The April 1 front page story that ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer concerning Jewish-Arab cooperation in the production of a sesame-street style production on a private Palestinian TV station was not an April fool’s joke.
It was very real.
Dauod Kuttab, the Palestinian Arab journalist who takes appropriate credit for the initiative, represents a grass roots Palestinian desire for cooperation between peoples on all levels. However, the official “Sesame Street” that runs on the Palestine Authority’s official Palestine Broadcasting Corporation, funded by US AID and administered directly under the supervision of Palestine Authority chairman Yassir Arafat, also known as the “children’s workshop” runs a program which takes an different view of Jewish-Arab cooperation.
Imagine this: On this past Tuesday, March 31, the morning that Yassir Arafat made a surprise visit at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, the museum which has become a symbol of the one and a half million Jewish children who were slaughterer by the Nazis.
On that same day, the PBC TV program modelled after “Sesame Street,” with children (some as young as 4 years old, most about 8 or 9) seated in a semi-circle around a group leader, dressed in costumes and party clothes, with cartoon characters decorate the walls. >From among the group a little boy stands up and, with the nursery school teacher holding the mike he says that “I will grow up to kill every Jew that I meet” On an earlier program, a young girl stands up, raises her fist and cries: “When I wander into the entrance of Jerusalem, I will turn into a suicide warrior in battledress! In battledress!”
In both cases, The leader of the official Palestinian “Sesame Street”cheers:
“Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!”
On yet another segment, a beautiful, dark haired young girl who looks to be about 6 years old sings the following words, barely a blinking of her eyes: “Each and every part of your soil I have drenched with all my blood. And we shall march as warriors of Jihad. Oh, my exalted martyr, you are my example. Oh, my companion, you are beside me. Oh, my sister, sing constantly about my life as a suicidewarrior, how we remain steadfast. Oh, my country, you are my soul. Oh, my dawn, you are my heartbeat.”
Samplings of the official PBC children’s workskop were aired at the March 11 hearing held at the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee special session that was convened to deal with some of the issues of the middle east peace process.
The clips were prepared by the Jerusalem-based “peace for generations” monitoring group and presented to the Senate by Dr. Daniel Pipes, editor of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Quarterly.
So there you have it. Dissonant messages from Palestinian TV shows.
From my daily contact with Palestinian Arabs in Jerusalem and the west bank, I can attest to the fact that Daoud Kuttab and the spirit behind him represent the dominant Palestinian mood that favors peace, reconciliation and dialogue with Israel and with the Jewish people.
However, Daoud Kuttab is not in power at the Palestine Authority.
Indeed, Kuttab was jailed by the PA for telecasting debates in the Palestinian parliament that Arafat was not interested in publicizing.
And while Israel Educational Television is considering the purchase of Kuttab’s programs that promote reconciliation, the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation has rejected any such possibility.
PBC head Radwan Abu Ayash was asked in a videotaped interview as to when he will have programs that promote peace on PBC TV.
Ayash responded matter of factly that he is not allowed to feature stories that “promote peace with the Israelis”.
It should be recalled that on Sept. 7, 1997, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that “the PBC network was nurtured with about $500,000 in equipment and training from the U.S. Agency for International Development,” and cited as its source the network’s chairman, Raddwan Abu Ayyash.
PBC policies did not begin with the election of Netanyahu as the prime minister of Israel in May, 1996. Since its inception in 1994, the PBC TV and PBC Radio have adopted a policy of promoting speeches, interview programs and children’s shows that only exacerbate war rather than promote peace.
There are two sides of Sesame Street in Palestine. One, from the Palestinian people, that desires peace. The other, dictated from the Palestine Authority, that is made up of people who came from PLO headquarters in Tunis back in 1993, that promotes war and continued conflict.
PBC shows such as the official PBC “The Children’s Club” reveal how thoroughly committed Arafat and his authority are to the idea that their struggle against Israel is a jihad – a holy war – against Israel.
In the Oslo peace accords and later agreements, the Palestine Authority agreed in no uncertain terms to take all necessary steps to prevent violence, or the incitement of violence, against Israel.
The Clinton Administration is not ignorant of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation’s programming. At the US Senate subcommittee hearing in March, Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk actually watched footage from “The Children’s Club.” Indyk knows full well that the incitement to violence is in violation of the Declaration of Principles signed by Israel and the PLO.
Yet when the U.S. government makes demands for concessions, it makes specific requests of Israel, and generalized demands of Arafat.
The question remains: why does the US not make a specific request of Arafat that the message conveyed to Palestinian children on his TV station emanate from Daoud Kuttab and not from Radwan Abu Ayash?