Mossad Book Sparks NIS 4 Million Lawsuit by Journalist

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The journalist Dr. Ronen Bergman is suing fellow journalist Nissim Mishal and Prof. Michael Bar-Zohar for more than NIS 4 million, alleging plagiarism, intellectual property theft, defamation of character and more. Bergman is represented by attorneys Avi Ordo and Idan Sarid from the law firm of S. Horowitz & Co. The suit claims that at least a third of Bar-Zohar and Mishal’s book “Mossad” (U.S. publisher: HarperCollins) was blatantly copied from works by Bergman or draws on them illegally.

In addition to the financial compensation, Bergman is asking the court to order Mishal and Bar-Zohar to provide a full report of all their profits from the book in Israel and worldwide. He is also asking for permanent injunctions to be issued against the two that will prohibit them from violating his copyright, copying additional material from his publications and signing new contracts for the distribution of “Mossad.”

According to Bergman, the book by Mishal and Bar-Zohar, which was originally published in 2010 in Israel, contained no bibliography or other references to sources the authors used, including dozens of cases in which the two allegedly “flagrantly and illegally copied ... at least hundreds of phrases and whole sentences.” The suit states that “regrettably, instead of carrying out their own independent research,” Mishal and Bar-Zohar engaged in “plagiarism, copyright violation, infringement of moral right and other wrongs against one of the world’s leading writers about the Mossad, namely Dr. Bergman.”

The suit maintains that after Mishal and Bar-Zohar were found out, the sides arrived at a compromise, which Bergman accepted generously, ignoring the strict letter of the law, and in response to pleas to avoid measures that would shame the two publicly. Under the compromise agreement, Mishal and Bar-Zohar undertook not to copy more material from Bergman’s publications. However, the suit says, they did not uphold the commitment and the plagiarism continued.

Mishal and Bar-Zohar are alleged to have “updated [their book] in real time” in foreign languages, drawing on publications by Bergman, after the book appeared in Hebrew. The suit reveals the existence of a memorandum that Mishal and Bar-Zohar allegedly sent to publishers in a number of countries. To persuade the publishers that their book was worth translating, the two noted that the reports on which their book is based originate in books and articles by Bergman.

“It is interesting to note,” Bergman’s lawyers add, “that these words of high praise by the respondents about Dr. Bergman disappeared without a trace from the book’s international edition. This apparently happened when the respondents realized that those statements constitute an admission of the wrongs they inflicted and are inflicting on Dr. Bergman.”

According to Bergman, after he discovered that Mishal and Bar-Zohar were continuing to copy from his publications, he informed them of his intention to sue them, but again generously offered to reach another compromise. The sides began a mediation process. However, the suit alleges, “In an attempt, made in bad faith, to act ahead of Dr. Bergman’s expected suit, and while pretending to be ready to accept Dr. Bergman’s hand outstretched in peace, the respondents hurried to court during the [summer] recess” and filed a libel suit against Bergman.

In August, Bar-Zohar and Mishal sued Bergman for NIS 1 million for alleged defamation of character. The two alleged that Bergman tarnished their reputation among publishers abroad with the aim of causing the failure of the international edition of “Mossad” due to greed, author envy and fear that his forthcoming competing book would fail. Bergman, for his part, is also demanding financial compensation for defamation of character that allegedly appears in the lawsuit filed by Mishal and Bar-Zohar and in a press release they issued.

According to attorney Gil Bar-Zohar, who represents Mishal and Michael Bar-Zohar, “This is a baseless suit [by Bergman], which recycles allegations that were already rejected in the past. Its purpose is solely to create an artificial counterweight to the true suit, which is the one filed by Bar-Zohar and Mishal against Bergman ... The truth, like Bergman’s credibility, will become clear very quickly in court.”

Journalist Ronen Bergman, who filed the NIS 4 million lawsuit. Credit: Nir Kafri

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