attributed to himself was a hoax, a lie. From the prosecutors’ perspective, Ofarim committed a crime. It is said that he hurt someone else.
The other person in this case would be the manager of the “Westin” hotel in Leipzig. Is he the real victim? And Ofarim, the Jewish musician, the perpetrator?
The mere idea that it could have been like this bothers a lot of people. Philipp Peyman Engel from the “Jüdische Allgemeine” spoke on the “Stern TV” program in October 2021 about a “catastrophe for the fight against anti-Semitism”. He feared that in the event of “new anti-Semitic incidents, the following would always resonate: perhaps the truth has been tampered with, or perhaps someone has made something up.”
In this regard, the Gil Ofarim case is highly political, especially at a time when anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel are becoming increasingly evident. So it’s no wonder all eyes are on the 41-year-old, who would like to be a victim, but maybe isn’t.