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NY Regents Exam Features Anti-Israel Cartoon

NY Regents Exam Features Anti-Israel Cartoon

More evidence anti-Israel activism is working its way down the educational chain

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.


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: 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   


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I might be off base here, but looking at that cartoon I don’t get an anti-Israeli vibe off of it. The Israelis are the ones at the peace table being attacked and forced to defend themselves from Palestinians who refused to show up. To me it looks like the Israelis came for peace, the Palestinians responded with violence, and the Israelis are rather bitterly pointing out that at least the peace table is good for deflecting bullets.

    Shane in reply to Sunhawk2. | February 2, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    I thought the same thing too … but, the article points out some subtle clues that this is anti-Israel. The IDF troops are fat. The cartoonist could have drawn them any way he wanted but he chose fat, I wonder why? Also we are looking at the PoV of the Israeli’s with no Palestinians to see and the fence in the background with burned out buildings where the table and the soldiers are fighting. Denoting that the soldiers are occupiers and not peace makers.

    I agree this cartoon is VERY offensive.

      Sunhawk2 in reply to Shane. | February 2, 2017 at 3:14 pm

      Look at the lower left, Palestinians throwing rocks and making hitler salutes. I just don’t see it as being offensive, I don’t take the troops as looking ‘fat’ either. My interpretation of the cartoon is that the Israelis showed up at the peace table and were attacked, and are returning fire. But again, that’s my view and it may not be shared.

        Sunhawk2: Those are not Hitler salutes. It’s just Palestinians in the act of throwing stones. Even so, its guns vs. rocks, and an apparently bombed Palestinian apartment building in the background, which makes the Israelis/Jews the bad guys,

        Tom Servo in reply to Sunhawk2. | February 2, 2017 at 5:30 pm

        Sometimes the best way to realize what’s being done is to consider what they would never, ever consider publishing.

        For example: can you imagine them ever even considering publishing, as part of that question, the drawing of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban that caused a controversy in Denmark? It would fit perfectly in with such a test, exactly was worded.

        a copy found on this page,

        But you know without even thinking about it that anyone who even thought about including a cartoon like that would be instantly terminated by those running the show.

        So you can answer for yourselves why it’s perfectly acceptable to ridicule one religious minority, but absolutely unacceptable to even hint at criticism of another.

      dwmf in reply to Shane. | February 6, 2017 at 7:06 pm

      They’re not fat. They’re wearing bullet-proof vests.

This leftist disease upon our schools has to be stopped.

It’s actually come to the point of browhshirts in the streets beating people. Anyone who hasn’t seen this video of masked Berkley ‘students’ beating people with clubs (one guy being beaten is unconscious – it’s straight out of pre-war Germany) needs to demand the government prosecute these criminals and their backer (Soros) – or shoot them dead in the street.

Oh Noes!!! An image that offends us is displayed. Should we retreat to our Safe Space[tm]?

Sorry, but I don’t see the cartoon as offensive. Sure it may be construed to display a point of view that Israelis may disagree with, but it wasn’t showing them as baby killers or something.

The question on the test is legitimate in my mind. The exam didn’t ask the students to place any moral judgment on what was being displayed, just ascertained if they could interpret the intention of the cartoonist and the options provided were patently non-judgmental and non-partisan. The obviously correct answer is that negotiations have failed, there is not even a slight implication as to where the blame for that failure might lie.

So, this entire kerfuffle seems to me to be nothing more than the political right adopting the very worst of traits of the left. Are we that thin skinned that we break out into the vapors at the very sight of a political cartoon with which we may disagree?

Come on people, grow a pair.

    Tom Servo in reply to Sailorcurt. | February 2, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    I was allowed to publish something they might be offended at – say a picture of Obama sitting in a tree and eating a banana – then I would agree with you.

    But you know that never ever would anyone be allowed to publish such a thing anywhere.

    We live under Alinsky rules now, the left has seen to that. Make them live by the same rules they make us live by, down to every nitpicky little detail. Maybe sooner or later they’ll figure out that a live and let live policy makes more sense.

    But it makes no sense when only side does it. That’s just unilateral disarmament.

      If you would be disarmed by the inability to claim victim status and retreat to your safe space, I’d say you’ve got bigger concerns than a political cartoon on a test.

      “Our enemy is fighting us with popguns, if we don’t use popguns too we’re unilaterally disarming ourselves”.

      Silliness. I prefer to fight with more effective weapons, thank you.

I can tell how any cartoonist can tell if his/her cartoon is offensive or not. Change the main character/s to 1. black, 2. muslim, 3. women, 4. ethnic minority and then if you still feel that it is not controversial then go with it. BTW, this method will almost eliminate all cartoons

1. I don’t see burning buildings. I see smoke coming from one window – I thought it was smoke from a bazooka or RPG launcher, that is, from a Palestinian firing on the Israeli soldiers.

2. I saw a incoming round of some sort bouncing off the table’s upper edge. There are other incoming rounds shown in the air in the lower left corner. So I saw the Israeli soldiers as responding to incoming fire.

3. Yes, the soldiers are shown as fat.

4. I do not see the blur in the lower left corner as Palestinians giving Nazi salutes. I think what Sunhawk sees as salutes, I see as long arms of some kind (rifles, RPG launchers, mortar tubes, …).

I am happy to take offense, but I see nothing here that is offensive. Let’s not get our panties all twisted up over this nothing! Let’s grow a pair!

    Grow a pair of what? – Blindfolds?

    Imagine if the Jews in that drawing were black, or Islamists. Who would be murdered?

      So what are you saying? That since islamists murder people over silly cartoons, Jews should too?

      A previous commenter claims that if we don’t use the same tools as the other side, we’re unilaterally disarming ourselves. Is that what you’re espousing here? Is it time to start blowing up school board meetings?

    Arminius in reply to Geologist. | February 3, 2017 at 6:00 am

    “1. I don’t see burning buildings. I see smoke coming from one window – I thought it was smoke from a bazooka or RPG launcher, that is, from a Palestinian firing on the Israeli soldiers.”

    So, your point number one is that you have no clue as to what you are talking about, so no one should listen to your points two through infinity.

    Has it never occurred to you that weapons makers don’t manufacture RPGs or whatever you imagine the Palestinians might be using that make that kind of smoke, certain to attract counterfire and get you killed?

It’s always a cypher to me.

One of the constant themes used against the Israelis is “inordinate response”, and that’s without question depicted in this cartoon.

You have Palestinians throwing rocks, and Israeli troopers firing guns from behind the cover of the “peace table”.

Let’s be real, peeps…

“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.”

To be fair to cartoonist Chris Britt, I checked out other of cartoonist Chris Britt’s cartoons using Google’s image search. Many of those dealing with the Mideast issue are pro-Israel cartoons.

So, perhaps he had no judgmental intentions, even though the subject cartoon does look like an anti-Israel/Jewish cartoon.

Can we assume the next exam will have a Mohammed cartoon?

Well, the problem is, its one sided to a fault. Israelis do shoot at Palestinians, but not because Palestinians throw rocks, but because they fire rockets and stab innocent people on buses and blow themselves up in crowded places.

I don’t personally take offense because leftist propaganda is what it is, but I could certainly see how it would be offensive to others who have lived in Israel or been victims of similar terror attacks. It’s definitely got to go.

“(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”).”

Then the propaganda campaign is working. The indoctrinated have undoubtedly already seen far worse in the classroom.

I with those who didn’t find anything offensive in the cartoon. Its message seems to be that in this conflict a peace table has only one use: to give some shelter when the IDF comes under attack.

I agree I thought “it’s no big deal” but the ones saying that one could not portray Muslims this way have convinced me.

We have to learn to fight back via oversensitivity and all out lack of concern for the whole. Our opponent’s strategy is designed to exploit anything else.

The collective IQ must be double digits here. Of course this cartoon is anti-Israel. Does someone really need to connect the obvious dots and plain meaning of the cartoon? The troops are FAT and have stars of David on their backs. But it’s not just to make them ugly. The caption talks about how the fat Israeli “knew this peace table would come in handy” — the table which the fat Israeli breaks due to his awful fatness. So the Israelis are the people clearly in the wrong for breaking the peace process. THAT is the point of this cartoon. We either have really dumb people who can’t pass a Regents exam or you’re willfully blind.