Avrahaum Segol writes
“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.”
“Zias’ Israeli lawyer Jonathan Tsevi told TIME that Zias never accused Jacobovici of criminal acts. “Joe never used the terms forging archaeology or planting archaeology, although in essence this is the method Simcha is repeatedly using,” Tsevi said in an e-mail. Zias has also taken Jacobovici to task for using CGI to enhance images of an amphora in the Jerusalem tomb he believes is engraved with the first image of the Christian fish symbol. Jacobovici makes no apology for that. “I don’t think any judge is going to accept that using CGI to enhance a photograph is tantamount to ‘forging archaeology,’” he wrote.” [emphasis added].
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”
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”
Simcha Jacobovici: Charles Pellegrino (author of The Ghosts of Atlantis, James 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).”
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.
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.
This afternoon Bob Cargill and Simcha Jacobovici were in the same session on the media and archaeology and by all accounts Cargill had the better presentation (naturally, since he is an actual academic and Jacobovici is a film-maker/journalist) and the superior argument. Here are a pair of tweetings that seem to sum up the affair:
The moral? Never bring a journalist to an academic conference and expect him to out reason or out perform someone who lectures for a living.