Brooklyn, NY – Just over a week after a New York State Education Department spokesman defended its decision to include content that some felt cast Israeli soldiers in a negative light on a recent statewide test, the agency has backpedaled and apologized for the political cartoon.
The New York Post reported that the illustration appeared on the January 24th global studies Regents exam and showed three overweight soldiers, one of whom has a Jewish star on his back, using a table as a shield in what is obviously an area of violent conflict.
One soldier can be seen saying “I knew this peace table would come in handy someday,” as the other two continue firing their rifles at unspecified targets.
One Jewish students at Forest Hills High School in Queens said that he felt targeted by the question, with an entire class classifying it as offensive.
Jonathan Burman, a spokesperson at the Education Department initially attempted to deflect criticism by saying that the question measured “the students’ ability to analyze a political cartoon, understand the cartoonist’s point of view and apply that information to the questions being asked.”
Burman also noted that Regents questions, which are created by teachers, can often be hard hitting, but do not represent the views of the Board of Regents of the Education Department.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind was also vocal in his protest, saying that the question had no place on a state exam. An online petition created by the American Jewish Congress protesting the cartoon’s political message garnered more than 1,200 signatures, describing the cartoon as “blatantly anti-Israel, disparaging of all Israeli soldiers, belittles the Middle East peace process and … entirely inappropriate to include on a test administered to young minds.”
Jack Rosen, a spokesperson for the AJC, said that his agency was contacted by a high ranking official at the Education Department to discuss the matter and issued a statement Tuesday explaining that illustrations are deliberately chosen to get students thinking about political issues and apologizing for the cartoon.
“We regret this 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 that inappropriate questions are not included on future exams.”
Cartoonist Chris Britt, who drew the picture for the State Journal-Register in Springfield, Illinois, said that the cartoon was meant to express his frustration over the slow pace of the Middle East Peace process.
A biography of the award winning cartoonist describes his work as having a “take no prisoners style, ” and in addition to this illustration, Britt has produced other cartoons that appear to cast Israel as a bully.
A 2011 cartoon shows both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former president Barack Obama riding together in a tank, flattening a man carrying a sign bearing the words “Palestinian Statehood NOW.”
A recent Britt illustration that appeared in the Illinois Times shows Netanyahu and Trump, a favorite target of the cartoonist, bearing down on a dove carrying an olive branch as they drive together in a bulldozer intended build Israeli settlements.