Anti-Israel and antisemitic propaganda are common on America’s college and university campuses. But as we’ve highlighted in a number of recent posts, this discriminatory and biased messaging and materials appears to be filtering down into the public education system.

In a post last April we noted how anti-Israel materials have been systematically introduced into the curriculum of a Newton, MA high school. Then at an Ithaca, NY third grade classroom we recently documented efforts to indoctrinate kids into becoming “freedom fighters for Palestine”:

Now the NY State Education Department and the Board of Regents are embroiled in controversy over the insertion of an offensive cartoon into a global studies Regents exam administered to 10th graders back on January 24th.

Political Cartoon Depicting the IDF Gets Featured in a NY Regents Exam

At issue is a political cartoon which addresses the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by portraying Israeli soldiers in a way that teachers, students, and politicians described as “demeaning.”

Here’s the image used in the test along with the multiple choice question which the students had to answer:

[Cartoon in the January 24, 2017 NY State Regents Global Studies Exam]

Multiple media outlets have now covered the story over the last 48 hours. Here’s some of the coverage:

The JTA reports:

A political cartoon dealing with Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians appeared on the New York state Regents exam, reportedly causing some students discomfort.

The cartoon that appeared on the exam administered Jan. 24 shows three Israeli soldiers — identified by a Star of David on the back of one — huddling behind an overturned table with guns drawn as one of the soldiers says, “I knew this peace table would come in handy someday,” the New York Post reported.

The question on the multiple choice exam is: “What is the main idea of this cartoon?”

One 10th-grade student told the Post that a Jewish classmate told a teacher that he felt targeted.

‘The entire class said it was offensive, but the teachers told us it was a random question found online and put it in the test,’ the unnamed student said. ‘A Jewish kid then told the teacher he felt insulted. He said he felt like they were putting the blame on his religion.”

In a statement, NY State Education Department spokesman John Burman said that the cartoon and its accompanying question, which was written by teachers, weren’t “intended to represent the point of view of the Board of Regents or the Education Department.” He further claimed that they were supposed to

measure the students’ ability to analyze a political cartoon, understand the cartoonist’s point of view and apply that information to the questions asked.”

But NY State Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) isn’t persuaded.

Assemblyman Hikind Expresses Outrage, Demands Apology from Board of Regents

Contacted by a high school teacher who was “upset and furious about the cartoon,” Hikind is calling its inclusion in the exam a “jab at Israel”, purposely meant to “undermine” the Jewish state.

In a press release on Wednesday morning (Feb. 2), Hikind slammed the Board of Regents for featuring a “horrible, slanted image” on the exam, saying that it portrays Israeli Jewish soldiers in a “disgusting fashion.”

[Dov Hikind]

He’s now demanding that the Board of Regents apologize for including “this kind of crap” in the exam. At the time of this writing, no such apology has been reported as having been issued.

Here’s part of Hikind’s statement (it can be read in full here):

Who is responsible for allowing this incredibly biased, anti-Israel propaganda be part of a Global Studies Regents exam? I want to know who at the Board of Regents thought it was appropriate to incorporate such prejudice into their examination. This is beyond comprehension and is the epitome of disrespect to those who care deeply about Israel’s survival.

I call on the Board of Regents to apologize for their insensitivity and irresponsible decision to include such material in their curriculum. We send a very dangerous message when we elect to use propaganda like this in our examinations. What exactly are we testing our students on when we present them with biased cartoons? Rather than educating our children on issues in the Middle East, we’re presenting them with horrible, slanted images that will only jade their point of view moving forward.”

The NY Regents Exam Cartoon: Harmless Content, or Anti-Israel Propaganda?

Disagreeing with Hikind is the cartoonist, Chris Britt.

He reportedly originally created the drawing for the State-Journal Register newspaper in Springfield, Illinois and doesn’t find the cartoon “biased or inappropriate”:

To me it was just showing how frustrating the peace process was. It’s not trying to indoctrinate someone. It’s ‘Can you look at this and tell us what’s going on in the creator’s mind?’”

Who can tell for sure what’s going on in this nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist’s mind?

But based on this one image, it’s probably safe to assume that it’s not the Jew-hatred that drives other cartoonists out there to depict the Israeli military in grotesque ways.

There are literally scores of political drawings that are regularly disseminated via the media and internet which portray IDF soldiers as amoral terrorizers, baby killers, and brutal Nazi-like oppressors who prey on weak, defenseless women and children.

Here are just a couple such illustrations created by the Brazilian-based Carlos Latuff, one of the most notorious and prolific antisemitic political cartoonists:

Compared to these Latuff cartoons, the Regents exam drawing doesn’t appear so offensive (note that some NY students who took the test and were interviewed by the media said that they didn’t see the cartoon as “that big of a deal”).

But the reality is that Assemblyman Hikind is absolutely right.

The Regents exam illustration doesn’t have to be as revoltingly awful as those produced by Carlos Latuff for it to be treated as anti-Israel propaganda.

Consider this: the only people featured in it are Israelis behaving badly. They’re represented in a totally derogatory manner. These three IDF soldiers are armed, but also fat. They come across as both “trigger happy” and “aggressive and oafish.” Palestinians are nowhere to be seen, even as their homes burn behind barbed wire.

Clearly, what the cartoonist Chris Britt thinks—and wants the high school test takers to grasp—is that Palestinians are victims to be absolved from any wrongdoing while Israel is to blame for the absence of peace.

So this cartoon should’ve never been part of the test and the Board of Regents should issue a formal apology for the mistake.

But even if it does, that shouldn’t be the end of it.

The NY State Education Department should now open a transparent investigation into the incident to determine which teachers found the cartoon online and chose to put it in the test. That’s important because parents and taxpayers have a right to know whether this was a one-off, or if these teachers are disseminating other anti-Israel materials in their classrooms—and not just on this one Regents exam.

Conclusion

Evidence is starting to accumulate that we are witnessing an expansion of the anti-Israel and BDS movement’s propaganda campaign. Virulently anti-Israel messaging and instructional materials are working their way out of higher education and down the education chain into public high schools, middle schools, and even elementary schools. What happened in Ithaca, NY and Newtown, MA can no longer be considered anomalies. This should be a cause for concern to Israel and her supporters.

Feature Image Credit: Collive.com Community News Service

Miriam F. Elman is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 60 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Follow her on Twitter @MiriamElman