Why is Simcha Jacobovici Suing Joe Zias?

I’ve heard from sources that Joe Zias has been sued by Simcha Jacobovici.  The reason, so far as I can discern it, is because Simcha is suggesting that a Discovery Channel (or NatGeo) special Simcha produced was pulled and Joe is somehow responsible for the loss of income that decision by Discovery caused Simcha.

I contacted Joe and he did indeed confirm that he was being sued by Simcha for 3,500,000 NIS (about $1,000,000).

I find that passing bizarre.  First, if the Discovery Channel pulled a program, that’s their decision so why not sue them?  If Zias complained to Discovery about the inaccuracies of the program (which, knowing Joe, I’m sure he did), so what?  People have been complaining about the exaggerations and inaccuracies of Simcha’s ‘biblical archaeology’ for years.

Indeed, Aren Maeir, upon meeting Simcha who introduced himself as ‘the naked archaeologist’ retorted ‘you’re not naked or an archaeologist’.  And he isn’t.  He’s a film producer.  So when scholars object to his nonsense, why sue them?  Why not defend one’s ‘documentaries’ in the court of academic opinion?  So why isn’t Simcha suing Aren?

And, even more pointedly, Jonathan Reed famously called Simcha’s work ‘Archaeoporn’!   If that isn’t a slap in the face at Simcha’s supposed contributions to ‘biblical archaeology’ what is?  So why isn’t Simcha suing Reed?

And there are loads of others.  Most archaeologists will have nothing to do with Jacobovici’s projects.  He’s more derided in the halls of academic archaeology than anyone else known to me by reputation or in person.  With good reason: his work doesn’t measure up.

His projects with James Tabor on the family tomb of Jesus have been absolutely excoriated by everyone (except for a very few uninformed dilettantes).  Mark Goodacre went to great lengths to point out the inaccuracies and infelicities of Simcha’s ‘family tomb of Jesus’ rubbish and Simcha never responded to that smacking.

In short- there are a lot of people who have pointed out Simcha’s many failings.  So why is he only taking aim at Zias?  Is he trying to silence Zias because he’s very vocal and willing to make the effort to contact broadcasters in order to tell them that Simcha’s work doesn’t measure up?  I know that Joe can be fiery and opinionated but when it comes to the facts concerning the subject matter which concerns us all, he’s usually right.

I understand quite well that Jacobovici makes a living from his sensationalizing of ‘biblical archaeology’.  But if a show of his was pulled, one really has to wonder why the television station which made the decision isn’t the object of Simcha’s wrath and an outspoken critic, who had and who has absolutely no power to pull anything from any airwave, is to blame.

Simcha, for all intents and purposes, looks to be on a vendetta.  And scholars can’t stand by silently while one of their own is muzzled.  If it ever comes to the point that film makers with financial clout (or magazine publishers for that matter) can hush the mouths of honest academics simply striving to inform the public of the facts, the only ones to blame will be the silent scholars.

I hope the Israeli court tosses the suit out on its ear.

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16 thoughts on “Why is Simcha Jacobovici Suing Joe Zias?

  1. arenmaeir 8 Dec 2011 at 7:26 am

    The “your not naked and not an archaeologist” quote is mine – and it even appears on one of the “naked archaeologist” programs.
    While I don’t agree with much of what Simcha does – he is a very funny guy who has a lot of very interesting ideas – even if some of them are off the far side of the moon.
    Sorry to hear that he is suing Joe – I think here Simcha may have lost his well-known sense of humor


    • Jim 8 Dec 2011 at 7:37 am

      thanks for the correction!


  2. Stephen Goranson 8 Dec 2011 at 7:48 am

    I also wrote critical comments about The Jesus Family Tomb (the book; I didn’t watch the TV show) including in the following post:
    I hope the judge will dismiss the suit.


    • Jim 8 Dec 2011 at 7:49 am

      thanks stephen. now that you mention it i do recall your contribution. very nicely done.


  3. Madeleine 8 Dec 2011 at 8:37 am

    I truly hope that your community takes a unified stand behind Joe to bring this farce to an end
    A friend


  4. digmegiddo 8 Dec 2011 at 9:40 am

    Now we are reaching the point of absurdity. What is Simcha actually accusing Joe of doing and how is it different from the scholarly rebuttals that have greeted each of Simcha’s recent projects? Is there anywhere that we can see the text of the suit that was filed?


    • Jim 8 Dec 2011 at 9:43 am

      i’m hoping for the chance to see that myself. if i get it, i’ll definitely post it.


  5. […] some cautions over depending upon Jacobovici “the naked archaeologist”, Jim West has announced that Jacobovici is set to sue the archaeologist Joe Zias. Apparently Zias has been talking to  the […]


  6. Simcha Jacobovici 8 Dec 2011 at 1:58 pm

    In the world of journalism, when one has a question, one first poses it to the person it’s directed to. Had you asked me why I’m suing Joe Zias, I would have answered. I’ll answer anyway.

    I believe in a free society and in peoples’ fundamental right to express their opinions.

    As such, Mr. Zias is free to think and say whatever he wants about me, my films and/or anything I write. Furthermore, in a democratic society, his right to express his opinions is protected. By the same token, in a democratic society, he’s not allowed to libel anyone. I am suing Joe Zias for libel.

    In December 2002, Mr. Zias wanted to sell me a film idea called “$igns and Wonders”. He wanted me to make a film attacking adventurers Vendyl Jones and Ron Wyatt, who have since passed away. He used the now familiar “S” written as a dollar sign and accused them of “pimping the Bible”. When I refused to engage in this libelous activity, he turned against me with a vengeance, using the very same expressions against me, my films and later my book. The whole matter came to a head when he repeatedly accused me of unspecified “forgery”, unspecified “planting” of evidence and unspecified “inventing” of Holocaust stories. These would be very serious accusations against anyone, but especially so when directed at a journalist who is a child of Holocaust survivors. That’s where I drew the line and will draw it again when anyone crosses the border between legitimate criticism and illegal slander.

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you and others are rallying to Zias’ side without even knowing the facts, but in answer to your question: “Why is Simcha Jacobovici suing Joe Zias?” I’m suing him because, in a free society you have the right of free speech, but not the right to defame anyone.

    Simcha Jacobovici

    Simcha Jacobovici is a filmmaker and a journalist. He is the recipient, among his many honours, of the “Dupont Award” from the Columbia University School of Journalism and the “Edward R. Murrow Award” from the American Overseas Press Club.


  7. Jim 8 Dec 2011 at 3:33 pm

    That leaves unanswered the question why you’re suing Zias for ‘defaming’ you when you haven’t felt ‘defamed’ by anyone else.
    Surely you have the right to freely express your opinions even if they are not held by professional archaeologists. You certainly have the means to do so.
    But doesn’t Zias also have the right to question your conclusions? How is such questioning defamation in your estimation?


  8. Simcha Jacobovici 8 Dec 2011 at 5:18 pm

    How are malicious accusations of “forgery” and revolting accusations of “inventing Holocaust stories” legitimate questionings of my conclusions? Do you not see the difference between criticisms and defamations?


    • Jim 8 Dec 2011 at 5:25 pm

      i do think there’s a difference between critique and defamation. but how is what zias said different, in substance, from what you said, for instance, of cargill being ‘anti-semitic’? or an ‘ordained minister’ for that matter. both lies. both intended to harm his credibility, it would appear, in the field of jewish studies. why make verifiably false claims about cargill, and then sue zias for the same?

      everyone who knows you personally tells me you’re a nice person. i’m sure that’s true. that many of us disagree with your conclusions doesn’t change that of course. i would only wish that some avenue besides legal action were the course taken. a debate perhaps.


  9. Simcha Jacobovici 8 Dec 2011 at 7:03 pm

    I made no comments about Cargill. My comments were describing his written statements which I quoted in my article “The Nails of the Cross: A Response to the Criticisms of the Film” on James Tabor’s blog: http://jamestabor.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/The-Nails-of-the-Cross_June22.pdf. I stand by my statements. This is a far cry from Mr. Zias’ slanderous lies accusing me of “forging” artifacts, “planting” evidence and “inventing Holocaust stories”. In Israel, given our history, the latter I suspect, will be regarded with particular revulsion by the court. It will be up to Mr. Zias to prove his accusations. Failing which, in a democratic society, the law has mechanisms for dealing with defamation of character. At this point, my “debate” with Mr. Zias has been transferred to a court of law.

    I’m not interested in ad hominem arguments, but if you are willing to organize a legitimate debate with scholars, journalists and theologians, I would be more than happy to attend.


    PS. I did not respond to Jonathan Reed’s “archaeoporn” statement because, since I am not familiar with pornography, the analogy was lost on me.


    • Jim 8 Dec 2011 at 7:07 pm

      i confess- your ps made me laugh aloud. i’ll keep your email address and if some sort of forum can be arranged it may be fun. perhaps in chicago at sbl 2012 during one of our ‘online publication and blogging’ sessions.


  10. Simcha Jacobovici 9 Dec 2011 at 9:20 am

    I would love that.


  11. Jo anna Wail 10 Dec 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Jim don’t waste your time, after he and Tabor were throughly trashed by Discovery’s Ted Koppel on American TV in 2007, Cameron apparently having abandoned him, left to fend for himself, Reed calling it Archaeo-porn , it was finished. The leading networks now abandoned him. Immediately Discovery refused to rerun it, Channel 4 who bought it refused and now he says he is not familiar with porn ! my feeling is that he does not fully understand archaeology. Remember one of his films was entitled Sex Slaves….The fact that he asked for pre-conditions, scholars, journalists and theologians, they already tried this ploy with the three day seminar here in Jerusalem and it was a total failure for them, made Koppels panel look like childs play. Goodacre twice sent them in a very scholarly fashion 17 items in the Jesus Tomb mocumentary which needed to be addressed, they ignored both, its not archaeology it’s about making a fast buck.


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