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Peer-Review Record

The Presbyterian Church and Zionism Unsettled: Its Antecedents, and Its Antisemitic Legacy

Religions 2019, 10(6), 396;
by Cary Nelson
Reviewer 1: Anonymous
Reviewer 2: Anonymous
Religions 2019, 10(6), 396;
Submission received: 30 May 2019 / Revised: 16 June 2019 / Accepted: 20 June 2019 / Published: 22 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Return of Religious Antisemitism?)

Round 1

Reviewer 1 Report

The article addresses the anti-Israeli bias within Presbyterian Church. It reviews a series of publications generated by Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) and other organs of the church,  moving the church to an antisemitic position. In the research, the authors address the main arguments of these publications (mostly a book called Zionism Unsettled) expose their lies and show their deep bias. It also demonstrates what alternatives could have been picked if the authors of Zionism Unsettled and other publication were truly seeking peace in the Middle East.

This research is of major importance because it aims to uproot the “fake news” culture that has developed among some scholars of the Arab-Israeli conflict. There is a growing trend among anti-Israeli scholars: when they ran out of arguments, they start inventing lies based on distortions of reality. People can have their own opinions on the conflict, but those who take upon themselves to teach the public need to be fair and stick to real facts, not invented fabrications. This is true to academia, where junk scholarship on Israel is growing by the BDS supporters, and it is also true to some mainline churches, who developed an anti-Israeli attitude based on lies, fabrications, and fake news.

This article is the first of its kind, as far as I can say, and it is a much-needed addition to scholarship. It applies a systematic attitude to address each and every argument made in these publications and to apply a fact-checking mechanism thus exposing their bias.

The logo of Harvard University says Veritas (truth). The role of academia is to pursue the truth. We are standing today in academia in crucial days. The humanities are retreating, the politicians are after us, and if we, as academics, would publish lies, with the pure intention of advancing a political agenda, we would sin to our profession and we would bring our system down.

This is why the work that this paper has done is so important. We have to stop this culture of fake news in scholarship, we have to call a lie as a lie.  This problem is even more crucial in the church. Our religious institutions want to be inclusive and welcoming. The Presbyterian Church is not different. During the 1950-1960s mainline churches worked hard to uproot their built-it antisemitism. Nowadays, antisemitism disguised as anti-Israeliness is creeping back in. At least one could have expected that if the church decides to become anti-Semitic again, let it be based on real factors, not fake news. 

This paper is well written, I have not seen even one typo. The paper is consistent with the evidence, and the conclusions are logical and address the thesis. I have not seen any factual correction to make.

The essay is exceptional and much needed. My only recommendation is to think of ways to make it shorter. 

Author Response

I thank the reader for his/her thorough understanding of the cultural work I hoped this kind of analysis could do. As the reviewer clearly understands, academic freedom was designed to protect researchers from retaliation for voicing unpopular ideas as part of the search for the truth. But when that principle is abandoned, when truth is no longer the goal, the entire enterprise falters. Documents like ZIONISM UNSETTLED have received brief op ed or blog post type critiques, but no full-length and detailed scholarly analysis. I felt it was time to be thorough, which explains the length. I don't expect everyone to do this sort of exhaustive work, but it offers a model of what can be done.

Reviewer 2 Report

    This article provides a rich scholarly discussion of the Zionism Unsettled (ZU) publication for the Presbyterian Church (USA). While certainly taking a position that there are serious problems with the ZU, I found it to be balanced and scholarly in its critique. I found the basic argument sound and the evidence marshaled to support it to be rigorous, measured, and thoughtful. I believe this article will make an important contribution to the dialogue on Zionism, religion, and the Middle East peace process. 

    Some suggested corrections: I personally did not find the way the 9 chapter titles listed on p. 5 (lines 165-181) to be particularly useful and I recommend either eliminating it, placing it in a footnote, or, at the very least, providing better rationale for why it is needed. There is a mistake on page 12 (line 499) where it says Zionism Unlimited (rather than Unsettled). on page 22 (line 1013) Goldstein's name is misspelled. 

Author Response

I appreciate the suggestion that I clarify why the contents for Zionism Unsettled are specified. I will do that. And of course I appreciate as well the reader finding two typos for me to correct.

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