A New York literary agent who represents four playwrights to whom Habima owes money is slamming the national theater, as well as the Israeli government.
Tonda Marton says Habima purchased the copyrights of plays from her clients in order to translate them. But she says the theater owes them a total of $160,000. When Marton failed to collect the money from Habima, she tried her luck with the Culture and Sports Ministry. Haaretz has obtained a letter that Marton wrote to the ministry, dated April 26, asking whether it was conceivable that the government would allow Habima, its national theater, to illegally hold foreign copyrights.
She said that not only would Habima's conduct mean it will not be able to obtain rights to any other play, but that such conduct would damage Israel's reputation, and that it would be known that its national theater had intentionally taken money from foreign playwrights. Marton added that as an American Jew, the copyright crisis with Habima was an endless source of humiliation.
Marton told Haaretz she has received no response from the state and no remuneration for the copyrights.
The Culture and Sports Ministry told Haaretz that it "regrets that Habima Theater does not meet its obligations, and views this as flawed, and causing damage to Israel's image."
The ministry added, "It should be emphasized that despite the ongoing support by the state for Habima, this is an independent body that conducts itself without direct intervention either artistically or in terms of management."
The ministry also said that it was working to apply a full economic recovery program for Habima, which would include discharging its debts in Israel and abroad as soon as possible. "Ms. Marton knows that the issue is being dealt with by the professionals," the ministry told Haaretz.
Habima said it had signed an agreement with the government on October 11, 2011, but that the agreement "had not yet been put into effect, through no fault of Habima's. We are working to begin the [economic recovery] program as soon as possible. When we do, we will reach understandings with all creditors in Israel and abroad."