The Supreme Court of Israel accepted the appeal of author Naomi Ragen for a verdict in the case brought against her by Michal Tal after the Jerusalem District Court vacated the case following Tal’s death. The verdict on Tuesday by Chief Justice Beinish and Justices Gronis and Arbel, accepted the agreement reached by Ragen and Tal’s heirs, rejecting Tal’s case, stating that “There is not and never was any basis whatsoever for any claim of plagiarism or copyright infringement brought against Naomi Ragen in the Jerusalem District Court.”
In 2007, Tal’s lawyer, Gilad Corinaldi, sent Ragen a letter in which he demanded that Ragen “pay my client, in light of the copyright violation and the profits you have made from this which have illegally enriched you, a more than appropriate sum of money..You have five days of grace (from the receipt of this letter until Monday 19 March 2007) to take the above actions. If you do not comply with these demands, my client will take the following actions: apply to the courts for injunctions against you and the three publishers who market and sell your books to remove the books from the bookstores (Steimatsky and others stores); sue you for millions of shekels (the sum has not yet been fixed); publicize your copyright violations on a special internet site and also issue a press release to all the media in Israel and especially outside Israel in order to give your readers an opportunity to judge for themselves the act of plagiarism you committed.
“Your fate is in your hands. Your good name and the future of your works hang in the balance.” [emphasis in the original]
Ragen, who maintained throughout that she had never seen Tal’s book, refused to pay up.
In an ex parte session of the Jerusalem District Court convened without Ragen’s knowledge, Tal demanded immediate injunctions removing The Ghost of Hannah Mendes from the bookstores, even though her claims related to books that had been published a decade earlier. She filed a one million dollar lawsuit; and publicized her claims in the press and on the internet. Tal claimed the ex-parte session was required because it was impossible to contact Ragen and obtained injunctions instructing Ragen and her publisher to remove her books from the bookstores. Tal filed a lawsuit for NIS 4.25 million and publicized her claims in the weekend press and on the internet. Tal later testified that she knew her lawyer had in fact called Ragen on her cell phone two days earlier (and spoken to her husband) and that he had received a reply from Ragen’s lawyers the day before the ex parte session. Despite holding a Masters degree in Hebrew Literature from Tel Aviv University, Tal claimed that she had not understood the affidavits her lawyers had told her to sign.
During the trial, Ragen presented evidence that she had submitted her book, The Ghost of Hannah Mendes, to her publisher months before Tal self-published her novel in England with a vanity press. The “mutual friend” who Tal claimed had given Ragen a copy of her book testified that she had never done so. A forty-page book of similarities compiled by Tal was shown to contain texts deliberately reworded to give the appearance of plagiarism. In her testimony, Tal blamed these inaccuracies on typographical errors made by her lawyers.
The decision also states that “Tal sincerely believed at the time in the justice of her claims.”
“Tal’s claims were delusional,” said Ragen, “but the travesties and suffering I endured for five years over this frivolous case were very real.
“It has been a truly horrifying experience for me and my family. I am immensely pleased that justice has been finally been served and that the truth has come out in this case. It is my hope and belief that just as the truth has come to light in this case, I will eventually be fully exonerated in the other cases against me.”