Journalist and filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici is suing anthropologist Joe Zias, who in recent years has been doing his utmost to disprove his provocative theories on early Christianity.
Jacobovici’s suit states that following Zias’ accusations, the Discovery Channel and National Geographic canceled the broadcast of his films, which cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars. He also says Zias is not an expert in archaeology as he presents himself, and never formally studied the subject.
“Let him say what he wants, I’m not arguing with him. Let him find 100 professors who say I’m talking foolishness. He said I am a forger, that I planted discoveries, that I invent Holocaust stories. I am a son of Holocaust survivors! So I’m invoking my right to defend myself. Let him prove that I am a forger or let him pay,” Jacobovici told Haaretz.
Zias and his attorney, Yehonatan Zvi, want the dispute moved to the academic arena. In the defense brief submitted to the court, Zvi compares the current suit to the 1925 “monkey trial” in which a teacher, John Scopes, was tried in Tennessee for teaching evolution. According to Zvi, his client, like Scopes, is fighting to protect scientific research.
Prof. Yuval Goren of Tel Aviv University, one of the two senior archaeologists who submitted their opinions, compared Jacobovici’s films to the “Indiana Jones” movies – “although this image does great injustice to the latter,” Goren noted. “Steven Spielberg never tried to claim that the discoveries of Dr. ‘Indy’ Jones were scientific truth or had any factual basis” Goren wrote. He added that he felt the suit was intended to “silence legitimate scientific criticism.”
Prof. Amos Kloner, a former Jerusalem district archaeologist for the antiquities authority who took part in some of the excavations that appear in Jacobovici’s films, attacked the latter’s methods in the opinion he submitted to the court. “These films do not present all the findings or the whole story with the accepted detail required and essential in critical research.”
I’ve said all along, and I will continue to say, that suing someone for an academic opinion is unacceptable. Many, many have criticized Simcha’s work with good reason. And though Simcha asserts that he’s suing Zias because Zias suggested he planted things and forged stuff, I’m not buying it. If all the stuff Simcha has filmed is the real deal, scholars would have supported him and his findings. That those findings were weighed in the academic balances and found wanting isn’t Zias’ fault. He doesn’t have that much influence. Nor does he have, in my opinion, sufficient influence to get tv channels to pull Simcha’s work. Simcha’s work was pulled for reasons known only to the networks he’s worked with and if he sues anyone it should be them.
I sincerely believe (though I don’t know it for a fact because I can’t read minds) that Simcha is suing Zias out of spite.