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.