NEW YORK (JTA) — The New York state Department of Education has apologized for including a political cartoon on a statewide exam that critics called anti-Israel propaganda.
According to the American Jewish Congress, which circulated a petition claiming the cartoon was “blatantly anti-Israel,” the department responded to its complaints with a statement expressing regret for the cartoon’s inclusion, the New York Post reported Wednesday.
“We regret this test question was included in the Regents exam and apologize to those who were offended by it,” the department said in the statement. “We are reviewing our internal procedures to vet all questions to ensure inappropriate questions are not included on future exams.”
The statement continued: “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 cartoon that appeared on the high school 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. One of the soldiers says, “I knew this peace table would come in handy someday.”
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.”
State Education Department spokesman Jonathan Burman initally told the Post that the question “measures the students’ ability to analyze a political cartoon, understand the cartoonist’s point of view and apply that information to the questions being asked.”
He said the question was not meant to indicate a point of view held by the Education Department.
State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, an Orthodox Jew, applauded the department for issuing its apology.
“After a week and half, the NYS Department of Education finally apologized for this heinous political cartoon. Better late than never,” Hikind said. “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.”