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Review of FOCUS online: “C-List Celebrity” in the Dock – why the Ofarim Case has Millions Gripped

On paper, it’s about trivialities. Defamation and false accusation – such allegations are usually dealt with quietly and without public attention by German district courts. Not even local newspapers are interested in such proceedings, where the perpetrators usually get away with a fine. Just peanuts.

But with Gil Ofarim, it’s different. The whole of Germany is discussing the criminal case. In living rooms, at pubs, in offices, on the streets – everywhere, the Jewish musician is currently a topic of conversation. All media outlets report on the ongoing trial against the 41-year-old at the Leipzig Regional Court. Alone on FOCUS online, over 1.5 million users follow the live ticker from courtroom 115 daily.

But why is that? Where does the huge public interest in this court drama, which has been stirring minds since the evening of October 4, 2021, come from, just like otherwise only spectacular murder or abduction cases do? FOCUS-online Chief Reporter Göran Schattauer, who has intensively dealt with the case and experienced Ofarim in court, cites five reasons:

1) The Celebrity Factor

Gil Ofarim certainly does not belong to the first ranks of “prominent Germans”. He would rather be classified in the “C-List Celebrity” category. Although the musician has a loyal fan base, performs concerts, and sells CDs. He has also been a guest on TV shows like “Let’s dance” and “The Masked Singer”.

But until the “Star of David scandal” he triggered himself, the majority of Germans could not relate to the man from Munich. In the tabloid press and in cultural circles, the son of the renowned Israeli singer Abi Ofarim (1937 – 2018) always had a place and was rated as a “VIP”, a “very important person”. In this broader sense, he can be described as a “star”.

Stories of fallen stars always captivate people. Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, downfall due to personal setbacks, escapades in the red light district, or various law violations – the audience is riveted by celebrities. One part follows the decline with a certain satisfaction, even scorn (“He deserves it”), the other part hopes the star will get off lightly.

If celebrities have to also be accountable in court, just think of Boris Becker, Uli Hoeneß, or Alfons Schuhbeck, readers, viewers, and listeners can’t get enough. Every new detail is eagerly absorbed with the motto: “Oh, look, I wouldn’t have expected that from him…”

That’s exactly the case with Gil Ofarim.

2) The Social Media Power

The case of Gil Ofarim would hardly be conceivable without the impact of social media. If the musician had not posted the fateful video on the internet and made it accessible to millions of people, the matter would probably never have escalated as much.

If there had indeed been an antisemitic insult at the “Westin” hotel, as claimed by Ofarim, it could have been clarified through the usual channels – through criminal investigations and a decision of the judiciary in one way or another. The public might have learned about the incident sooner or later. But an expensive, elaborate criminal trial with much fanfare would have been spared to all involved.

Ofarim set in motion a rock with his Instagram video, which was unstoppable. Shitstorms, counter-shitstorms, sympathy, outrage, horror, anger, doubt about Ofarim’s account, mockery, hostility against the hotel and the musician himself – it raged on the internet.a real battle of words. Opinions and emotions clashed, discussions escalated and are still ongoing, well over two years after the incident.

It was only through the public outpouring by Gil Ofarim that the matter gained immense media attention. The debate on social networks shifted to news broadcasts, engaged politics, and suddenly became a topic in talk shows. Now all eyes are on the trial of the year in Leipzig.

3) The tremendous drop

Gil Ofarim has repeatedly shared his experiences with antisemitism. “I was often insulted and abused for my Jewish roots,” he said in an interview once. “Every time I post something on my social channels, I receive insults.”

Against this background, it initially seemed absolutely plausible that the singer had once again been the target of an unbearable verbal attack on October 4, 2021. Accordingly, there was great solidarity with him. During those hours, Gil Ofarim had the status of a victim, a deserving target of protection.

From this pedestal, Ofarim plummeted unimpeded, directly onto the defendant’s bench of a German regional court. It can hardly get any worse.

As a result of the investigations by the Leipzig public prosecutor’s office, the suspicion arose that a semi-prominent German Jew could have fabricated an antisemitic attack on himself for purely private interests. This sounds at least as outrageous as the accusation that Ofarim himself makes.

The course of the trial, with numerous witness hearings and the evaluation by a digital expert, currently speaks against Ofarim’s version.

Whatever the legal outcome of the case, there are only losers. Even if Gil Ofarim were to be acquitted in the end because his guilt cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt, he is likely to face difficult times.

The former “star” must expect that his public image will suffer significantly, that his success as an artist is in jeopardy, and that his name will be forever associated with this disgraceful criminal case. It can already be said: Gil Ofarim is a figure that polarizes extremely.

4) The great guessing game

Soon after the incident, images from the hotel circulated on the internet. The surveillance camera footage showed Ofarim after his arrival at the “Westin”. For many, it immediately became a kind of search game: Where is the chain with the Star of David that the musician claimed to be wearing? That chain that a hotel staff member is said to have commented on, “Pack up your star!”

No chain was visible to the naked eye. The later circulating theory that Ofarim might not have worn the chain over his shirt, but underneath, further fueled the discussions. Whether within the family circle, with colleagues, or friends – everywhere, and even till today, there have been speculations about what actually might have happened.

Ofarim’s own descriptions, the hotel video, and the interim statements of the parties involved provided material for speculation and interpretations. Everyone can join the discussion, everyone has an opinion. Since the most important pieces of evidence in the criminal case were made public very early on, everyone could act as a hobby 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 trial (numerous lawyers, experts, many witnesses, some of whom travel from abroad) not in stark disproportion to the offense that is to be clarified here? So, there is a lot to discuss.

5) The victim-perpetrator role

In the initial phase of the criminal case, Gil Ofarim took on a very clear role

– the victim. Generally, a victim is considered to be someone who has been physically or psychologically harmed directly or indirectly by a criminal act or another action. Those who unquestioningly followed Ofarim’s descriptions in his Instagram video had to assume that something terrible, something deeply abhorrent, had just happened to the singer.

Gil Ofarim conveyed the impression that he had become the target of an anti-Semitic attack – and the vast majority believed him. High-ranking politicians and parts of the so-called “civil society” swiftly leapt to the musician’s defense, without questioning his account or hearing the other side, the hotel staff. In doing so, they consciously solidified Ofarim’s status as a victim.

If anything, Ofarim was always just an alleged victim. Just as he is now an alleged perpetrator. Because neither version has been proven so far.

Fact is: The “victim” label that Ofarim assigned to himself was, according to the Leipzig public prosecutor’s office, a deception, a lie. In the view of the prosecutors, Ofarim committed a criminal offense. He is said to have harmed another person.

In this case, the other person would be the hotel manager of the Leipzig “Westin”. Is he the real victim? And Ofarim, the Jewish musician, the perpetrator?

The very idea that it could have happened that way incites many people. Philipp Peyman Engel from the “Jewish General” spoke in the “Stern TV” program in October 2021 of a “disaster for the fight against anti-Semitism”. He feared that in “further anti-Semitic incidents, there would naturally always be the undertone: Maybe the truth was tampered with or maybe someone made something up.”

Therefore, the case of Gil Ofarim is highly political, especially in times when anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel are becoming increasingly overt. It’s no wonder that all eyes are on the 41-year-old who would like to be a victim but perhaps isn’t.

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