Tag Archives: Nina Burleigh

Joe Zias’ Open Letter to Academics

Dear friends, colleagues

While some of you have known me for years, in many guises, curator, guide, films, colleague and as well as a friend , one thing which those whom have known me both professionally and personally will agree on is, like most academics, I have zero tolerance for academic misconduct. Religious fraud is bad enough but scientific/academic misconduct is like a virus in that irrespective of one’s religious view, ranging from atheistic to believer, it can affect us all. In the world of anthropology which is where I began my career there is little deliberate fraud, however in biblical archaeology where I have spent the last four decades it is replete with deception, manipulation, dishonesty for various reasons, some political, some religious and some financial. Being non-discriminatory I have taken a vocal stand against all three over the years, at times at the expense of my career which now is at stake here.

Israel is a small country and one’s reputation and name is continually under public scrutiny and in the end, the ultimate question is, have we contributed in some way to advancing science and archaeology? Alternatively, in the search for fame and fortune, which is the issue being discussed here, powerful media and personal interests from abroad have encroached upon what once was a honest profession. Science, religion and archaeology are at risk and in an attempt to silence academic critics a small but financially powerful group within the media has chosen to react via libel ligation (silencing lawsuits). Their primary effect is not legal action, but an attempt to silence public criticism and freedom of expression in order to advance their own parochial interests. The ideology of ‘silencing lawsuits’ is perhaps best illustrated by Scientology’s L Ron Hubbard who wrote “The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment …If possible, (can) ruin one utterly.”

As you are well aware, ‘where threats of libel begin, freedom of expression ends’ thus I’m in dire need of contributions to establish a defense fund to cover legal costs. If this cannot be met, then they win by default and science, archaeology and freedom of expression will suffer the consequences. Sorry to be so blunt but this is where it now stands, I have near total academic support from colleagues, but for what we have in integrity, they have in financial resources.

Have a look at the website I just put up www.joezias.org and for further information see the Time Magazine article by Nina Burleigh whom many of you may well know (unfort. Time says he is an archaeologist, he is not) and then the acerbic blogs which follow in order to have an idea where those suing me stand in the public eye.

The 2,000 year old tomb shown here in the Jerusalem snow has the world’s earliest NT inscriptions written in stone, accidentally discovered by myself and interpreted by colleagues in 2000.


Shalom and thank you for listening and your support.


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.