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(photo credit: AP)
Anti-corruption watchdog group Ometz has approached the State Comptroller’s
Office, requesting that it investigate claims of mismanagement in the Institute
for the Translation of Hebrew Literature (ITHL).
In an interview with The
Jerusalem Post on Sunday, Ometz director Aryeh Avneri said his organization had
previously brought the claims to the attention of the foreign minister and the
culture and sport minister, who fund and oversee the institution, but since
neither had responded, Ometz had been forced to take the issue to the state
According to Avneri, Ometz has recently received complaints
from authors, translators and others in the publishing world, accusing the
institute’s director, Nili Cohen, of mismanagement.
The charges include
favoritism in author selection, unequal employment of translators, uneven access
to publishers, and excessive spending while on business trips.
said he had approached the ministers with the charges in July, but neither
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman nor Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat
The Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature was
established by the government in 1962 to acquaint foreign readers with the best
of modern Hebrew literature. In 1986, the institute was registered as an
independent nonprofit organization, receiving a majority of its funding from the
While thousands of new books are published in Israel
every year, the ITHL can only translate and market a fraction of them. To date,
the institute has supervised and supported the translation of more than 5,000
books in nearly 70 languages, ranging from Danish and German to Catalan and
Japanese, with the majority of the books – roughly 40 percent – being translated
The institute also operates as a literary promoter,
publishing literary anthologies and professional catalogues , attending
international book fairs, organizing literary conferences and coordinating
international literary exchanges.
For authors, having their books
translated into foreign languages spells a major achievement. Besides the
royalties they can receive from foreign publishers, having their books read
abroad can lead to additional income from requests for book signings and
invitations to lecture.
In its letter to the ministers, Ometz stated that
“Cohen allegedly operates out of emotional motivations and not professionally
and as demanded by her post.” It added that “there are authors who receive
preferential treatment for personal reasons, while others are rejected out of
The letter said that the same was true for translators employed
by the ITHL, as well as for foreign publishers who complained that they were
unable to publish desired authors’ works as their colleagues had, because of
Cohen’s unfair treatment.
Avneri did not disclose who had approached him
with the complaints.
“A no-less-severe problem is the institution
director’s spendthrift behavior while on business trips abroad, which is
expressed by staying at luxury hotels and flamboyant spending, which does not
suite the institution she represents or its budget,” read the letter.
institute responded to Ometz’s letter by denying all the claims and denouncing
the accusations as “baseless slander.”
“The institute’s director is in no
way involved in choosing the authors whom the ITHL deals with or in the
selection of translators.
These processes are all under the
responsibility of literary lectors and the professional staff… This is nothing
but the complaints of authors whose books are not represented by the institute
or those whose books are represented, but who feel like they did not become as
famous abroad as they would have liked to and are expressing their
As to the accusations of excessive spending, the ITHL wrote
that “the institution operates sparingly and according to proper administration
practices and that any claims on the matter are unsupported.”
spokeswoman for the Culture and Sport Ministry said that Ometz’s claims were
currently under investigation by the public committee for arts and culture,
which had appointed a committee to examine the ITHL’s
However, the spokeswoman said its findings had yet to be
published because the ITHL had failed to respond.
“Upon conclusion of the
investigation process and if the findings warrant it, the necessary steps will
be taken,” she said.
Lieberman’s media adviser confirmed that the
complaint had been received at the ministry in August.
He said that it
had been referred to the relevant department, but that no formal conclusions had
yet been reached on the issue.