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NY Dept Education apologizes for ‘Anti-Israel’ cartoon on statewide exam

NY Dept Education apologizes for ‘Anti-Israel’ cartoon on statewide exam

Continued Monitoring of Anti-Israel Activism in Public Schools is Necessary

On Wednesday, the New York State Education Department apologized for including an ‘anti-Israel’ political cartoon on its global studies Regents Exam.

The exam was administered to 10th graders back on January 24.

In an earlier post on the controversy, we wrote that critics—including students, teachers, and a prominent NY politician—had charged that the cartoon was offensive anti-Israel propaganda.

As we highlighted, the cartoon depicts three armed and obese Israeli soldiers huddled behind an overturned table, which they’re using as a protective shield. One says, “I knew this peace table would come in handy someday.” Via a multiple-choice question, students were asked to reflect on the cartoon’s meaning and “main idea.”

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

Initially, as we noted in our post, the Department of Education was unwilling to find any fault with the cartoon. Indeed, a spokesperson initially defended its use in the statewide exam.

But this week officials “changed their tune” after meeting with representatives from the American Jewish Congress (AJC).

[credit: The Times of Israel]

NY State Education Department Issues an Apology

A NY State Education Department spokesperson, Jonathan Burman, reportedly confirmed that Jhone Ebert, the agency’s senior department commissioner for education policy, had spoken directly with the AJC about the cartoon controversy.

The AJC had started an online petition that drew over 1,300 signatures in less than a week.

The New York Post reports:

The AJC petition condemned the cartoon as ‘blatantly anti-Israel, disparaging of Israeli soldiers … and is entirely inappropriate to include on a test administered to young minds.’

The petition, sent to Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa as well as the education agency, demanded an apology.

After seeing the petition, AJC reported that a top Education Department official called the group to discuss the complaint.

The department, according to AJC president Jack Rosen, then issued the following statement:

‘We regret this test question was included in the Regents exam and apologize to those who were offended by it. We are reviewing our internal procedures to vet all questions to ensure inappropriate questions are not included on future exams.’

‘Political cartoons contained on Regents exams are sometimes very pointed and thought-provoking but they are never intended to represent the point of view of the Board of Regents or the Education Department on a given issue.”

The statement doesn’t appear on the NY State Department of Education website or on its social media platforms. However, the veracity of the above transcript was confirmed by agency spokesperson Berman.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn), who as we mentioned in our prior post had demanded that the Department and Board of Regents issues an official apology after he received complaints from teachers who administered the exam, praised the Education Department for “seeing the light”:

After a week and half, the NYS Department of Education finally apologized for this heinous political cartoon. Better late than never. How a cartoon like this was approved in the first place is beyond my comprehension. I hope that our educators will be more sensitive in the future and use common sense in selecting appropriate cartoons.”

[Dov Hikind]

The Apology is Good, But Will There Be Follow Up?

It’s good news that my state’s Education Department expressed regret over this incident.

As I noted in my prior post, the image isn’t nearly as disgusting as other cartoons that routinely surface and circulate on the internet, maligning the IDF as Nazi-like baby killers.

Still, the cartoon is hateful. Basically, it portrays the Israeli soldiers in a highly derogatory manner, managing to depict them as both klutzy louts and aggressive war-mongers. It’s also incredibly biased, placing sole blame on Israel for the absence of peace.

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

This cartoon should’ve never appeared on a statewide exam, as the NY State Education Department now admits.

So the critics have been vindicated, and got the apology that they deserved. The Education Department did the right thing—even if it did a long time to own up to its error, and the apology seemed to be occasioned only after considerable prodding, mounting public outrage and bad press.

All’s well that ends well? Not so fast.

As we noted in our prior post,

…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.”

Bottom line:

The insertion of a blatantly anti-Israel cartoon into a NY State high school exam is concerning: it’s the latest example of how discriminatory and biased messaging appears to be filtering down from America’s college and university campuses into the public education system. Federal, state, and local educators should continue to monitor the ways in which anti-Israel activism is starting to work its way down the education chain, implementing correctives as necessary.

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  


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They sat down with terrorists and all they have to show for it is a “peace table”.

It looks like the Israelis are pinned down in an urban jungle.

The “peace table” represents the last tangible commitment of diverse Palestinian factions to peaceful accord, which now serves as a defensive shield from terrorist activities.

notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital | February 10, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Talk is cheap.

If the NY Dept. of Ed is really sorry, they can say it with a few millions in dollars ($25 million or higher is my suggestion) donation to a good Israel Anti-Defamation League fund.

I still think it’s not anti-Israel. It shows exactly what a “peace table” is good for: taking shelter when the Arabs start firing at you.

    Pettifogger in reply to Milhouse. | February 11, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    Apart from how the Israeli soldiers are depicted, I agree. And the depiction is subtle enough that I did not get it until it was pointed out.

    We filter things through our own biases. My biases are such that I saw it as indicating the futility of negotiating with Palestinians.

Decriminalize school truancy.

School truancy is punishable by civil and criminal penalties in every state. However, the way it starts out is “administrative” so students and their families are not given free legal representation the way they would in a criminal case.

Next to “racist”, “ignorant” is a universally abhorred slur. No one wants to be ignorant, but our schools churn out illiterate graduates all the time.

This is merely one of those worthless “we’re sorry you noticed and we got caught, and we’ll lull you into believing that it won’t happen again” apologies.

and use common sense in selecting appropriate cartoons.

A lack of “common sense” isn’t the problem. The selection of the cartoon and its deployment against 10th graders was conscious and deliberate.

Until the saboteurs who put that cartoon in are identified and removed, the Department has done nothing except shelter and protect them.

I’s a, “I’m sorry you were offended. We regret that you saw it.”, apology.

It certainly is offensive that they think Israeli soldiers are so dumb they don’t know the difference between ‘cover’ and ‘concealment’ in a choice for a firing position.

Either that of the cartoonist is dumb for assuming that a ‘peace table’ or ‘peace anything’ is going to stop the shooting from the ‘Falestinian’ side, whatever piece of paper is signed or not signed. Abbas retains his power only as long as the hostilities from the ‘Falestinians’ continue, so the war will continue.

An alternative more realistic cartoon would have the ‘Falestinians’ preparing for battle behind the cover of a ‘peace table’.

More like aggressive negotiations.

A question that remains unasked:

Will they pull the remaining copies of the exams and destroy them so they won’t be used again?

Another unasked question:

Who created these tests? One assertion at the end of the article is that this is college-leftism “trickle down” but I disagree. I believe the education system is infested with leftists, and has been for decades. These people are products of the earlier poisonous system, as well as pushers of re-education indoctrination materials.

This is just them getting caught.

Since when do exams have cartoons — political or not?