The Simcha Suit of Zias Hits Gawker

In a nicely organized piece.  Which, I know, you’ll enjoy.  It includes this

Most Outrageous Behavior

Simcha Jacobovici: Claimed to have found Atlantis in an interview with Hadassah Magazine
Joe Zias: “Routinely writes Jacobovici’s first name with a dollar sign in place of the S”

Legal Claims

Simcha Jacobovici: That Joe Zias’ public criticism of his archaeological discoveries (including claims that he has discovered the final resting place of Jesus and his family) amounts to libel, causing him to lose money
Joe Zias: That Simcha Jacobovici’s documentary about the so-called James Ossuary is a fraud “hyped upon the unsuspecting public”

And this…

Supporters

Simcha Jacobovici: Charles Pellegrino (author of The Ghosts of AtlantisJames Cameron
Joe Zias: Anthropologist Carl Feagans, Dr. Jim West (see his post about Simcha’s support for the authenticity of the “Jesus Papyrus” for an excellent Alexa ranking burn)

The Discovery Channel aired Jacobovici’s James, Brother of Jesus but a few years later included “the James ossuary “on its list of the top 10 scientific hoaxes of all time.”

Jim West writes in his analysis of Burleigh’s article that “my hope remains that Zias and Jacobovici will settle this (preferably by the suit being dropped and the two of them having a nice Diet Coke- on me if they wish it).”

The Battle In the Courts: Zias v. Jacobovici

Nina Burleigh, on the suit of Joe Zias by Simcha Jacobovici writes (in Time), among many other insightful things

The contentiousness between Zias and Jacobovici came to a head in 2011. That year, National Geographic pulled out of a Jacobovici project on another early Christian relic that Zias and others were criticizing — comments that the filmmaker cites as part of the reason for his lawsuit. Reached by e-mail, Jacobovici said he is suing Zias — and not his academically affiliated critics — because Zias “crossed the line from fair comment to outright libel. Specifically, he has accused me repeatedly — verbally and in writing — of ‘forging archaeology’ … a criminal activity, and no free society allows you to accuse people of such activities, unless you can prove that what you are saying is correct. Furthermore, he has accused me of ‘planting archaeology.’ Again, free discourse does not include libelous statements such as this one.”

My hope remains that Zias and Jacobovici will settle this  (preferably by the suit being dropped and the two of them having a nice diet Coke- on me if they wish it).

The last paragraph of the report echoes my own sentiments:

What kind of evidence will be presented in court? Jesus and his disciples are unlikely to be coming forward to explain whether they had anything at all to do with all those nails, tombs, ossuaries and other bits of ancient history underneath Jerusalem. American biblical scholar James West, who also blogs on biblical archaeology, said of the lawsuit: “Disagreements are fine, but vendettas (which is what this seems to one outside the proceedings) are improper. Perhaps Zias and Jacobovici should settle their differences the old-fashioned way — in a public debate. Scholars disagree all the time, and they can get quite nasty at it. But I have never once heard of a scholar suing another scholar because their work was eviscerated.”

Oh wait, that’s not an echo at all, it’s a reporting.  Anyway, read the whole piece.  Nina has captured the essence of the dispute.  And Eric Meyers’ comments are quite on point.

Simcha’s Lawsuit Against Joe Zias Hits Ha’Aretz

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.

Further on

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.

And further

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.

Guest Post: Joe Zias’ Letter to Emmanuel Christian Seminary

Dear Professor/President,

While going on line this morning I happened to run across some information regarding theological issues between faculty there and Professor Rollston. As an Israeli archaeologist interested in the Historical Jesus I follow to a great extent what is currently being discussed in that field.

In 2009 I first had the opportunity to meet and hear Chris at a Duke special conference on problems dealing with religion and the media. Chris and I both were invited speakers and if you go on-line you will see the stature of the academic community invited there. For a young man that was quite of an achievement (it took me 40 yrs). He was truly impressive as an academic and as a result I began following some of his research.

In a sense he stands almost alone in a small community of scholars who have the courage and integrity to take a stand against those high profile individuals in the media who are seeking fame and fortune at the expense of those around us. For me personally, I view him not as a theologian but as a very well respected, articulate and highly educated colleague who is perhaps best represented by the words of Seneca ‘academics should be lawyers for the masses’ in the sense that Chris speaks not only to the masses out there in America which few theologians do, (outside the churches on Sunday), but for many of us Jews, Christians and secular academics around the world.

To lose this voice of reason is a blow not only to academic freedom, your institution, but religious studies in general. Please think it over as he has hard earned support from those of us in the academic world. To dismiss him and his ideas would be a travesty and bring shame on your institution. Please reconsider your actions, by doing so, you will do all of us a favor as he is truly unique in his field.

Respectfully yours and Shalom this Feast of Succoth from Jerusalem

Joe Zias

‘Crucify Him, Crucify Him’ – The Biblical Archaeology Review Cries for Zias’ Blood

I wasn’t at the trial so I don’t know what Joe Zias said on the stand.  I do know two things, though and they’re brief observations:

1- BAR hasn’t gone to such lengths to crucify someone (or at least destroy their reputation) since the 90′s when Hershel Shanks showed utter contempt for Keith Whitelam, Niels Peter Lemche, and Thomas Thompson.

2- I don’t really believe BAR is reporting all the facts or all the facts fairly.  I don’t trust BAR to do so as it has shown itself more than willing in the past to skew the evidence to its own advantage.

What this hatchet job shows, though, in my estimation, is that BAR and its editorial staff are a mean-spirited, vicious gang of thugs.  But I already knew that.  I’ve known that since the 90′s.

If, however, BAR has offered the facts as they really are two more things are worth saying:

1- I have been and will remain Joe’s friend.  I’m loyal to my friends and if they happen to fall beneath the weight of human frailty I don’t care- I remain loyal to them.

and

2- I still have absolutely NO respect for BAR, for Hershel Shanks, for his editorial staff, or for those who support their money-driven archaeology, and that won’t change either unless Shanks is fired and the magazine takes on a wholly new character by adopting a more scholarly and less greedy direction (which means ending advertisements for antiquities).

Hershel Shanks Has Done it More than Once

The other day I mentioned that Shanks has been lifting, without permission, evidently by means of a ‘mole’, materials from a closed (which means inaccessible to the general public) discussion list.

Evidently he didn’t just lift something from Niels Peter Lemche (which wasn’t a quote of Lemche at all but of Oestigaard- no matter, Shanks still used it in BAR to malign Lemche), he’s also lifted something from Joe Zias-  A friend emails-

The May June BAR has a piece on page 22 titled: “Joe Zias ‘Hershel Has No Sense of Humor.’” which then quotes from a Jan 12, 2012 message to the biblical studies list:

Re: [biblical-studies] on talpiot

BAR publishing anything which goes against the James Ossuary. Dreaming, Phillip, remember what happened when one of the DSS editors and I told Shanks and his assistant quietly and discretely that we had seen the James ossuary independently of one another, decades after Golan claims to have published it? Not ‘having a sense of humor’ he retaliated with the ‘Lying Scholars ‘ article and published a 6-7 page article accusing us of lying. When my photo alongside the dealer who ‘knoweth not Zias’ appeared in the article, he then mentioned in a one sentence note in the next issue, ‘apparently the said dealer knows Joe Zias’. Like I’ve always maintained theres a BAR Crowd behind much of this, its a type of mentality in which ones career is placed before the profession. The fact that it’s ‘biblical’ raises a lot of questions…particularly when some of the Talpiot crowd have to date, found 4 tombs of Jesus and U-Haul that ossuary from valley to valley, cave to cave. If you are a member of the BAR crowd you get ‘diplomatic immunity’ from the magazine at least and an opp. to lecture at those ArchFests each year. I don’t know of any other academic discipline which tolerates such behavior, certainly not in the world of anthropology here in IL. As one colleague told me it’s not what you write but how many times you appear on the History Channel, Discovery etc that counts at some universities.

Evidently Mr Shanks and/or his representatives really do have no problem at all ignoring rules to which they assent. I suppose if it serves a purpose, any act is justifiable, including quoting out of context and/ or taking and distributing what you don’t have the right to take and distribute. I’m more disappointed with Shanks’ methodology now than I’ve ever been before. It’s just simply wrong.

The Petition Continues- Add Your Support…

Even if you agree with the notion that lawsuits are a legitimate means to settle disputes, I hope you’ll consider the effects on scholarship if film-makers like Mr Jacobovici sue persons who disagree with their conclusions. First they came for Joe Zias because he criticized Simcha’s work and next they’ll come for you when you write a review of a book that doesn’t please its author or its publisher.

You can sign the petition urging Simcha to drop his suit here (where you can also see the list of signatories).

A Petition Calling on Simcha Jacobovici to Drop His Suit Against Joe Zias

Please, if you’re so inclined, add your voice to those asking Mr Jacobovici to drop his suit against Joe Zias.  Here’s why Simcha’s being asked to do so:

1- Because suing persons with whom one disagrees over ideological matters and scholarly issues is inappropriate.

2- Because Joe Zias certainly isn’t the only person to object to Mr Jacobovici’s various ‘findings’ and thus shouldn’t be singled out in what for all appearances looks to be a simple vendetta.

3- And though we certainly understand that every person is free to travel legal avenues to redress wrongs, we feel that this suit simply harms the field of academic research and may stifle dissident voices to variant theories.

4- If successful, Mr. Jacobovici’s (who according to all accounts is a humorous and engaging person) action may inadvertently choke out dissident voices by means of monetary threatenings and academics simply cannot sit by and allow that chilling effect on scholarship to take place.

Signatories as of  12:16 p.m., Feb. 10th, 2012:

Jim West Petros TN 37845 United States
Oded Lipschits Tel Aviv 69978 Israel
Yuval Goren Tel Aviv 69978 Israel
Antonio Lombatti parma 43125 Italy
Emanuel Pfoh La Plata 1900 Argentina
Thomas L. Thompson Copenhagen Denmark
Travis Kolber Hod Hasharon 45201 Israel
David Willner Efrat 90435 Israel
Loren Crow Eugene OR 97401 United States
james m nordlund Fargo ND 58102 United States
Rochelle Altman Arad 89000 Israel
Carol Ann Bernheim Jerusalem 91080 Israel
Hani Davis Jerusalem 92302 Israel
Thomas Verenna Easton PA 18042 United States
Mark Goodacre Durham NC 27708-0964 United States
Niels Peter Lemche Copenhagen 1150 København Denmark
Shaul Porrat Jerusalem 9672 Israel
Oded Borowski Decatur GA 30033 United States
Robert Dietel Everett WA 98201 United States
Matthew Collins Lilburn GA 30047 United States
Nancy Ainsworth Shelburne VT 5482 United States
Claude Vigneau, Beaconsfield, Quebec, Canada
Peter Wong Fanling Hong Kong
Zachary Wong Hong Kong L4c 8t1 Hong Kong
Yvonne Ip Hong Kong Hong Kong Hong Kong
Ho Chit Lun / Hong Kong Hong Kong
Alan Chan Hong Kong Hong Kong
Zev Radovan Jerusalem 93108 Israel
Piers Mitchell Cambridge CB2 1QH United Kingdom
sam tsang NT Hong Kong
Murphy Yeung HONG KONG Hong Kong
Anderson Chan Kowloon Hong Kong
Victoria Wong hong kong Hong Kong
Ada Lui NT 852 Hong Kong
Kennie Kam Yen Yin Mansion Jordan Hk Hong Kong
Jack Kilmon Houston TX 77090 United States
Frances Oppenheimer Jerusalem 97277 Israel
Addi Baker Melle 49326 Germany
Carmen Yau Hong Kong 852 Hong Kong
Prof. Donald Ortner Washington DC 20013-7012 United States
Phillip Davies Sheffield S7 1HL United Kingdom
Koon Pong Lau HKSAR 852 China
Steven Cox Salt Lake City UT 84119 United States
Robert Brenchley Birmingham B16 8JQ
Ed Wright Tucson Arizona 85721
Frank Strazzulla Rockwell North Carolina 28138 United States
John Granger Cook LaGrange Georgia 30240 United States