Biased Exam Question about Israel Prompts Condemnation and Calls for Investigation
by Dion J. Pierre
Activists and lawmakers in New York are calling on the New York state Education Department (NYED) to investigate why a recently administered standardized test for high school students included questions which allegedly simplify the history of the founding of Israel.
In January former New York State Assemblyman and founder of Americans Against Antisemitism (AAA) Dov Hikind (D) revealed images showing that the Global History and Geography Regents II test, one of five exams required for attaining a high school diploma and taken by over 50,000 students a year, contained questions asking if the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine’s (USCOP) 1947 partition plan to divide Mandatory Palestine between Jews and Arabs was prompted by the Holocaust and whether “Zionists and Jewish immigrants” have benefited most from territorial changes that have taken place since then.
“There’s clearly an agenda to undermine the State of Israel, to undermine its legitimacy,” former NY State Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D) said on Monday during an interview with The Algemeiner. “It’s the kind of stuff created to foster antisemitism, and it’s happening constantly. The problem is so huge, and I don’t think we have a strategy in the Jewish community for dealing with it.”
Hikind also noted that efforts to found a Jewish homeland date back to the late 19th century, when Theodor Herzl, fearing the consequences of rising antisemitism in Europe, wrote Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) and founded the Zionist Organization.
“The questions were designed to test students’ knowledge of geography as it relates to historical events surrounding the creation of the State of Israel, including the impact of the Holocaust on migration to Israel,” Education Department officials told The Algemeiner on Tuesday. “As per standard practice, these questions will not be used on future exams. The department will continue to work with educators and stakeholders across New York to advance equitable access to opportunity while keeping the lessons and atrocities of the past, such as the Holocaust, as a testament to the work we must do together to build a better future for all students.”
On Feb. 2, four members of Congress — Michael V. Lawler (R), Nick Langworthy (R), Anthony D’Esposito (R), and Claudia Tenney (R) — issued a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul and DOE Commissioner Betty Rosa about the regents questions, urging them to “launch an immediate investigation into this attack on New York’s Jewish community.”
Thanks to Congressman @lawler4ny for joining our call on @GovKathyHochul to address anti-Israel Regents exam questions & for his congressional colleagues who signed on:@NickLangworthy @ANTHONYDESPO @RepTenney @RepStefanik @marcmolinaro @nicklalota @Brandon4ny22 @RepGarbarino https://t.co/wUarhOq3RC pic.twitter.com/zbuPW1x4Nk
— Dov Hikind (@HikindDov) February 2, 2023
In another, separate letter first reported by Forward, Daniel Rosenthal (D), Stacey Pheffer Amato (D), Nily Rozic (D), Jeffrey Dinowitz (D), Charles Lavine (D), Amy Paulin (D), David Weprin (D), and Simcha Eichenstein (D), who are Jewish members of the New York State Assembly said it is “troubling” that the questions were approved.
“Both of these questions are steeped in bias, are recklessly propagandic [sic] and are frankly insulting,” the members said. “They lack any semblance of context, seem to be pushing a revisionist narrative and have no place on a test or a curriculum that aims to teach history to children.”
New York City Councilwoman Inna Vernikov (R) has also written to Commissioner Rosa, saying, “It is not right to subject young and formidable minds to multiple choice questions that attempt to substitute ideological viewpoints into something masquerading as the objective truth.”
This year’s regents exams are not the first to prompt allegations of anti-Israel bias. In 2017, the New York State Education Department apologized for a global history Regents exam question based on a political cartoon depicting Israeli soldiers as overweight and opening fire on Palestinians from behind a table. In a statement, the Education Department said “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.”